Plaudits for murder helpline volunteers

Social workers who volunteered to staff a telephone helpline for
people distressed by the murder of schoolgirls Jessica Chapman and
Holly Wells “cannot be praised highly enough”, the president of the
Association of Directors of Social Services said this week.

Michael Leadbetter congratulated the 15 staff, a mix of social
workers and educational psychologists, at Cambridgeshire Council
who have provided counselling to parents, teachers and children
affected by the deaths of the 10-year-olds.

He described the way staff had handled the case as “sensitive and
low-key”. He said: “We should be grateful for their presence and
support to local people in what is and will be a harrowing episode
in our national life.”

The helpline was set up by the social services emergency duty team
the day after the girls’ bodies were found.

Jackie Day, one of four social work managers doing three-hour
shifts on the helpline, said many staff had volunteered. “There has
been no problem covering the shifts,” she said.

They had dealt with calls ranging from people in need of
counselling to those who wanted to know how to express their
condolences to the girls’ families.

She added that staff would analyse the types of calls received to
identify what follow-up help might be needed. There had already
been talks with colleagues in the education department to provide
direct counselling for children when they returned to school.

A council spokesperson said Cambridgeshire had high vacancy rates
in its social services department and having staff concentrating on
the helpline had “inevitably been a strain”.

But neighbouring councils had offered their own social workers to
help relieve the pressure. “The staff are doing a great job and we
have been shown great support from nearby local authorities,” he

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