Northern Ireland news

Childline launches new initiative to help children who are bullied because of skin colour, religious beliefs or accents

Childline' yesterday launched a new `Understand Me' initiative amid fears children are suffering in silence because of bullying as a result of the colour of their skin, religious beliefs or accents. Photo by PA
Marie Louise McConville

Childline has launched an anti-bullying initiative aimed at children suffering in silence because of bullying as a result of the colour of their skin, religious beliefs or accents.

Figures obtained by the NSPCC from police forces across the UK reveal a 14 per cent increase in hate crimes against children in one year, with 5,349 hate crimes carried out as a result of race, religion in 2016/17.

The PSNI said 56 racially-motivated offences were recorded in Northern Ireland last year.

Childline carried out almost 2,700 counselling sessions across the UK about race and faith based bullying in the last three years.

The charity yesterday launched the `Understand Me' initiative, which aims to reach out and help children who are experiencing racial or faith based bullying.

The campaign, which includes a film ‘Think You Understand Me?', challenges xenophobia and prejudice, empowering young people to speak out about racial bullying and discrimination.

Mairead Monds, Childline manager for Northern Ireland, said: "It's heart-breaking to think that some children are targeted by bullies because of their race, culture or nationality".

"Racist jokes and negative stereotyping can be hurtful and leave young people feeling isolated and ashamed of who they are or where they are from," she said.

"Our Understand Me campaign aims to reach out to all children who are experiencing racial or faith based bullying and make sure they know that they are not alone. No child should suffer in silence and anyone being targeted must be supported to tell someone and ask for help".

Dame Esther Rantzen, President of Childline said: "Bullying of any kind is vile, but targeting someone because of the colour of their skin, religious beliefs or their accent is simply unacceptable.

"Young people should be encouraged to be proud of who they are. Racial bullying can be hard to cope with but young people need to know they don't have to carry this burden alone".

**Any child worried about bullying can call Childline on 0800 11 11

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