Our confidentiality promise

Confidentiality means not telling anyone the things you’ve told us. It means you can trust that we’ll keep it private. Only sometimes, if we are really worried about your or someone else’s safety, will we need to tell someone.

when we might need to tell someone

We'd only need to say or do something if:

  • you ask us to
  • we believe your life or someone else's life is in danger
  • you're being hurt by someone in a position of trust who is able to hurt other children like a teacher, religious leader, sports coach, police officer or doctor
  • you tell us that you're seriously hurting another person
  • you tell us about another child who's being hurt and is not able to tell someone or understand what is happening to them
  • we're told we have to by law, for example for a court case.

Keeping you safe

Keeping what you say confidential is really important to us, and we’ll only think about telling other people if we have to. If we think we might need to tell someone, we’ll try to talk to you about it first.

Confidentiality BSL Video


telling us about you

You can tell us as much or as little as you want to. Sometimes a Childline counsellor will ask if you want to give a first name, but it’s up to you if you want to do this. 

Just because we do know your name, it doesn’t mean that we'd tell someone else about what's happening to you, no matter how much we know about you. You can always make up a name if you don’t want to give us your real one. We'd ask you to use the same name if you do get in touch with us again so that we know it’s you.

If you want to use 1-2-1 counsellor chat, send an email or post on the message boards, you'll need to sign up for an account. When you go online, you'll be asked to choose a username and a nickname, and it’s up to you what you decide to call yourself.

Phone numbers and IP addresses
There may be times when we're very worried about your or someone else's safety and we need to tell someone about what's happening. If this is the case, we might use your phone number or IP address (a number used by your internet provider) to get help to you.

If we don’t have those, we work with the police and phone company to get your phone number or IP address. We'd always try and talk to you first, before we pass this information on.

If you're unsure about anything, just ask a Childline counsellor. They're here to help you.

We're a safe place for you to talk

Telephone calls are not recorded and your number won't show up on any phone bills. Counsellors write some notes about what you tell them. They also keep notes for emails and 1-2-1 counsellor chat and save copies of what you’ve said in a chat or email. These notes stay safe at Childline. They keep notes to help them understand what you’re going through and support you if you contact us again. It can also make it easier for us to get help to you if you’re in danger.

There are lots of different Childline bases in the country, and you may speak to a counsellor in any one of these places. We make sure that other Childline bases can see your notes if they need to, so you don’t need to go through everything again. Childline supervisors may listen in to your phone call, or supervise your 1-2-1 counsellor chat to make sure that we can help you in the best way.

feeling much
after talking about my worries

Need some help? Try talking to us

What happens if we tell someone

Breaking confidentiality can be very difficult. There are lots of things we have to think about to work out whether we have to pass your details on to someone else or not. It may be that at the beginning of your contact with us you explain how you're feeling but as the call or chat goes on, it becomes clearer that you're likely to act on these feelings. 

Counsellors have to look at your whole conversation, what you've told us and how likely it is you will be in danger when you finish talking to them. That’s why a counsellor might tell you it will be confidential at the beginning but then as you tell them more that shows that you are in danger, they can’t keep that promise anymore.

After we've told someone
You might feel like you're to blame or that you or other people might get into trouble. We understand that it can be really hard to talk about certain things and to share what you’re going through.

After we've broken confidentiality we'll contact the people involved to ask for feedback about what happened. They may tell us what happened afterwards as well as other information about you like your name.

We'll always try to let you know if we need to break confidentiality. We want to help you in the best way and support you with what you're going through.

Some things that might happen:

  • your details are passed to people who'll be able to get help to you, like the ambulance service
  • we may ask the police to come and check, or do something to make sure that you're safe. For example, if you've run away and are lost by yourself, we may need to ask the police for help
  • if you’ve told us that someone younger than you or someone who can't speak for themselves is in danger, we may need to get them help. Sometimes the only way of doing that will be to contact you to ask for more details. It may be the police that help us with this
  • we might tell Social services to arrange to speak to you and see how they can help you. They would want to protect you and other young people.

Your questions

We asked you about our confidentiality promise. Some of you said that you weren’t really sure when your confidentiality would be broken. And some said it made you angry when we told someone what you said to a counsellor. 

If we ever have to break confidentiality or tell someone about your situation to get help to you, we'll always listen to how you feel. We'll also continue to support you and help you find ways to cope. Remember that you can always contact us again, even after we've tried to get help to you. 

You asked us what happens if...

What we're doing now:

  1. we want you to understand more about what information we cannot keep confidential and why
  2. we are making changes so that you can have a better experience when using Childline
  3. we know it would be helpful for you to see more examples of the situations when we will and won’t break the Childline confidentiality promise so we’ve included some examples below.