Samaritans has helped more vulnerable people than harmed them, chief tells volunteers

·2-min read
The charity launched a range of new safeguarding measures since the allegations broke - In Pictures Ltd/Corbis via Getty Images
The charity launched a range of new safeguarding measures since the allegations broke - In Pictures Ltd/Corbis via Getty Images

The chief executive of the Samaritans has written to volunteers in the wake of The Telegraph’s investigation, reassuring them that more people are helped than harmed by the charity.

Earlier this week, The Telegraph revealed that Samaritans volunteers abused their position of trust by having sex with vulnerable callers. The revelations prompted the charity to “listen in” to conversations for the first time.

The charity, which provides a helpline service for people in emotional distress or at risk of suicide, has launched a range of new safeguarding measures, such as a new whistleblowing hotline.

It has since emerged that Julie Bentley, the chief executive of the charity, has emailed its 20,000 volunteers to reiterate that rogue Samaritans workers taking advantage of vulnerable callers had only happened on “extremely rare occasions”.

In an email sent on Tuesday afternoon, Ms Bentley said: “I wanted to reach out to you all personally after what has been a difficult start to the week for our charity.

“Many of you will already be aware of the press coverage on Monday and this morning referencing safeguarding incidents at Samaritans and the safeguarding changes we are making.

“I realise how upsetting it is to see headlines like these, focusing on the behaviour of a tiny number of volunteers, when you give your time freely and strive to offer the highest quality of service. You are all doing incredibly important work to support those who need us the most.”

‘Any safeguarding incident is one too many’

She added: “In the past four years alone, over 13 million calls have been answered.

“The number of people who have received vital emotional support from our service is incalculably greater than the extremely rare occasions when our high standards are not met.

“I cannot say enough how much I value your tremendous commitment and dedication to being there for all our callers who really need someone to listen...

“Even though the vast majority of calls to our service are handled impeccably, the reality is any safeguarding incident is one too many, and this week’s events reinforce how critical it is that we continue to implement the changes to our safeguarding processes you were briefed about earlier this year.

“This does mean adapting some of the ways we operate, but I know that you became a Samaritan to do the best for people in distress and crisis, and that you will be ready to make all the necessary changes to safeguard our callers and Samaritans.”

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