Samaritans helpline volunteers have been accused of meeting vulnerable female callers for sex, prompting new safeguarding “measures” to protect people in crisis.
Up to 44 serious safeguarding incidents have occurred since 2017, including incidents where middle-aged men allegedly abused their position of trust by having sex with callers, it is reported.
The charity, which offers a helpline service to people in distress or at risk of suicide, is said to have carried out a mass overhaul of policies.
It plans to listen in to phone calls for the first time to ensure inappropriate relationships do not begin, the Telegraph reports.
Have you been affected by this story? Email [email protected]
Image:Birmingham Post And Mail)
Some volunteers now fear the Samaritans' commitment to confidentiality is being undermined, the report added.
Volunteers told the newspaper they were "shocked" and "angry" over the alleged abuse of trust.
One said: "We’re really well trained but that's the worst thing anyone can do."
The Telegraph reported that a memo to volunteers said 44 serious incidents had occurred since 2017.
The charity, which receives five million calls a year, said a “very small number of safeguarding incidents” had been identified and swift and appropriate action had been taken.
When approached by the Mirror Samaritans chief executive Julie Bentley said: “Our 20,000 Samaritans volunteers enable us to provide vital emotional support to anyone who is struggling, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and in the four years from January 2017, volunteers on our telephone service answered over 13 million calls.
“Running any national service on this scale means that, on extremely rare occasions, high standards are not always met and from the millions of calls answered, a very small number of safeguarding incidents were identified.
“Our robust investigation procedures meant these incidents were handled swiftly and appropriate action taken.
“Any safeguarding matter is one too many and as such we review our practices on an ongoing basis and have introduced further measures as part of our commitment to delivering a consistently high-quality experience for our callers.”
Incidents are investigated by the charity’s Serious Safeguarding Panel and are reported to the Charity Commission, Samaritans said.