Samaritans has been forced to introduce new safeguarding “measures” after it was alleged middle-aged male volunteers were using their position to meet up with female callers for sex.

The charity, which offers a helpline service to people in distress, announced the move in response to a number of alleged incidents.

The charity said a “very small number of safeguarding incidents” had been identified and swift and appropriate action had been taken.

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.”

According to The Telegraph, a memo to volunteers said 44 serious incidents had occurred since 2017.

Incidents are investigated by the charity’s Serious Safeguarding Panel and are reported to the Charity Commission, Samaritans said.