NSPCC chiefs are urging York residents to volunteer to help after a steep rise in children contacting Childline.

The charity said its Yorkshire branch has seen an increase in the number of counselling sessions it is providing to offer help with the mental and emotional health for children aged 11 and under since lockdown measures were first introduced in March last year– with the monthly average rising by 16 per cent.

And Helen Westerman, local campaigns manager for the NSPCC, said the number of volunteers in the county has fallen by 40 per cent due to the coronavirus - with staff off work, either self-isolating or with the virus.

The average monthly number of counselling sessions for mental health, in which children also spoke about loneliness, rose by 10 per cent over the last year.

Helen said: “We desperately need the help of York residents to volunteer and help with the significant increase in demand we are seeing.

“This is a silent problem that will be with children for years to come. Your volunteering can help us to make sure every child has someone to talk to.”

She added that each York volunteer will spend four hours one evening a week or at the weekend helping the charity - and will be trained first.

One girl aged 16 who contacted Childline said: “I feel really sad and lonely. I need to talk to someone because I don’t have anyone right now. I am struggling with the whole isolation thing. Most days I find myself just lost in my thoughts and feeling numb. I am classed as a vulnerable person, so my isolation lasts for 12 weeks, which seems like a lifetime.”

Childline founder and president, Dame Esther Rantzen, said: “With schools now shut again Childline must be there for them. Many young people, especially those in unsafe homes, are feeling desperately anxious and depressed."

Children who need help should also use the organisation's Calm Zone, that offers breathing exercises and videos, which is available on the website.

To volunteer for the NSPCC, visit www.nspcc.org.uk/.