Our latest research shows that freephone helplines are still a valuable tool for people dealing with issues in the social sector.
Our report 'What is known about the effectiveness of social sector freephone helplines' was released on 8 February 2018. It shows that helplines remain an important channel for reaching a wide range of people with different needs and for delivering social services. Helplines appear to work particularly well when they are integrated with other services.
Helplines are valued by users as they provide accessible, affordable and timely access to support and information. The confidentiality or anonymity offered by many helpline services is important for some users as it allows them to access services safely without fear of embarrassment, stigmatisation or repercussions.
There is evidence that using a phone to access advice, support and counselling is as effective as face-to-face service delivery. A phone will not suit everyone, however, and some studies report advantages when freephone helplines are integrated with face-to-face health or care services as follow-up support.
The different functions of helplines require a variety of approaches, some which are highly specialised and tailored to vulnerable groups such as victims of sexual abuse and family violence. This has implications for how services are designed and delivered.
The research also shows that it's essential to consider tailoring services so they are culturally appropriate.
This research involved a review of existing literature, and was commissioned under the Social Sector Ministerial Research Fund. At the time of the research, the Fund was managed by Superu.