From today, calls to Samaritans, the UK’s leading suicide reduction charity, are free of charge.
A new free-to-call number will enable more people who may be struggling to cope to access the vital service, which provides round the clock support, every single day of the year.
Commenting on the launch of the new free number, Ruth Sutherland, Samaritans’ CEO, said: “It has long been an aspiration for Samaritans to make our helpline number free to callers, so this is a really positive step in improving access to our life-saving support. We know that call charges can be a barrier to accessing our service, potentially preventing some people from contacting Samaritans when they need us most.”
People in the lowest social economic groups, living in the most deprived areas, are ten times more likely to die by suicide than those from more affluent areas, so the financial implications of accessing help can be significant.
Although Samaritans does not charge for its support services, which are run by the charity’s 21,000 dedicated volunteers across the country, until now people contacting its helpline have had to pay for the cost of the call.
The change is thanks to support from the Big Lottery Fund and Vodafone, and the co-operation of the major telecommunications companies.
Peter Ainsworth, Big Lottery Fund UK Chair, said: “We are delighted to have helped bring about this important development, which will make Samaritans’ service available to all. This is a great example of what partnership working can achieve by ensuring this hugely valuable charity’s helpline will be free of charge to all callers.”
Last year Samaritans’ 21,000 volunteers responded to 5.3 million calls for help, by phone, email, text and face to face.
Ruth Sutherland added: “Everyone has moments in their life where they struggle to cope and for some this can lead to feeling hopeless and losing sight of being able to work through their problems. We know that talking can really help people to see a way through and we would encourage anyone who is struggling to call Samaritans. We are here round the clock, every single day of the year, to listen and offer confidential support when things are getting to you.”
Samaritans’ new free helpline number is 116 123. Calls to this helpline number do not appear on phone bills.
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For more information about Samaritans’ new free-to-call number or the work of the charity, please contact Samaritans’ Press Office on 020 8394 8300 or email [email protected]
Notes to editors:
- Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone who is struggling to cope. Please call 116 123, email [email protected], or visit www.samaritans.org to find details of the nearest branch.
- The Big Lottery Fund supports the aspirations of people who want to make life better for their communities across the UK. It is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by the National Lottery and invests over £650 million a year in projects big and small in health, education, environment and charitable purposes.
- Since June 2004 it has awarded over £8 billion to projects that make a difference to people and communities in need, from early years intervention to commemorative travel funding for World War Two veterans.
- Vodafone is one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies and provides a range of services including voice, messaging, data and fixed communications. Vodafone has mobile operations in 26 countries, partners with mobile networks in 55 more, and fixed broadband operations in 17 markets. As of 30 June 2015, Vodafone had 449 million mobile customers and 12 million fixed broadband customers. For more information, please visit: www.vodafone.com.
- Vodafone UK partners with businesses of all sizes - from start-ups and small businesses to the largest corporates and the public sector. The company has worked with UK businesses for over 30 years, starting out as a mobile provider and becoming one of the UK’s leading total communications partners. It provides a range of voice and data services, secure communications infrastructure, fixed and call centre capability, unified communications and was the first mobile phone operator to offer a truly converged service for fixed and mobile.
- Vodafone is currently spending around £1 billion on its network and services across the UK following a similar amount spent last year. This includes £200 million on its network in London, the introduction of its 4G service to more than 642 cities and towns, as well as thousands of smaller communities whilst also making network improvements across its UK 3G network. Meanwhile, The Vodafone Rural Open Sure Signal programme is also aiming to bring 3G coverage for the first time to 100 remote communities across the UK.
The European Commission
The European Commission reserved numbers beginning with 116 for services of extreme social value that would be common across all EU member states. The number 116 123 has been given for all 24-hour emotional support helplines and is joined by other 116 numbers allocated to services supporting missing children or victims of crime.