Helplines Partnership (HLP) is an important membership body for organizations that provide helpline services in the UK and around the world. They facilitate high quality service delivery to callers by providing training, a Helplines Quality Standard, and tailored support. HLP also raises the profile of the helpline sector by representing their members’ interests and influencing the social policy agenda. For over 25 years, Helplines Partnership has supported its members to deliver a quality service to vulnerable people when they need help the most.
HLP held their Annual Conference on November 30, 2017. The Conference this year was themed around “Life’s Journey” and held in London. It provided an opportunity for helpline professionals to network with one another, find inspiration and rejuvenate purpose and energy from the speakers and seminars presented. The conference also served as the place setting for Helpline Partnership’s Annual General Meeting, and Awards Ceremony recognizing achievements of member helplines in several categories. More than 120 people attended the conference this year, representing 40-50 helplines from HLP’s membership.
Following a welcome by Chair Sophie Andrews, the day began with its first ever International Member Showcase featuring Wida Yalaqi, founder of Afghanistan Capacity Development and Educational Organization (ACDEO). ACDEO is a helpline in Afghanistan, which works to improve the well-being of all Afghans by developing social welfare and promoting a better quality of life. Despite the great work done for women’s empowerment in Afghanistan, the vast majority of the Afghan population remain unaware of the rights afforded to women within the Afghan constitution. This prompted Wida, (an Afghan native who received her higher education in the UK before moving back to Afghanistan in 2005), to found the organization. They offer counseling, mental health support, advice on self-protection, consultation with a religious scholar if desired, and referrals to ground-based service providers. In the few years since its 2013 inception, ACDEO has helped more than 56,000 families with legal advice and counseling, and connected more than 2,000 callers with legal, protection and health services. Among their key accomplishments is the improvement of community perceptions of women’s rights.
For many attendees, the international showcase proved to be one of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring parts of the day. Hearing about the unique challenges faced by this helpline’s staff, and the high quality of services delivered by them in the face of some seemingly insurmountable odds was admirable. In addition to the typical challenges all helplines face, ACDEO must overcome obstacles like making connections with people, particularly women, who live in extremely remote and rural provinces. They are often illiterate and completely cut off from resources the rest of us take for granted, such as Internet access. Because their work is considered controversial within the framework of local culture, the staff face threats to their safety and must take many precautions just to carry out their work each day, navigating bomb threats and evacuations. Taking all this into account, it’s clear to see just how courageous and committed these helpline staff are in carrying out their work to improve the lives of Afghans.
With the conclusion of the international showcase, it was time to move to the seminars. Debbie Sadler spoke on behalf of Unlock, a national charity that provides a voice and support for people with convictions who are facing stigma and obstacles because of their criminal record, often long after they have served their sentence. Debbie spoke about the evolving ways in which clients wish to reach them, often dependent upon demographics. This discussion gave a chance for members to reflect on how much they are also seeing demands for alternative channels, which helps to inform Helplines Partnership of the training needs of their members as well.
The second seminar was presented by Emily Hodge of Coaching Emily. Emily is an ex-NHS and charity professional health psychology specialist and coach, and cancer survivor. She supports people moving forward from cancer and places a focus on gentle living and well-being. Emily’s seminar was particularly suited to the “Life’s Journey” theme of the conference. It was very helpful to attendees as far as the discussion of resilience and self-care needed to be effective helpline workers, given some of the vicarious trauma and personal toll that helping others can have on helpers and carers. Group exercises and discussion were a key part of Emily’s presentation.
Speaker Elizabeth Burton-Phillips MBE, who doubled as awards presenter, is the founder of DrugFam, an organization providing support to families of those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. Elizabeth shared her personal journey as the parent of twin sons addicted to heroin, and the painful loss of one of her sons to the addiction, while the other is now in recovery. Elizabeth told her story, which many who have loved someone struggling with addiction, particularly parents, could identify with. As a secondary school teacher working in a nice community whose sons went to a private school, she never imagined drugs or addiction would be an issue. She spoke about the fact that addiction can touch any family, regardless of income, class, race, or other factors. As her sons’ substance use progressed, Elizabeth found herself making decisions out of love and wanting to provide her sons with comfort, but realized that in the end her actions were not what was truly best for her sons and actually enabled them instead. Her book Mum, Can You Lend Me Twenty Quid? What drugs did to my family explores the impact that drugs have had on her family, and serves as a reminder to families battling addiction that they are not alone. She founded DrugFam in order to help families going through similar experiences, and her charity work earned her the award of Member Of The Most Excellent Order Of The British Empire.
Elizabeth also hosted the Helpline Awards ceremony where six charities received honors in six different categories. iCarol sponsored the award for Best Innovative Use of Technology. You can read more about that here!
Chrissy B aka Christoulla Boodram, television personality and mental health advocate, participated in the conference by speaking alongside several of the guests including Dr. Audrey Tang, resident Psychologist on her program. Chrissy B’s show is dedicated entirely to mental health and wellbeing and is the UK’s only TV show with this as its sole focus. Chrissy B and her guests lead the conference participants in her signature Mental Health Dance Challenge providing all conference goers with the chance to have a little fun while being reminded of the importance of good mental health. The show was recorded and aired on Sky 203 on Monday 23 January 2018. You can watch the show featuring the HLP conference below, or visit Chrissy B’s YouTube channel.
The day ended with a keynote by Claire Lomas MBE. Claire was working as a chiropractor and had reached the highest level in the equestrian sport of eventing when a tragic accident left her paralyzed from the chest down. The adjustment after this drastic and life-alerting event was obviously an immense challenge for Claire, and it was hard not to dwell on all she had lost. While there were many dark days, she managed to dig deep to find the strength and courage to completely rebuild her life with renewed goals and focus.
Claire became headline news worldwide in 2012 when she walked the London Marathon in a pioneering robotic suit, which took a grueling 17 days and raised £210k for Spinal Research. She became the first owner of a robotic suit and used it when she had the honor of lighting the Paralympic cauldron in Trafalgar Square. In 2013 Claire completed a 400-mile hand-cycle around parts of England, visiting schools on the way to inspire students, and raising another £85k supporting the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation.
Claire is a woman who never stops reaching for the next achievement. Believing that there will soon be a cure for spinal paralysis, in 2014 and 2015 she organized a series of events that took the fundraising total to over £500k, securing her place as one of Britain’s most inspirational women. She completed the Great North Run in 2016, and last summer she became the first paralyzed female with a motorcycle racing license.
Though a split second altered the course of Claire’s life forever, she emerged from the darkness to find new and immeasurable ways to contribute to the world. Claire’s keynote address left the audience emotional and inspired.
As you can hopefully see from this recap, the day was considered a resounding success by organizers and attendees alike. Feedback included praise such as:
“Very relevant and inspiring” “This is the best Conference I have attended” “Fantastic, funny and moving”
To learn more about Helplines Partnership membership and other information, you can visit them online, and follow them on social media:
As part of their Annual Conference, Helplines Partnership (HLP) presented awards to helplines in six categories. A panel of independent judges evaluated the nominees and then picked one helpline that achieved excellence in their nominated category. This year’s judges were DI Ben Loose (Kent Police), Karen Ditchfield (HLP Trustee and Operations Director for the WISE Campaign), Georgina Bream (Healthwatch England), Jessica Murphy (Civil Service with a focus on well-being), and Neil Laybourn (Mental Health campaigner).
Through the awards, HLP aims to:
Celebrate the improvements helplines have made to people’s wellbeing either locally or nationally; to individuals or the community as a whole
Highlight the successes of ground-breaking changes in the way helplines are run through the use of technology
Recognize the achievements of those helplines, teams and individuals who have responded most successfully to the demands being placed on them
The six award categories were carefully selected to reflect the range of skills that are essential for any effective helpline.
The award categories were:
Helpline Employee of the Year
Helpline Volunteer of the Year
Best Helpline Sector Contributor
Helpline of the Year
Best Innovative use of Technology
iCarol was proud to sponsor the award in the category of Best Innovative Use of Technology, awarded to deafPLUS. This category was open to all member helplines who demonstrated how they have been creative and effective in the use of technology. This could be through the use of ground breaking technology to deliver the service, or how the helpline has introduced a new suite of communication channels or is trying something really pioneering. A nomination must include evidence of how the helpline operated and the benefits gained from the introduction of technology.
The nomination for deafPLUS explains why they were so deserving of this honor:
“Helplines by their very nature are not accessible to deaf people, and we wanted to change that. In 2015 deafPLUS launched the first ever national British Sign Language (BSL) Video Advice Helpline. It is the only helpline in the UK that enables Deaf BSL users to access information and advice direct in their first language without the need for an interpreter. We help with a range of issues such as money and debt, benefits and housing, civil advice and how to access external services. Deaf people can book an appointment via our website to speak to a specialist adviser who is also a native BSL user, using an online platform they are already familiar with such as Skype or Facetime. While Skype and Facetime are not new, we have used these pre-existing technologies in an innovative way to deliver this unique service for deaf people. Individuals do not have to go through the hassle of downloading a new app, or trying to familiarize themselves with a new video platform. Instead they can use an app they are already comfortable with, reducing stress, and making the advice-seeking process easier for the client. 85% of deaf people we surveyed said they had feared seeking information and advice through fears it would be inaccessible. Since monolingual BSL users will never be able to fully comprehend English, they must have fair access to information and advice in their own language.”
The judges agreed and chose deafPLUS as the honoree saying, “This is a very well thought out initiative using existing technologies in a creative way. It is beneficial to BSL users as it makes the new service easy to use and inclusive. As a project, it’s also cost effective for the helpline; easy to implement and support. Well done!”
Elizabeth Burton-Phillips MBE (right) presenting Julia Pitt, BSL Advice Helpline Manager at deafPLUS. Photo by Christian Trampenau
About their win, deafPLUS adds:
“deafPLUS provides a British Sign Language (BSL) Advice Helpline using popular video platforms such as Facetime, Skype, OoVoO and Whatsapp video. The service provides, mainly, Welfare Rights Advice which means Deaf people from all over the UK can receive professional advice through the comfort of their mobile phones, laptops or tablets without having to travel a long way to a Centre. Many of deafPLUS Centres are Local Authority funded so people who live outside of these areas are unable to receive much needed advice. Currently there are welfare benefit reforms which causes huge distress to Deaf people who find the information and letters complicated and inaccessible. Our BSL Advice Helpline breaks down these barriers and supports them with casework to ensure the best possible outcome. We were delighted to win the Helplines Partnership Award for Best Use of Innovative Technology.”
At iCarol, we deeply believe that technology can improve a helpline’s service delivery and expand their reach so that they can help more people. Clearly, deafPLUS exemplifies not only all that we at iCarol hope helplines can achieve through technology, but they were a clear choice for the Best Use of Innovative Technology award at the Helplines Partnership Conference. Congratulations to deafPLUS and all this year’s award winners!
From Oct 18 – Oct 20, I’ll be attending the National Crisis Centers Conference in Buffalo, NY along with iCarol’s Director of Business Development, Polly McDaniel, and our newest Solutions Expert, Tonya Broomer, who you may recognize from her previous role as an iCarol Support Team member!
Our history with this group is our longest association, going way back to iCarol’s earliest days, and many of the helplines and crisis centers who host this conference were some of iCarol’s earliest users. It’s a long standing relationship that we value and we’re proud to not only attend but are also long-term sponsors of this important gathering organized by pillars of the helpline industry, CONTACT USA (CUSA) and the National Association of Crisis Organization Directors (NASCOD). Both organizations are phenomenal in supporting crisis work and we recommend considering membership for your service. Find out more about CUSA membership here and NASCOD membership here.
This year’s conference theme is “Unity in Helping.” Time and again we see how coming together and working towards a common goal makes organizations and communities stronger. We recently joined NASCOD and CUSA member organizations and others to rally around a common theme of “being there for others” during National Suicide Prevention Week. This movement empowered millions of people to take action to prevent suicide. Having so many voices on this common theme helped broadcast that message further. We’re looking forward to this year’s conference sessions highlighting all the ways in which we’re stronger together, whether it’s teamwork within your helpline or collaborating with partners in other organizations.
Let’s meet up!
While we look forward to these conference workshops that keep us in-the-know about the issues faced in the industry, which in turn helps us better serve our clients, we also enjoy the chance to see current and potential iCarol users face-to-face so we can hear about their vital work and explore ways we might be able to help. This year we’ll offer some dedicated space before the conference begins, to be available to those who may wish to talk with us.
When: October 18, 9am-4pm
Where: Embassy Suites (same hotel as the conference), Encore Ballroom on the second floor
We’ll be prepared to address whatever topics you wish to discuss, such as:
Training on how to use certain iCarol features
Quick system tours to those unfamiliar with iCarol
Feedback or comments
Any other iCarol questions
There’s no need to schedule an appointment — just stop by at any time you’re free from other conference activities (click here to check-out the preliminary schedule). If you have any questions you’d like to ask prior to stopping by, feel free to !
If you can’t make it on the 18th but wish to meet with us, don’t worry. We’ll be attending sessions and other conference activities and can catch up with you at whatever time is most convenient. See you in Buffalo!
Every two years the DoD and VA collaborate to host the Suicide Prevention Conference. The conference focuses on suicide prevention efforts across both departments and is the only suicide prevention conference that specifically addresses suicide among Military and Veteran populations at a national level. This year’s conference theme, #BeThere – It Takes a Community, is consistent with DoD and VA methodologies, which require a multi-pronged strategy for prevention including: media messaging, non-medical interventions, mental health interventions, training for gatekeepers, peer-to- peer support, troop and family member training, and leadership engagement. The DoD and VA recognize that education on a comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention is vital.
This will be iCarol’s first year attending this conference, though suicide prevention for Veteran and active duty service members is a topic with which we’re familiar through our work in the suicide prevention industry at large, and our relationships with many clients who serve this population. Through our first visit to this conference we hope to learn even more about the unique needs and best practices for serving Veterans and active duty members of the armed services.
To read more about our work in this industry, click here.
If you’re going to be in Portland for the 31st National Conference on Problem Gambling this week, be sure to stop by and say “hi” to Mary from iCarol who will be there for the pre-conference and will be at our booth in the exhibitor’s area. We’re proud to be a part of this event; the largest and oldest conference of its kind bringing together leaders in prevention, education, treatment, responsible gaming, research, and recovery.
We’ll be joining the Pre-Conference beginning July 19th and attending the Helpline Symposium workshop on July 20th. It’s important to us to stay engaged on all the latest with this group and learning the current events and news impacting the industry.
iCarol is the chosen provider for a national chat and text collaboration platform for the National Council on Problem Gambling. Several centers and organizations from around the U.S. participate to provide help in states where they provide services. Help seekers from around the U.S. text or live chat with the national service, then iCarol’s comprehensive design reads the help seeker’s location. If there is a center in the network from the person’s location designated to take the chat or text at that time,
then the chat or text is sent to them. If there is not a designated center available, a trained back-up center is sent the chat or text. This successful model, which has been in place for a few years now, is great because help seekers get help close or specialized to them when it is available, and either way, help seekers always get connected to help. Contact us if you are interested in a model like this at your organization.
With every event we attend we continue to be amazed by the diversity in the helpline services available for so many different needs and issues in communities all across the world. Problem gambling helplines are doing wonderful work to strengthen families and improve health and wellness by reducing the economic, social, and personal costs caused by problem gambling. We’re sure it’s going to be another exciting and educational event. See you there!
iCarol is thrilled to attend the National Sexual Assault Conference (NSAC) in Dallas, TX, June 7-9, 2017. Over the past few years, iCarol has helped more and more agencies working in the sexual violence support space, especially as the need to offer chat and text to survivors increases. We couldn’t be more honored to help these agencies in their missions, and make the work these vital agencies do easier, and save them time and money along the way.
For some, like the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, the agency is focused on sexual violence prevention and survivor support. For many other iCarol clients, sexual violence support work is part of a multi-faceted agency.
In particular, providing survivors options for texting and live chat during the crucial hours following a sexual assault ensures they have options other than calling on the phone to reach out to the supporting agency. Many survivors have questions about getting a SANE nurse exam, or need support. Some agencies even explain how an advocate can meet the survivor at the hospital and explain the processes over text messages or live chat. In many states, the sooner evidence is collected in an exam (often within 72 hours), the better. The support work for survivors surely does not end there.
Here are a few other highlights of iCarol’s work with sexual violence support agencies:
Ensure hours/funding are accounted for and seamlessly administer and track:
Advocate/SANE hospital & mobile responder activities
Outreach/presentations at schools, events, training
Case worker/advocate follow-up — no one gets missed
Instant reporting for funders:
Advocate and staff training hours & certification (also with expiration alerts to staff)
Monthly & quarterly reporting of interactions (calls, chat, text, in person), stats built right in
Better volunteer/advocate/staff shift attendance:
Clear and web/mobile accessible organized schedules
Seamless tools for volunteers to get help to fill a shift
Text and email reminders about upcoming shifts
The conferences is “A Conference for People Who Want to End Sexual Violence,” according to their website. It also states: “The purpose of the conference is to provide a national training opportunity for 1,500+ workers from rape crisis centers, state sexual assault coalitions and other allies (medical professionals, law enforcement, campus rape crisis programs, public health department workers, and others) from across the United States and its territories.”
If you are going to be at the conference, please stop by the iCarol booth! Have questions or want to set up a time to meet? Please !
I’m excited to be attending the upcoming United Way CEO 2-1-1 Summit and Community Leadership Conferences next week in Orlando! Of the many big ideas and opportunities we can advance collectively, some of my favorites are those that contribute to 2-1-1’s operating as a coordinated national network, and that increase our relevance in key areas like social determinants of health. I’m looking forward to formal presentations and “hallway talks” about:
Deeper engagements with medical and behavioral health entities
Technology standards to harmonize the distribution of social and human services data to trusted partners
Coordination of the National Texting Platform
Greater use of “syndromic survellience” (love that term) to alert our leaders to emerging crises and issues
If these topics are of interest to you too, please let’s make sure we connect in a session or during a break to explore how we can advance 2-1-1’s overall, and your 2-1-1 network in particular, in the near term.
Following the success and positive feedback we received after last year’s iCarol Summit, we’d like to announce that on May 21st, the day before this year’s AIRS Conference officially kicks off in Tampa, Florida, our AIRS certified team members will again hold a User Group Summit at the same venue as the conference. Our Summit is an all-day event that includes training and informational sessions along with our traditional User Group session. While we do ask that you register to attend this even, there is no cost to participate.
This year we’re excited to cover the fundamentals for your I&R service, while also diving into topics we know are of increasing importance in your field. We’ll feature two main sessions to address both of these areas. Our first session of the day will focus on managing your resource database and the important basic tools such as editing, field visibility, filtering, managing regions, custom fields, verifying your records for accuracy, and more.
After a break for lunch (there are plenty of great choices for you to explore close to the conference venue) we’ll continue on learning about the growing need for services to participate in continuums of care within communities. Human service agencies can’t afford to operate in silos — they need to work together, communicate with one another, and share client information to ensure clients are engaging in the full spectrum of available services and that all providers are aware of their status and progress. Community organizations striving for this model often practice a “no wrong door” policy so that regardless of where a help-seeker begins their treatment journey, they’ll be able to smoothly enter the systems of care rather than getting turned around, improving their chances of success and greatly reducing the frustration or discouragement that they may encounter otherwise. In this session we’ll discuss potential ways your agency can become a leader in these care networks within your community using some unique strategies and iCarol tools.
Finally, we’ll end our day with a traditional User Group session to which all are invited, regardless if you registered and attended earlier sessions in the day. This is a chance to learn more about iCarol for those who may be considering use of our solution, and to hear more about our strategy, planned new features and enhancements in our product “roadmap.” Of course we’ll offer time for questions, comments, and discussion of challenges and priorities.
We’re working hard on prepping everything for our Summit as well as other fun and exciting activities at this year’s AIRS Conference. Don’t miss this chance to connect with us — our full agenda and other details are available by following the link below.
From April 2nd – 5th, iCarol Co-founders Jackie and Neil McKechnie will attend the National Council for Behavioral Health Conference in Seattle, Washington. Many of our friends and clients have encouraged us to attend and have spoken highly of the conference, the people and organizations it attracts and the fantastic learning opportunities it presents, so we’re looking forward to experiencing this first hand.
In case you are not yet familiar with this organization, the National Council for Behavioral Health with its 2,800 member organizations, is dedicating to serving millions of adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions. The cornerstone of their mission is to advocate for Americans’ access to comprehensive, high-quality care so that everyone has the tools needed for recovery. Many of you may also be familiar with their Mental Health First Aid program, a course that many of our users have not only taken, but their agencies often provide this training to their community. This highly impactful program has trained nearly 1 million people to play a role in helping someone experiencing a mental health or addictions emergency by providing immediate intervention and empathy while encouraging professional support. This program empowers all people, regardless of their personal field of expertise, to care for others and not ignore situations or feel powerless to help when they see mental health emergencies play out in front of them. It also highlights the importance of everyone having basic knowledge of mental health and addictions issues, which ultimately saves lives and reduces stigma.
We’re looking forward to learning more about this organization, attending some amazing sessions, and connecting with those in attendance to see how we might be able to work together. If you’re an iCarol user and you’re going to be there, we’d really love to connect so we can say “hi” and catch up with you, and perhaps grab a bite to eat or cup of coffee in between sessions. With this being such a large conference and knowing how much there is going on, it’d be great to plan ahead and schedule a time to connect and make sure we don’t miss one another. Please reach out to so we can find a time to meet up at what is sure to be a great event. See you in Seattle!
Next week, members of the iCarol team will head to the Texas AIRS (TAIRS) conference in Lubbock, Texas.
You may recall we announced last year that we were chosen to be the software provider for the Texas Information and Referral Network’s 2-1-1 program. Since that time we’ve enjoyed working with the service providers in Texas and remain proud and honored to have been selected by them. When considering the systems using iCarol prior to 2015, then with the addition of Texas last year, followed by several more networks in the year since welcoming Texas, approximately 42% of all 2-1-1 systems in North America now use iCarol.
It’s important to us that we connect with these service providers at events when possible and so we’re excited to be sending our team members Polly and Diana to represent us in Lubbock next week. We’ll be on hand to answer questions, meet and greet members of the Texas area information centers, and take part in sessions and conversations that help us better understand the needs of these centers so we can continue to provide the best service possible.