25 Oct 2018

The Children’s Society announces 50th Anniversary Christingle campaign to support young people who feel alone

For many young people, Christmas is a special time celebrated with friends and family. But for some it can be a lonely day - filled with abuse and neglect like any other. Today, with two months to go until Christmas, The Children’s Society has launched its #Christingle50 campaign - supporting vulnerable young people through raising funds at Christingle events and a collaboration with The Royal Academy of Music.

The Children’s Society reports that 200,000* 10 to 17 year olds in the UK are experiencing emotional neglect on a regular basis, unable to turn to their parents if they had a problem or were upset. Some children facing emotional neglect are also struggling with other difficulties at home that create far from a picture of a happy Christmas. The charity found that:

  • 11% of 10 to 17 year-olds experiencing emotional neglect also do not have their own bed (either sharing a bed or did not have a bed at all) 
  • 21% 10 to 17 year-olds experiencing emotional neglect had also been homeless in the last 5 years 
  • 20% of 10 to 17 year-olds experiencing emotional neglect also lived in a household that had used a food bank in the last 5 years.

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society explains: “The children we support deal with huge issues in their daily lives. Sadly, Christmas Day for them is no different and for many it simply amplifies the challenges they face. Too many young people will wake up on Christmas morning like any other - feeling alone and unable to cope. Through our 50th anniversary Christingle campaign we want to change that – we believe that no child should feel alone.”

Christingles are special events organised by schools, churches, and community groups all over the country to raise vital funds to help children who are facing Christmas alone or are unable to cope. This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Children’s Society bringing Christingle to this country, with a service held in Lincoln Cathedral in 1968. To celebrate the landmark anniversary, The Children’s Society has created an original song for schoolchildren, congregations or community choirs to include in their Christingle services.

The song, ‘Light a Candle’, has been composed exclusively for The Children's Society by Louise Drewett, a young composer currently studying at the Royal Academy of Music, and the words have been specially written by poet Clare Shaw. The song is available to download and listen to or learn for free from The Children’s Society website.

The song will be performed at Christingle celebrations in churches and Cathedrals all over the country and also features in a special advent episode of Songs of Praise on BBC One on 2nd December.

Poet Clare Shaw says: “Having come through abuse and familial estrangement myself, I know that music and poetry can be a transformative experience for young people. Louise and I wrote this piece to be accessible to everyone but I hope that for some it will speak at a deeper level and that lines like ‘no child should feel alone’ will have a resonance. The Children’s Society really understands how difficult life can be for some children.”

Composer Louise Drewett says: “I work regularly with community choirs and I believe singing can be a powerful way to bring people together and to express an important message, so I was delighted to be able to write a song for this special occasion. With this song, we’re encouraging people all over the country to raise their voices in support of young people.”

Maddie’s story:
At 15, Maddie was suffering from abuse at home, so she started going missing. Without anywhere to turn and knowing she needed help, Maddie went to social services for support, but she wasn’t believed, and her mum was called to pick her up.

As Christmas approached, the council were still refusing to help and Maddie was forced to find a friend that she could stay with, “I was staying at the family home of someone who I hadn’t known for that long. It was very run down. It wasn’t in any way like your lovely family Christmas. I just felt like the world had ended. I went from having a relatively normal Christmas for most for my childhood, to being homeless and living on microwave pizzas. I think I got one present from a friend that year, who bought me a candle.

I couldn’t return home, because my mum was abusive, and my step dads were abusive. My mum wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to know what was going on in the family, so Christmas was very much keeping up appearances. I remember looking in lighted shop windows and everyone else was having their lovely Christmas. It’s the time of year when everyone expects to do something with their family. Even my grandparents, who I did get on with, weren’t talking to me, because of everything that had happened, so I didn’t have contact with my family at all over this Christmas.”

Without any family to turn to for support, Maddie was extremely vulnerable and at a direct risk of child sexual exploitation, “The friend who I was staying with had an older sister, who was being sexually exploited herself and she tried to get me involved in it. I was made to watch a sex act and then given cannabis.”

The Children’s Society supported Maddie all the way through this difficult time and, thanks to their persistence, the local authority finally agreed to support her. Soon afterwards, she was placed in care, “My worker, Alan, supported me by coming to panel meetings with children’s services and so on, until the council finally agreed to support me. It was a while before Christmas got that much better - I spent a couple of years being fairly broke and not having contact with any of my family, but the one where I homeless was the worst one I’ve ever had.”

Now I’m older and I’m a social worker. It’s hard sometimes to put myself back in the position of where I was when I was 15, when I didn’t know anything about how to access support or what application form I needed to get housing or be able to talk to social services and get them to help me. The Children’s Society backed me up on all of that, so if I hadn’t had them there, I wouldn’t have known what to do to get myself into somewhere safe.”

Support young people by donating to the #Christingle50 campaign or attending a local Christingle Service. For more information, visit www.christingle.org.


Notes to Editors

  • Christingle is a festive tradition that was brought to the UK in 1968 by The Children’s Society to help disadvantaged children and young people. The event is now celebrated in hundreds of churches, cathedrals, schools and communities up and down the country. To find your nearest service, visit www.childrenssociety.org.uk.
  • The celebration is named after the Christingles that are lit during the service. Christingles are made from an orange decorated with red tape, sweets and a candle. 
  • The Christingle Song is available to download and listen to or learn for free from christingle.org/song. Together, we can help a child to feel safe for the first time this Christmas. 
  • *Findings from a survey conducted on behalf of the Children’s Society survey in England, Scotland and Wales that is socio-economically representative of these countries. In May-June 2017, 3,000 children aged 10-17, or their parents, were asked whether they experienced any of 27 disadvantages identified by The Children’s Society in the last 5 years. Based on this data, we have then used ONS population estimates to estimate that 200,000 10-17 year-olds have experienced emotional neglect.
  • We measure emotional neglect based on responses to the following questions: how often do your parents help you if you have problems; support you if you are upset; and tell you if they think you have done something well.