Samaritans volunteers abused their positions by having sex with vulnerable callers, it was claimed yesterday.
Up to 44 serious safeguarding incidents have apparently been recorded since 2017, including some ‘as serious as having sex with a caller’.
Bosses at the emotional support service are said to have responded by ordering calls to be monitored for the first time and by setting up a whistleblower hotline.
One volunteer said he was shocked by a briefing from head office about the policy changes.
‘I’ve been a volunteer for six years and I’ve never seen anything like this,’ he told the Daily Telegraph. ‘I felt quite angry that someone could have done it.
Julie Bentley (pictured), chief executive of the Samaritans, said the scale of the service meant on ‘extremely rare occasions’ high standards might not be met
‘Obviously we are speaking to vulnerable people day in and day out. It amazes you that someone could abuse that trust.
‘From hearing the talk, I thought it could only be about one of two things – it was either going to be about inappropriate contact over the calls or someone meeting up out of branch. If there’s one thing that’s a big no, it’s that. We’re really well trained but that’s the worst thing anyone can do.’
Another volunteer said the worst incidents were ‘as serious as someone having sex with a caller’ – which could amount to sexual misconduct.
Julie Bentley, chief executive of the Samaritans, said the scale of the service meant on ‘extremely rare occasions’ high standards might not be met.
Up to 44 serious safeguarding incidents have apparently been recorded since 2017, including some ‘as serious as having sex with a caller’
‘Our robust investigation procedures meant these incidents were handled swiftly and appropriate action taken,’ she added.
‘Any safeguarding matter is one too many and as such we review our practices on an ongoing basis and have introduced further measures as part of our commitment to delivering a consistently high-quality experience for our callers.’
Samaritans provides emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide.