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How to Use Helplines

What is a Helpline?
Many organisations have a special telephone number known as a ´Helpline´. This is a service which gives telephone information and/or advice on a particular topic for example the Sexual Health and National AIDS Helpline (0800 567 123). Many helpline numbers begin with the prefix 0800 – this means that calls to this number are free. Another common prefix is 0345 – calls to this number are always charged at local call rate no matter where in the UK you telephone from. Callers from outside the UK would not be able to access 0800 or 0345 numbers. Similarly, from the UK, it is usually not possible to call free (known as toll free in some countries) or local rate helplines which are based outside of the UK.

Types of helplines
All helplines exist to provide a service to the caller which may be:

Information on a particular subject
Emotional support
A list of other services e.g. in your area
What can you expect when you call a helpline?
Many helplines operate in accordance with the guidelines produced by the Telephone Helplines Association. This means that certain standards and procedures are observed. You should expect:

Your call to be answered within a reasonable time
The person who answers should have a good all-round knowledge of the subject and a non-judgemental approach
Your call should be treated in the strictest confidence
Staying anonymous
If you have a problem and would like to talk to a telephone helpline there are some steps you can take to protect your confidentiality and anonymity.

Phone Bills
The bill may be itemised which means that whoever pays the bill will be given a list of most calls that have been made. It helps to be aware that:

Calls to 0800 numbers are free and will not show up on a bill (e.g. National AIDS Helpline 0800 567 123)
From mobile phones, 0800 numbers are not free and the number called will appear on the bill
Remember that a call you pay for (one that doesn’t begin with 0800) will appear on the bill
There are ways to get round this:

Dialling 141 prior to making a call to withhold your number although it may still appear on your phone bill
Use the phone of somebody you trust
Use a public phone box
Make a very short call to the helpline and ask them to call you back as calls under a certain cost may not be listed by some service providers such as BT
Be aware of other services that might reveal your identity -

Last number redial
Caller display
Call return


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