European helpline numbers to be launchedEasy child helpline and emotional support access

21 February 2009

Ofcom logo

Home phone and mobile phone regulator Ofcom has confirmed plans to introduce Europe-wide 116 emotional and child helpline phone numbers in the UK.

At the moment, many telephone helpline and hotline phone numbers vary across different countries in Europe. This makes it difficult for visitors from other countries to find the right number when they need help or advice. 

Public concern about child safety has been heightened by cases like the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal.

The European Commission's introduction of these new phone numbers across Europe, which will each start with the three digits 116, will mean that anyone travelling around Europe will be able to access child helpline services by calling the same six-digit memorable number. 

Phone numbers reserved for child helplines and emotional support

The following phone numbers have been reserved across European Union countries for three purposes, to make it easier for parents and children to call for help quickly and free of charge:

  • 116 000 for missing children hotlines;
  • 116 111 for child helplines; and
  • 116 123 for emotional support helplines.

Like 0800 numbers, calls to these three phone numbers will be free of charge in the UK from fixed line phones and public phone boxes. However, unlike 0800 phone numbers, calls to these three 116 phone numbers will also be free from mobile phones.

When will the new phone numbers start working?

Ofcom, advised by independent panels set up by the government, will choose suitable organisations to allocate these numbers to.

Ofcom expects the numbers to be allocated to organisations by the end of this summer and in use early next year.

The missing child hotline and child helpline numbers are already up and running in several European Union countries, including Hungary and Portugal. The European Commission's website has details of how the new scheme is progressing in other European Union countries. 

Which? RSS news feed

For daily consumer news, subscribe to the . If you have an older web browser you may need to copy and paste this link into your newsreader: . Find out more about RSS in the Which? guide to RSS news feeds.

Sign up to the Which? weekly technology email

Keep your finger on the pulse of digital technology with the weekly email from the Which? Technology team. Every Tuesday we'll send you the latest news and reviews of MP3 players, mobile phones, cameras, high-definition TVs and other gadgets. Packed with the latest product launches, First Look reviews, expert advice and some incredible deals - can you afford not to be the first to find out?