In August 2011, Esther Rantzen CBE (who founded the children’s helpline Childline in 1986) wrote an article about the loneliness she has experienced since being bereaved, and living alone. She was overwhelmed by the huge response from older people who shared her experience. In November 2011, Esther was invited to make a key-note speech at a conference at which she came up with the idea of creating a helpline in order to support vulnerable older people, sign-post them to projects and services, break through the stigma of loneliness and isolation, and tackle the problems of abuse and neglect.


A Pilot was initially launched using Call Handling’s Virtual Call Centre as a way for helpline volunteers to make contact with older people. After a successful pilot, The Silver Line, a free confidential 24/7 helpline for older people was launched in time for Christmas 2013.

The Silver Line Helpline provides three functions to support older people:

  • a sign-posting service to link them into the many, varied services that exist around the country;
  • a befriending service to combat loneliness;
  • a means of empowering those who may be suffering abuse and neglect, if appropriate to transfer them to specialist services to protect them from harm.
Project Requirements

During the pilot, The Silver Line required a solution that had no capital outlay as future funding was uncertain.

The Silver Line required a cloud based solution that would work with all of their volunteers home phones or mobiles regardless of provider. They also needed a low cost solution that would provide centralised billing of calls, the ability for callers to portray the helpline number when calling and details statistics on all calling activity. They also needed for all calls to be recorded and the ability for managers to view agent activity in real time and even listen into calls to check quality.

Given that many of the volunteers are unpaid and not familiar with computers, the system needed to be flexible enough to deal with a high staff turnover, therefore no fixed licences and had to be simple to use.

Project Solution

Having worked for many years with some of the leading project coordinators who knew Call Handling’sVirtual Call Centre and it’s capabilities only too well, it was the obvious choice to roll out the Call HandlingVirtual Call Centre during the pilot.

The Virtual Call Centre simply overlays each volunteers home phone line or mobile, connecting them to the rest of the organisation via a simple web interface. All the functionality of a traditional phone system was supplied but in the cloud.

A simple to use agent interface was created to limit the functions for advisors making it as user friendly as possible for advisors. Managers however are supplied a more complex interface allowing them to control all advisors and other more complex call centre technology.

The service was set up prior to launch so that on the day there were no surprises. The launch went smoothly and the service is now live with call volumes growing, watch this space for further updates….