RIVER City actress Gayle Telfer Stevens met with Childline staff and volunteers who advised on the soap’s child grooming storyline.

The BBC Scotland drama is tackling the issue as police officer Joe Dunn abuses his position to target Ruby McLean, the 15-year-old daughter of his girlfriend Caitlin, played by Gayle.

The actress, 38, who is a mum herself and is from Renton in West Dunbartonshire, learned more about the vital work of the NSPCC service as the grooming storyline which involves her character’s daughter continues.

Over several months producers and writers of the drama consulted child protection experts at Childline about the type of contacts they received from young people about grooming and abuse which affects hundreds of children across the country every year.

Last year alone (2017-18) Police Scotland recorded 637 offences of indecent communication with a child, grooming and causing a child to participate in sexual activity.

In the same year 480 counselling sessions were carried out by Childline with young people from Scotland contacting them about sexual abuse.

Gayle, who was given a tour of the Childline base in Glasgow, said: “I wanted to come in to the Childline base to thank them for supporting the storyline and learn more about how the counsellors help young people. 

“The grooming storyline I have been working on has highlighted what a big concern this is for young people and I know that Childline deals with a lot of contacts on this issue. It’s every parent’s worst fear and it can happen to anyone. They need to be made aware of the signs to look out for. 

“The work of Childline volunteer counsellors has been so inspiring – they have a very fulfilling role and the work they do makes a huge difference to a young person’s life.”

Heather Donald, Childline senior supervisor at the Glasgow base, added: “It’s important that parents, teachers and youth workers look out for any signs that a child in their care is being groomed.

“There are signs of how children’s behaviour might change – they may become withdrawn, more secretive, go missing for periods of time or come into possession of new items such as a new mobile, clothes or money.

“It’s vital for parents to have open conversations with them and be aware of what they are doing as well as their activity online.

Any adult concerned about the welfare of a child or young person can call the NSPCC helpline for free on 0808 800 5000. Children can call Childline at any time on 0800 1111.