0800 942 8787

Mon-Fri 12pm-11pm

Sat-Sun 3pm-11pm

About us


0800 What’s Up is the most accessed professional telephone counselling service for children and young people in New Zealand.


Our philosophy

We have a philosophy of ‘child-centred practice’. This means we:

  • listen to and respect what children have to say
  • focus on their needs
  • see the world from the caller's perspective
  • know that the child is the primary client
  • see the child as an individual
  • respect the child

Empowering the child is also central to our counselling practice. This involves developing the child's personal competence and resilience, enabling them to think through the available options and to influence their world. 


Our counsellors

Our counsellors are carefully selected and trained, and are paid professionals rather than volunteers.  For many of the children and young people who call an 0800 What’s Up counsellor, it’ll be the first time they’ve trusted an adult with their problem, and some will form an ongoing relationship with a counsellor who may be the only stable and reliable adult in their lives.


The key issues children and young people call about

The top ten issues children call about have remained relatively consistent since 2001.  In 2012, the top ten were:

  • peer relationships
  • bullying
  • family relationships
  • partner relationships
  • development
  • pregnancy
  • sex
  • grief and loss
  • mental health
  • physical health

In 2012, we received more than 100 duty of care calls – these are calls from a child or young person who is in imminent danger of harm.  These calls can literally be a matter of life and death, and we need to work with the caller and other agencies like Police and Oranga Tamariki to ensure their immediate safety.

You can read the stories of some of the calls we’ve received in the last year here.


Our funding

It costs nearly $800,000 to operate 0800 What’s Up each year, and more than 95% of our funding comes through the generosity of New Zealanders who want to make a difference to children’s lives.  You can read more about our supporters and how you can support our work here.


Our history

In 1997, expatriate New Zealander and children’s advocate Jocelyn Cowern began investigating the idea of establishing a dedicated children’s helpline, based on the highly successful Kids Helpline service that had been operating in Australia since 1991.  In 1999, a group of like minded people set up the Kids Help Foundation Trust and they began to scope the establishment of a helpline.  They had a particular focus on 7 to 12 year olds, as this group was seen to be under-served by mental health services, and wasn’t addressed by any other professional telephone counselling service.

On 21 September 2001, 0800 What’s Up took its first call, the name having been chosen through research conducted with over 700 young New Zealanders. In the subsequent 12 years, we have received over five million calls from children and young people across New Zealand. 

In 2012, the Trust was disestablished and 0800 What’s Up became a service of Barnardos New Zealand.


Looking to the future

To make sure we’re working with children and young people in the way that’s right for them, we’re currently investigating the introduction of new forms of counselling, including text and online counselling.