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Dame Esther Rantzen and Rt Hon Andrew McFarlane to address conference

The national conference 'Wisdom from Failure: A Kaleidoscope on Child Protection', which will examine the themes and patterns in the history of failure in child protection in the UK and look at the opportunities to learn from them, will be jointly chaired by Dame Esther Rantzen and Sir Andrew McFarlane.

Dame Esther Rantzen

While journalist and television presenter Dame Esther Rantzen may have presented the BBC series 'That's Life!' for more than 20 years, she is equally well known for her charitable work and as the founder of ChildLine.

Originally training as a secretary, Rantzen was recruited by the BBC as a trainee studio manager and she secured her first production job as a researcher for the satire programme BBC3. She worked as a researcher on a number of television shows before she landed a role researching for Bernard Braden's 'Braden's Week'. This provided Rantzen with an opportunity to become a presenter when the producer decided to give air time to researchers during the programme.
When Braden decided to return to his native Canada to present a similar television show there, the BBC replaced Braden's Week with 'That's Life!' in 1972 with Rantzen as the main presenter.

Running for 21 years, the show expanded from a consumer programme to investigating life and death issues. Following its run, Rantzen created 'Hearts of Gold' about unsung heroes and presented her own talk show 'Esther' on BBC Two.

'That's Life!' however, became responsible for the launch of ChildLine. Rantzen had suggested the Childwatch version of the programme to BBC One Controller Michael Grade following the death of a toddler who had died from starvation having been locked in his bedroom. The programme aimed to explore better ways of detecting vulnerable at risk children and 'That's Life!' viewers who had experienced child cruelty were asked to participate in a survey outlining the extent of their abuse.

Following the Childwatch edition of 'That's Life!', Rantzen suggested the BBC should open a national helpline for children experiencing abuse to ask for help. On lauching, in just 48 hours the helpline was swamped with calls, mainly from children disclosing child sex abuse that they had never spoken about before.

Rantzen then called for the helpline to be open 24/7 to provide a lifeline for children experiencing abuse. The Childwatch team secured funding from the Department of Health and the Variety Club of Great Britain and philanthropist Ian Skipper OBE agreed to under-write the running costs of the helpline for the first year. BT provided premises and a freephone number.

The Childwatch programme was aired on 30 October 1986 using the results of the survey. In the first night, there were 50,000 attempted calls made to the helpline.

ChildLine has since merged with national children's charity the NSPCC in 2006 and ChildLine now has 12 bases across the UK with similar helplines being set up in 150 countries around the world. Rantzen is president of ChildLine and a trustee of the NSPCC.

In 2013 Rantzen set up The Silver Line in a bid to combat loneliness and isolation in older people and which provides a helpline offering support and advice. Much of her campaigning work focuses on helpling children and vulnerable or older people.

The Rt Hon Sir Andrew McFarlane

Judge Sir Andrew McFarlane is the president of the family division. Having studied law at Collingwood College in Durham, he graduated from Durham University in 1975.

Having been called to the bar (Gray's Inn) in 1977, McFarlane has been a Bencher since 2003 and took silk and became a Queen's counsel in 1998. McFarlane was appointed as assistant recorder in 1995 and recorder in 1999. He went on to become a deputy High Court judge in 2000.

McFarlane was appointed to the High Court of Justice in 2005 and assigned to the family division, thus receiving the customary knighthood. He served as the Family Division Liaison Judge for the Midland Circuit from 2006 until his appointment as Lord Justice of Appeal in 2011 where he received the customary appointment to the Privy Council.

McFarlane was appointed as the president of the family division in July 2018 following the retirement of Sir James Munby.

He co-wrote Children Law and Practice which coincided with the enactment of the Children Act 1989 in 1991.

McFarlane has held or holds leadership posts including Chairman of the Law Bar Association, Chairman of the Clergy Discipline Commission and President of the Clergy Disciplines Tribunals.

For more information about Wisdom from Failure: A Kaleidoscope on Child Protection which is being held on 22 February in London, visit the WillisPalmer website.

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