Dame Esther Rantzen steps down as Childline president after terminal lung cancer diagnosis

7 December 2023, 15:36 | Updated: 7 December 2023, 15:51

Dame Esther is set to step down from her presidency as she battles lung cancer.
Dame Esther is set to step down from her presidency as she battles lung cancer. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

Presenter Esther Rantzen has announced she is stepping down as president of Childline after her stage four lung cancer diagnosis.

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Esther Rantzen, 83, was made president of Childline in 2018 after stepping down as a trustee.

However, the presenter has now announced she is now leaving the role as she battles her terminal lung cancer diagnosis, which she announced earlier this year.

She was diagnosed with lung cancer in January but announced the diagnosis in May, adding that the cancer had spread.

Dame Esther founded the counselling service in 1986. Her daughter, Rebecca Wilcox, is set to deputise for the charity in her place.

In a joint statement, Dame Esther and Ms Wilcox said: “Because of Esther’s health issues, she has sadly had to reduce her work as president, but we are both thrilled that Childline and the NSPCC have suggested that her daughter Rebecca should now deputise for her.

“She feels deeply honoured to take on this role, she has grown up with Childline and enormously values the many achievements of the service, the dedicated staff and volunteers, all working to protect and support millions of children who have nowhere else to turn.

"Rebecca has two sons, is a journalist and broadcaster and is very in touch with the challenges facing young people today. Rebecca is about to start training as a volunteer counsellor and is greatly looking forward to meeting as many volunteers and staff and visiting as many bases as possible.”

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Dame Esther Rantzen is stepping down as president of Childline.
Dame Esther Rantzen is stepping down as president of Childline. Picture: Alamy

Dame Esther told The Express: "ChildLine has always had a very special place in my heart ever since we launched in 1986. 

"But I have been concerned I have not been able recently to listen to children, meet staff and volunteers and spread awareness of our crucial lifeline the way I used to, due to my own health issues.

"Rebecca and I both jumped at the idea, suggested by the NSPCC, that she should take on the role because she has known, respected and cared about ChildLine almost all her life. 

"She is just as committed to child protection as her father and I have always been. 

"She is a terrific mother herself and understands the issues facing children today. And of course, she will take with her my best wishes to every team she meets and works with."

Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “Due to health reasons Esther is taking a step back as the president of Childline.

“Everyone at Childline and the wider NSPCC family sends her our very best wishes. In the interim, I am pleased to confirm that her daughter Rebecca Wilcox will be deputising for her as the president of Childline”.

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