New Year’s Honours: Hampstead’s Esther Rantzen made a Dame for ChildLine and SilverLine work

Esther Rantzen has been made a Dame. Picture: Polly Hancock

Esther Rantzen has been made a Dame. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Philanthropist and former TV presenter Esther Rantzen has been made a Dame in the New Year’s Honours List.

The long-time Hampstead resident said the honour was “a real recognition” of her work with the most vulnerable people in society as founder of ChildLine and The SilverLine, a helpline for lonely older people.

The 74-year-old told the Ham&High: “I feel completely committed to what they do and it feels terrific to have it recognised in this way. It was the best Christmas and New Year’s present.”

She added: “I could fall under a bus now I know it would keep on going, so I just feel wonderful that they have been officially recognised as it’s an important part of the work we do to help the most vulnerable.”

For more than 20 years, Ms Rantzen presented popular TV magazine show That’s Life! She founded ChildLine in 1986 after using the programme to highlight several cases of child abuse.

It was the first national helpline for vulnerable children, and received 50,000 confidential calls on its first night.

Two years ago, she set up The Silver Line in response to her own struggles with loneliness following the death of husband Desmond Wilcox in 2000.

Most Read

The helpline launched nationally last year for elderly people, who can ring, free, for a friendly chat, advice or to report abuse.

Ms Rantzen was told she would be made a Dame in the honours list three weeks ago but had to keep the news secret from friends and family until it was leaked to the national press last week.

She plans to celebrate with close friends tonight for New Year’s Eve by tucking into fish and chips.

She said: “It is just such a terrific honour that it didn’t occur to me that I would get anything, but I am extremely grateful and thrilled by it.”

For more New Year’s Honours coverage, see next week’s Ham&High and