NSPCC Reveals Fears For Hundreds Of Children Being Left Home Alone During Summer Holidays

There was a sharp rise in calls to the helpline last summer.

The NSPCC has revealed fears over hundreds of kids being left home alone during the summer holidays.

The national charity revealed that contacts to their helpline about this issue last summer were up 36% on the previous year.

They received 1,294 calls and emails between July and September last year from adults across the UK with questions or concerns about kids being left unattended. This compared to 949 contacts received in summer 2015.

“Deciding if a child is ready to be left on their own can be a very difficult decision and the summer holidays can be a difficult time for parents and carers as they face increasing childcare pressures,” said NSPCC’s chief executive, Peter Wanless.

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Wanless said although the law doesn’t specify a minimum age at which it is ok to leave a child home alone, no child should be left on their own if there is any risk they will come to harm.

“Children mature at their own rate so it’s really important parents think carefully about what is right for their child,” he added.

“Children shouldn’t be left on their own if they are not happy with being left, or if they don’t know what to do in an emergency.”

Although the law doesn’t give a minimum age, parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if children are put at risk of suffering or injury.

The NSPCC released the transcript of one caller from summer 2016, who said: “They’re leaving the kids alone at all hours of the day, from early in the morning until late at night. They have to fend for themselves and make their own meals and use the cooker and other dangerous kitchen equipment.

“When I go round to check on them they pretend that their mum is in the house, but I don’t believe she is. I never see her.”

The NSPCC warned: “Although a child may seem responsible enough to be left alone without supervision, parents and carers should think carefully whether they would be able to cope with unexpected situations such as an emergency, a stranger calling at the house, being hungry or if the parent is away for longer than they thought.”

The charity is urging parents to read its home alone guide which includes questions they should ask themselves and their children before deciding to leave a child unsupervised.

NSPCC’s guidance on leaving children home alone:

  • Babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone.

  • Children under the age of 12 are rarely mature enough to cope in an emergency and should not be left at home alone for a long period of time.

  • Children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight.

  • Parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if it is judged that they placed a child at risk by leaving them at home alone.

  • A child should never be left at home alone if they do not feel comfortable with it, regardless of their age.

  • If a child has additional needs, these should be considered when leaving them at home alone or with an older sibling.

  • When leaving a younger child with an older sibling think about what may happen if they were to have a falling out - would they both be safe?

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