Think before leaving kids home alone
The school holidays can be a childcare nightmare for parents, particularly those who work, and it can sometimes be tempting to leave children home alone.
But the NSPCC is urging parents to think carefully before leaving their children at home without supervision during the summer holidays, as it could leave them at risk of accident or injury.
The charity’s helpline received 453 calls and emails between July and September last year from adults concerned about youngsters being left unattended. Of these, more than three quarters (366) were so serious they were passed to police or social services.
Throughout last year, the helpline received 1,729 calls and emails from adults concerned about children being left to fend for themselves, with more than half of those referred to police or social services being calls about children aged under 10 years.
The NSPCC’s ChildLine service also delivered 273 counselling sessions to children and young people last year who were worried about being left home alone.
Peter Wanless, the NSPCC’s chief executive, explains that the law doesn’t give a minimum age for leaving children alone at home, but it’s against the law if it puts them at risk.
He says: “Summer holidays can be fun for children but it’s also when they are more likely to be left home alone as parents face increasing childcare pressures.
“Leaving your child home alone can be a difficult decision as children mature at different ages – there’s no ‘one size fits all’ answer.
“But it could put them at greater risk of accident or injury. So I would urge parents to use their common sense when deciding if their child could cope.”
He suggests parents ask children how they feel about being left alone and talk to them about what to do in an emergency, and adds: “Parents are best placed to know what’s right for their child, so it’s vital there’s flexibility for them to decide.”