NSPCC's warning over children home alone during summer holidays after 73 Hertfordshire referrals
PUBLISHED: 08:30 03 August 2019
Tom Hull Photography 2016
Child protection charity the NSPCC is urging parents to think carefully before leaving their children unsupervised during the school holidays, after seeing a spike in calls and emails about the issue last summer.
The charity made 73 referrals to agencies based in Hertfordshire from members of the public concerned about a child left home alone in 2018/19.
Nationally, the helpline recevied 5,737 calls and emails from adults concerned about youngsters being left home alone during 2018/19 - with 1.824 of these made during July to September.
A worrying 70 per cent of those contacts were judged so serious by the NSPCC they were passed on to police or social services.
Worried callers reported children being left alone overnight, and young children left to feed themselves and use dangerous kitchen equipment.
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A concerned relative told the helpline: "I'm aware in the past my teenage grandson has been left home alone in the daytime and evenings while his mum goes out. At the moment, he's being left home alone every day. He doesn't have any friends or family in the new town so all he can do is play on his game station all day. The last time I saw him he looked really unhappy."
Although the law does not give a minimum age at which children can be left on their own, parents and carers can be prosecuted for cruelty to a child - which includes neglect, abandonment and failure to protect - if children are put at risk of suffering or injury.
Louise Exton, NSPCC's helpline manager, said: "Summer holidays can be a fun time for children, but it is also when they are more likely to be left home alone as parents face increasing childcare pressures.
"Childcare is the biggest cost for families after housing, which could explain why we see a spike in calls to our helpline during these months.
"Leaving your child home alone can be a difficult decision, as children mature at different ages, but we would urge parents to think carefully and use their common sense when deciding if their child could cope."
The NSPCC says babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone, children under 12 should not be left at home alone for a long period, and children under 16 should not be left alone overnight.
A child should never be left at home alone if they do not feel comfortable with it, regardless of their age.