The NSPCC has urged parents to think before leaving their children unsupervised during the school holidays, after 64 referrals were made in Northamptonshire last summer.
The child protection charity revealed its helpline received 5,737 calls and emails in between 2018 and 2019 from adults concerned about youngsters being left home alone with nearly a third coming in the summer months, a nearly 21 per cent increase.
Last year, in this county, the helpline made 64 referrals to agencies based in Northamptonshire from members of the public concerned about a child that was left home alone.
A worrying 70 per cent of the 1,824 contacts received to the helpline in summer 2018 were judged to be so serious by the NSPCC that they were passed on to police or social services.
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 and abandonment, if children are put at risk of suffering or injury.
Louise Exton, NSPCC helpline manager said: “Leaving your child home alone can be a difficult decision as children mature at different ages – there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer.
“Parents are best placed to know what is right for their child so it’s vital there is flexibility for them to decide, but we would urge them to think carefully and use their common sense when deciding if their child could cope.”
The NSPCC have issued the following guidance to help parents and carers decide when to leave 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.
• 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?