Belfast Telegraph

Ulster parents who left four children home alone still on holiday

By Anne Madden

The Northern Ireland parents of four young children who left them behind while they went on holiday have still not returned home.

The children, aged 14, 10, seven and five, were taken into care by social services in Dungannon last Friday after police received a report they were living on their own.

Sources said the parents are understood to have taken a holiday within the UK or Ireland, but had not yet made contact with their children.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed yesterday that an investigation has been launched into the incident, which police are treating as "a serious matter".

Dungannon residents reacted with "shock and disbelief" at the news of the 'home alone' incident.

"It is unbelievable that parents would go off on holiday without their children," said one young mother. "The parents should be prosecuted, it is a disgrace."

There are many families living in Dungannon who do shift work at local factories, such as Moy Park in the town.

One pensioner from an estate near the Moy Park factory described how there was an issue in the town of parents leaving their children alone while they went to work.

"About a year ago, a family with two kids were reported to social services for leaving them at home alone while they were at work," she said. "But I've never heard of parents leaving their children while they go away on holiday."

The NSPCC's Neil Anderson, said such incidents were not common. "It is very, very rare to hear about a story like this.

"Even if those children were in relatively safe physical surroundings, like in a family home, the length of time that they're left alone creates a great risk over time that something just can go wrong, and that is an offence."

The identity of the children and parents cannot be revealed for legal reasons.A spokeswoman for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust issued a statement this week saying protecting children is its key priority.

"The trust would encourage anyone who has concerns about the welfare of a child to contact the trust's Gateway Service on 0800 783 7745 or other appropriate agencies immediately."

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