Belfast Telegraph

Parents issued with advice on leaving children home alone during summer holidays

The NSPCC made the appeal as it revealed a third of their contacts about unsupervised children came during the summer months.

The NSPCC has warned parents to think about leaving children at home alone (PA Archive)
The NSPCC has warned parents to think about leaving children at home alone (PA Archive)

A children’s charity has issued advice for parents over leaving children at home during the summer holidays.

The NSPCC made the appeal as they revealed that a third of their calls and emails concerning children left unsupervised came in the summer months.

The charity said specialist practitioners on its helpline received 5,737 calls and emails from across the UK in 2018/19 from adults concerned about youngsters being left home alone.

Nearly a third of those calls and emails were between the summer months of July to September when children are away from school for at least six weeks.

Across 2018/19, the NSPCC helpline made 84 referrals to agencies based in Northern Ireland such as police or social services from individuals who were concerned about a child that was left alone/unsupervised.

The reports included children being left alone overnight, young children left to feed themselves and use kitchen equipment and siblings fighting over iPads and games.

One concerned relative told the helpline that their teenage grandson was left at home alone in the daytime and evenings, and without friends in a new town and had been left to play on his computer console all day.

“The last time I saw him he looked really unhappy,” the caller added.

There is no minimum age by law at which children can be left on their own, but 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.

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 Louise Exton, NSPCC

The NSPCC has advised that babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone, and that children under the age of 12 should not be left at home alone for a long period of time.

The charity added that children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight.

Louise Exton, NSPCC helpline manager said there is “no one size fits all” solution to childcare.

“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,” she 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 has also reminded parents about ensuring their children stay safe online.

Laura Randall, NSPCC associate head of child safety online added: “One of the best ways for parents to keep their children safe is by having regular conversations about what they are doing online – similar to finding out about their day at home or school. Parents will be able to spot any problems, and should encourage their child to come to them if they’re worried, as well as make sure their child knows what’s ok to share online – and what’s not.”

Parents can call the O2 and NSPCC online safety advice line (0808 800 5002) for free expert advice on setting-up parental controls, adjusting privacy settings or using social networks.

PA

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