The NSPCC has referred more than 150 cases to the police and children’s services in Nottinghamshire in two years after receiving calls and emails from members of the public worried about children left home alone.
As the long school summer break approaches, the children’s charity has revealed specialist counsellors on its 24-hour helpline made 165 referrals in the last two years to local agencies in the county.
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 neglect if children are put at risk of suffering or injury.
Worried callers to the NSPCC Helpline across the UK have reported children being left alone overnight and young children left to feed themselves and use dangerous kitchen equipment.
One caller who phoned the NSPCC Helpline said: “They’re leaving the kids alone at all hours of the day, from early in the morning until late at night. They have to fend for themselves and make their own meals and use the cooker and other dangerous kitchen equipment. When I go round to check on them they pretend that their mum is in the house, but I don’t believe she is.”
There were also a further 21 calls and emails during those two years from people in Nottinghamshire seeking advice about children being left home alone.
The NSPCC is warning that although a child may seem responsible enough to be left alone without supervision, parents and carers should think carefully whether they would be able to cope with unexpected situations such as an emergency, a stranger calling at the house, being hungry or if the parent is away for longer than they thought.
NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless said: “Deciding if a child is ready to be left on their own can be a very difficult decision and the summer holidays can be a difficult time for parents and carers as they face increasing childcare pressures.
“Although there is no minimum age, no child should be left on their own if there is any risk they will come to harm. Children mature at their own rate so it’s really important parents think carefully about what is right for their child.”
The NSPCC’s helpline is open 24/7 on 0808 800 5000.