With schools breaking up for summer this week the BBC are reporting that the NSPCC are warning parents about leaving children at home.
The NSPCC says last summer its helpline received 453 calls and emails from adults concerned about youngsters being left unattended during the holidays. More than three-quarters – 366 – were serious enough for information to be passed to police or social services.
The law does not specify an age at which children can be left unattended. However, laws in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland say children must not be neglected or abandoned “in a manner likely to cause [them] unnecessary suffering or injury to health”.
The NSPCC offers the following advice for parents deciding whether it is appropriate to leave a child 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
- Parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if it is judged that they placed a child at risk by leaving them alone at home
- A child should never be left at home alone if they do not feel comfortable with this, 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?
Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC said: “Summer holidays can be a fun time for children but it’s also when they are more likely to be left home alone as parents face increasing childcare pressures.
“Leaving your child home alone can be a difficult decision as children mature at different ages – there is no one-size-fits-all answer.”
The NSPCC’s warning comes as a survey by the Family and Childcare Trust finds that parents in Britain pay an average of £120 per child a week for holiday childcare.
What age do you feel is suitable for a child to be left home alone? Have you been worried about any of your students not being looked after during the holidays? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter. ~ Sophie
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