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New figures show increase in reports of children being left alone during holidays

PUBLISHED: 00:01 26 July 2019 | UPDATED: 17:05 26 July 2019

Young people and youth problems. Preteen girl left alone at home, sends text messages with phone to friends. Concept of potential victim of cyber bulling and absence of parental control. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Young people and youth problems. Preteen girl left alone at home, sends text messages with phone to friends. Concept of potential victim of cyber bulling and absence of parental control. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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The NSPCC are urging parents to think about when they leave their children unsupervised after a rise in calls last summer.

Nationally, the helpline received 5,737 calls and emails about youngsters being left home alone in 2018/9 with a third of those coming in the months July to September.

The NSPCC made 58 referrals to agencies in Suffolk from concerned members of the public and 164 in Essex.

Many of the calls received last summer by the NSPCC were from adults looking for advice on when it is appropriate to leave children unattended.

However, 70% of calls were deemed serious enough to be passed on to the police of social services.

Calls included concerns about youngsters being left alone overnight, being forced to feed themselves and fights between siblings.

During one call a concerned relative told the helpline: "I'm aware in the past my teenage grandson has been left home alone in the daytime and evenings while his mum goes out.

"At the moment, he's being left home alone every day. He doesn't have any friends or family in the new town so all he can do is play on his game station all day.

"The last time I saw him he looked really unhappy."

Is there an age at which you can leave children alone?

The law doesn't give a minimum age at which children can be left alone but parents can be prosecuted for cruelty to a child if they are put at risk of suffering of injury.

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Louise Exton, NSPCC helpline manager said: "Summer holidays can be a fun time for children but it is also when they are more likely to be left home alone as parents face increasing childcare pressures.

"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.

"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."

When should you leave your children home alone?

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.

- Parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if it is judged that they placed a child at risk by leaving them at home alone.

- 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?

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