As schools break up for the holidays, a children’s charity is urging parents to think carefully before leaving children home alone over the summer.
I’m speaking on BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester about leaving children alone. It’s a difficult problem as there is no firm law around leaving children by themselves – no guidance around age or time left unattended.
But be guided by the maturity of your child and simply ask yourself ”Would they be able to cope in a crisis?’
I built up my kids time ‘alone’ incrementally as they matured, not simply based on their age.
They always had both our mobile numbers and my neighbour’s mobile.
I used the opportunity to ‘Talk & Teach ‘ them about different scenarios & what they should do.
Be guided by your intuition and discuss it thoroughly with your children too.
The Summer, Easter & Christmas holidays come round every year – so plan ahead. There are loads of fabulous Summer Activity Camps for kids, and it’s also a wonderful time to spend some time with grandparents building memories that last a lifetime.
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 says leaving children at home without adult supervision puts them at greater risk of accident or injury.
The charity 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.
“But it could put them at greater risk of accident or injury. So I would urge parents to use their common sense when deciding if their child could cope.
“They should also ask them how they feel about being left alone and talk to them about what to do in an emergency. Parents are best placed to know what is right for their child so it vital there is flexibility for them to decide.”