NSPCC warning about leaving children home alone in the summer

The NSPCC is warning that rising childcare costs could contribute to children being left home alone in the summer holidays.

Child looking out the window


A lack of affordable childcare has resulted in a growing number of parents leaving their children home alone in the summer holidays. A 2019 report from the NSPCC shows a rise in children being left home alone over the summer holidays. It showed that the organisation received 5,737 calls and emails to its helpline in 2018-19 about the issue – a 21% increase on the year before.

The NSPCC says that it does generally see a rise in contacts to its helpline over the summer months with people concerned about children being left unsupervised and it is currently analysing the latest figures on this.

It states: “It is pretty safe to say that one of the reasons some of those children are being left home alone, is down to being able to afford childcare or not having anyone to help with the childcare.”

It is worried that rising costs of childcare is a concern. There are also worries that Covid may have made things worse as holiday childcare has not returned to pre-Covid level. A spokesperson for the NSPCC said: “We completely understand and appreciate the huge amount of pressure parents are under, particularly at the moment. However, of course, our priority is always keeping children safe.”

Barnardo’s, meanwhile, says childcare costs are not really a focus of its work currently due to other priorities. This summer it is highlighting the additional risks that children face when schools are closed over the summer holidays, such as domestic abuse, neglect, spending more time online and being targeted by online groomers, and criminal and sexual exploitation.

The NSPCC has issued the following recommendations to try and keep children safe.

• Infants and young children aged 0-3 years old should never be left alone – even for 15 minutes while you pop down the road. This applies not just to leaving them home alone but also in your car while you run into the shops.

• While every child is different, we wouldn’t recommend leaving a child under 12 years old home alone, particularly for longer periods of time.

• Children in primary school aged 6-12 are usually too young to walk home from school alone, babysit or cook for themselves without adult supervision. If you need to leave them home, it’s worth considering leaving them at a friend’s house, with family or finding some suitable childcare.

• Children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight.

• Whether they’re 12 years old or almost 18 years old, there might be reasons that they don’t feel safe in the house alone. Just because your child is older doesn’t necessarily mean they‘re ready to look after themselves or know what to do in an emergency. It can help to go over the ground rules and remind them how to stay safe at home.

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