The NSPCC has launched a summer campaign to alert parents of the dangers of leaving their children home alone amid rising childcare costs.
The NSPCC has launched a campaign urging parents and carers to think carefully about leaving children home alone or unsupervised as the summer holidays start in England and Wales after it saw a big increase in home alone reports during the pandemic.
The NSPCC says that during the pandemic it saw a big increase in the number of adults contacting its helpline about this issue, receiving 6,017 contacts in 2020/21. This was an increase of a fifth when compared to the previous year. This may in part be due to more adults working from home and being more aware of the issue and it says calls are now back to pre-pandemic levels. However, 60% of the calls were so worrying that the NSPCC had to involve the police and social services.
The NSPCC says the summer months have seen a spike in calls to its helpline for some years and over the past two years more than two in five contacts took place across the months of May, June, July and August.
During the 2020 lockdown, one caller – a neighbour – told the helpline: “I am concerned about a nine year old who is regularly being left unsupervised whilst her mother goes to work. The mother does shift work so can be out of the house at different times of the day or night. The family have dogs and they are left with the child unsupervised. I know the child is alone because I see the mother leaving the house for work and the child looking out of the bedroom window.”
There is no legal age a child can be left home alone as every child matures differently, but it is against the law to leave a child alone if it puts them at risk. The NSPCC says a child who doesn’t feel comfortable shouldn’t be left alone.
It recognises that covering the school break can be challenging, particularly in light of soaring child costs in recent years, and that leaving an older child at home alone can help to teach them about independence. It has therefore teamed up with SPAR store operator Blakemore Retail to help parents decide if their children are ready to stay home or go out alone. The following questions can help parents to decide:
Kam Thandi, NSPCC National Services Director said: “As the school summer holidays begin, we want to encourage parents and carers to think carefully about leaving children home alone or unsupervised, and also remind members of the public to look out for the children in their communities.”
*The NSPCC’s helpline is on 0808 800 5000.