More than 350 cases of ‘home alone children' reported last summer, says NSPCC
MORE than 350 cases of young children being left 'home alone' over the summer holidays were reported to police or social services last year, a leading charity has said.
The NSPCC urged parents to think carefully before leaving their children alone and said no one under the age of 12 should be left for long periods.
The charity said it received 1,729 calls and emails last year from adults concerned about children being left to fend for themselves. The figures included the north and Britain.
More than half of cases referred to police or social services involved children under 10.
The charity said its ChildLine service gave more than 270 counselling sessions last year to children who were worried about being left home alone.
There is no legal minimum age at which a child can be left but it is against the law if a child is put at risk by being home alone.
Neil Anderson, head of the NSPCC in Northern Ireland said parents should use their common sense when deciding whether to leave a child.
"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," he said.
"This could explain why we see a spike in calls to our helpline during these months."
He said children who are left alone should be aware of what to do in an emergency.
“Leaving your child home alone can be a difficult decision as children mature at different ages – there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer," he said.
"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."
The charity said babies and very young children should never be left alone; children under the age of 12 should not be left for long periods and children under 16 should not be left overnight.
However it said a child should never be left if they do not feel comfortable with the arrangement, regardless of their age.