The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, a children's charity in the United Kingdom, has warned that its helpline received 453 calls and emails last summer concerning kids being left alone during the months that school is out for vacation.
The NSPCC said that three-quarters of the calls were severe enough to be passed on to social services or the police. UK law does not stipulate an age at which young people may be left by themselves.
But laws in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, and Wales specify that children are not to be neglected in a way that is apt to cause needless suffering or injury. Children left alone are likelier to experience an accident or injury, according to the BBC.
The organization encourages parents to use the guidelines they have published to understand how and when it is appropriate to leave young people by themselves. Children of a young age should not be left alone for extended periods of time, the organization advises, and young people under 16 should not be left by themselves overnight. Parents and caretakers can face prosecution for neglect if it can be shown that they placed a youngster at risk by leaving them unattended.
If a child feels uneasy about being left alone, he or she should not be left by themselves. Any child who has special needs should be left alone or with an older sibling only after careful consideration — and anytime a child is left with an older sibling, parents should consider how safe both kids would be if a disagreement between the two occurred.
NSPCC CEO Peter Wanless said:
"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.
The Press Association writes that figures obtained last year found a minimum of 105 mothers and fathers were criminally investigated for allegedly leaving their young ones at home alone in the last three months of 2014. The children involved in these incidents ranged in age from newborn to 14 years-old.
One person who called the NSPCC said:
"I'm really worried about a young girl who's been in the house by herself for a whole day now. Her mother visits her partner over the weekends. The child is always looking very sad and unkempt which upsets me."
Claire Simpson of The Irish News reports that last year the charity received 1,729 calls and emails from people worried about children being left alone. Over half of those calls concerned kids under 10 years-old. Its ChildLine service gave over 270 counseling sessions to youngsters who were concerned over being left at home alone.
Northern Ireland NSPCC Head Neil Anderson pointed out that parents should use common sense when determining whether to leave kids by themselves. He added that he understood the difficulties of finding and the expense of childcare, but it is crucial for parents to follow the charity's guidelines.
Anderson continued by emphasizing that any child who is left alone should be drilled in what is to be done in case of an emergency.