The NSPCC has pleaded with parents not to leave their children home alone in the school holidays, after seeing a 21% rise in calls last summer.
As schools break up for the holidays, the charity has revealed how its helpline was contacted 5,737 times in the 2018/2019 period.
They were forced to involve Lincolnshire Police 78 times because the calls were judged to be so serious.
Nearly a third of all calls and emails across the UK were from the summer months when children are away from school for at least six weeks.
Across the year, callers reported children at home alone overnight, with young children left to feed themselves and use dangerous kitchen equipment while siblings fought over games.
To highlight the problem, the NPCC has released transcripts from some of its calls: “I’m aware in the past my teenage grandson has been left home alone in the daytime and evenings while his mum goes out.
“At the moment, he’s being left home alone every day. He doesn’t have any friends or family in the new town so all he can do is play on his game station all day. The last time I saw him he looked really unhappy.”
Legally there isn’t a minimum age at which a child can be left alone, but parents can be prosecuted for cruelty to a child.
The NSPCC has issued the following advice to help parents and carers to decide when they could leave children home alone:
- Babies, toddlers, and very young children should never be left alone
- Children under 12-years-old are rarely mature enough to cope in an emergency so should not be left alone for a long period of time
- Children under 16-years-old should not be left alone overnight
- A child should not be left alone if they do not feel comfortable, regardless of their age
- When leaving a younger with an older sibling, think about whether they would both be safe if they had a falling out