NSPCC prepares for rise in calls about young children left home alone in Milton Keynes as school holidays begin

Children as young as nine are being left home alone during the school holidays, NSPCC experts have said.

By Sally Murrer
Monday, 25th July 2022, 3:10 pm

Confusingly there is no legal age that a child can be left home alone as every child matures differently - but it’s against the law to leave a child if it puts them at risk.

The same applies to children going out and playing unsupervised.

Every summer the NSPCC charity sees a surge in calls from the MK region about children being left without supervision..

There is no specific legal age that a child can be left home alone

This year, the cost-of-living crisis is expected to put additional pressure on families where parents work. Childcare costs have soared in recent years, with the price for a child under two increasing by a third to £137.69 per week or over £7,000 a year, according to data from the Family and Childcare Trust.

Nevertheless, NSPCC experts say a child who doesn’t feel comfortable should not be left alone.

They advise that children under the age of 12 are rarely mature enough to cope in an emergency and should not be left at home alone for a long period of time. And children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight.

To help parents decide, the NSPCC is running a campaign called ‘Home or Out Alone’. This is supported by Blakemore Retail.

And they are encouraging communities to look out for children left alone and make a report to their Helpline if necessary. A referral to agencies, such as the police and social services, is made when the NSPCC considers that information given in such a call warrants further investigation.

They give an example of one neighbour who called the NSPCC Helpline and said: “I am concerned about a 9-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.”

An NSPCC spokesman said: “Parents trying to work and manage the six week school break can be challenging, particularly in light of soaring child care costs... Between work, appointments and other family commitments, every parent will have to leave their child home alone at some point.

“As children get older, it’s common for them to want more freedom and learn to be independent. This is an important part of growing up, but there can be a lot to think about for parents.

“Will they be safe and sound? If they are staying at home, make sure they have a parent or carer’s number, another trusted adult’s number and have a trusted adult in mind that they could go to in person, in an emergency. If they are going out alone make sure they know their full name, address, and have two trusted adults’ phone numbers.”

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.”