The NSPCC has issued advice about leaving children at home alone over the Easter holidays.
A spokesman said: “As the school holidays approach, some parents may be thinking about whether their child is ready to be left home alone.
“It is a tricky decision made even more difficult by the fact there is no legal minimum age for a child to be left home alone.
“To help parents and carers with their decision, the NSPCC has the following advice about leaving a child at home alone:
• Babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone
• 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
• Children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight
• Parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if it is judged that they placed a child at risk by leaving them at home alone
• A child should never be left at home alone if they do not feel comfortable with this, regardless of their age
• If a child has additional needs, these should be considered when leaving them at home alone or with an older sibling
• When leaving a younger child with an older sibling think about what may happen if they were to have a falling out - would they both be safe?
“The NSPCC also encourages parents to read its handy online tool which includes a series of questions they should ask themselves and their children before deciding to leave a child unsupervised. Simply go to the NSPCC website and search for ‘home alone’.”
The leading children’s charity has also revealed that specialist counsellors on its 24-hour Helpline made 86 referrals last year (2016/17) to local agencies in Sussex.
One woman who called the 24-hour helpline, which takes calls from across the country, said she was worried something dangerous could happen to some children living near her as they are left alone all day while their mum is at work.
A spokesman said: “She explained how the children don’t always go to school and that the babysitter the mum used to have for them has stopped coming round. Although she sometimes pops over to check on the children they don’t always open the door even though she can hear them inside.
“Although there’s no legal minimum age for leaving children alone at home no-one should leave a child unattended if they think they’ll be at risk of harm and it is never acceptable for babies or very young children to be left on their own for any length of time.
“It’s also important to remember that children mature at different rates so it’s vital there is flexibility for parents as they are best-placed to know what is right for their child. “Should you decide to leave your child home alone then make sure they are happy and confident about the situation and that they know what to do in an emergency.”
More advice can be found on the NSPCC website www.nspcc.org.uk