The NSPCC referred nearly four times as many emergency calls for children left alone at home in Luton last year, new figures have shown.
As the school summer holidays approach, the leading children’s charity stated that counsellors on its helpline made 23 referrals last year to police and local agencies in Luton after concerns arose over children left alone at home.
This is an increase of almost four times as many as the previous year, when six calls were made.
NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless said: “The summer holidays can be a difficult time for parents and carers as they face increasing childcare pressures.
“Although there is no minimum age, no child should be left on their own if there is any risk they will come to harm.
“Children mature at their own rate so it’s really important parents think carefully about what is right for their child.”
In total, 44 referrals were made by the NSPCC across the county. Central Bedfordshire also saw an increase in its figures, with 15 referrals made compared to ten the previous year.
To help parents who may be considering whether to leave their child on their own for the first time this summer, the NSPCC has issued guidance. Key advice includes:
lBabies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone.
lChildren 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.
lChildren under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight.
lParents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if it is judged that they placed a child at risk by leaving them at home alone.
lA child should never be left at home alone if they do not feel comfortable with it, regardless of their age.
lIf a child has additional needs, these should be considered when leaving them alone or with an older sibling.
lWhen 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?
A Luton Borough Council spokesman added: “Any referral of a suspected ‘home alone’ situation to the council is treated extremely seriously and we investigate each call thoroughly.”
The NSPCC’s helpline is available 24 hours a day on 0808 800 5000.