Calls about children left home alone increase in the summer holidays

Stats show concern over hundreds of children being left home alone during the summer holidays

Statistics from 2015 show that between July and September, the NSPCC helpline received 453 calls and emails from adults concerned about children being left unattended. Of these, 366 were so serious they were passed to police or social services.

As we enter the summer holidays, we're urging parents to think carefully before leaving their children home alone.

"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. "
Anonymous / NSPCC Helpine caller

The law doesn't give a minimum age for leaving children alone at home but it’s against the law if it puts them at risk.

In 2015/16 our helpline received 1,729 calls and emails from adults concerned about children being left to fend for themselves. More than half of those referred to police or social services were under the age of 10.

The Childline service also delivered 273 counselling sessions to children and young people who were worried about being left home alone.

"I feel so lonely; I’m at home alone and am not feeling well but there isn’t anyone here that can look after me. I’ve been in bed all day and just feel like crying."
Anonymous / Childline caller

Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO said:
“Summer holidays can be a fun time for children but it’s also when they're more likely to be left home alone as parents face increasing childcare pressures. This could explain why we see a spike in calls to our helpline during these months.  

“Leaving your child home alone can be a difficult decision as children mature at different ages – there's no ‘one size fits all’ answer. But it could put them at greater risk of accident or injury. So I'd urge parents to use their common sense when deciding if their child could cope. They should also ask them how they feel about being left alone and talk to them about what to do in an emergency. Parents are best placed to know what is right for their child so it's vital there's flexibility for them to decide.”

Our advice on leaving a child at home

  • 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?

Read further advice on how to decide if your child is ready to be left at home alone.