Concern over young children left home alone for the summer holidays

As schools break up, we're urging parents and carers to think carefully about leaving children on their own

Young child home alone 2018Last August, hundreds of people contacted our helpline after becoming worried that young children had been left unsupervised by their parents or carer.

This resulted in 849 referrals that month to police and social services, a third of which were for children aged 5 or under1.

Tips for parents and carers

However responsible a child may appear, would they be able to cope if something unexpected or scary happened?

To help you decide whether or not to leave your child on their own for the first time this summer, follow our tips.

  • Babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone.
  • Children under 12 shouldn't be left for a long period of time - and under 16s shouldn't be on their own overnight.
  • A child should never be left at home alone if they feel uncomfortable, whatever their age.
  • If your child has additional needs, take these into account when leaving them on their own or with an older brother or sister.
  • When leaving a younger child with an older sibling, think about what could happen if they had an argument.

NSPCC Head of Safeguarding in Communities, Chris Cloke, said:
"It can be difficult for parents and carers to decide whether their child is ready to be left on their own and we know that the summer holidays can be a tricky time as people face increasing childcare pressures.

"However, it is still very concerning that we are consistently seeing a spike in August of referrals to social services and the police due to worries about children being left unsupervised. No child should be left on their own if there is any risk they will come to harm."

Worried about a child?

Contact our trained helpline counsellors for help, advice and support.

0808 800 5000

Report a concern


  1. 1 NSPCC Helpline data from April 2017 to March 2018 showed 7,277 children were referred to authorities by our Helpline, with 849 referrals in August.