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.

Help for parents and carers

Our guide will tell you what you need to know about leaving children on their own. It includes questions you can ask yourself before deciding if the child in your care is ready to be left unsupervised and for how long.

Read our guide

Is your child ready to be left home alone?

It can be really hard to decide whether your child is ready to stay at home by themselves, but we've got a useful tool to help.

Help me decide

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

NSPCC press office

Contact our national and regional press offices for enquiries about our work or to request interviews.

Contact our press office

More information and advice

Home alone

This guide to keeping your child safe at home answers questions about when your children can be left on their own.
Advice on leaving a child alone

Share Aware

Just like in real life, kids need your help to stay safe online. Our advice will help you keep your child safe on social networks, apps and games.
Be Share Aware

Staying safe away from home

Your guide to when your child's old enough to be out on their own, and how to teach them to keep safe while they're away
Keeping children safe away from home


  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.