Referrals made by the NSPCC following calls from those concerned about children being left home alone in London has increased by more than a quarter.
The charity has revealed the statistics ahead of the school summer holidays, in what it said are "increasing fears" over children being left alone.
Calls and emails from concerned members of the public worried for unsupervised youngsters fending for themselves led to 315 referrals by specialist counsellors during 2016/2017, to local agenices.
This was up from 245 referrals made in 2015/2016 in London.
One caller who phoned the NSPCC Helpline said: “They’re leaving the kids alone at all hours of the day, from early in the morning until late at night.
"They have to fend for themselves and make their own meals and use the cooker and other dangerous kitchen equipment.
"When I go round to check on them they pretend that their mum is in the house, but I don’t believe she is. I never see her.”
In addition, 84 calls and emails came from people in London seeking advice about children being left home alone.
The law does not state a minimum age for children left on their own at home, however parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if a child is put at risk of suffering of injury.
The NSPCC is warning parents to carefully consider whether a child would be able to cope without supervision, and in situations such as an emergency, a stranger calling at the house or being hungry.
Anothe caller was recorded saying: “My neighbour has gone away overnight and left their 10-year-old home alone. This isn’t the first time this has happened.
"They have an older brother but he doesn’t live there.
"The child comes to my house when their mum goes away because they don’t want to be on their own.”
The charity has produced a Home Alone Guide to help guide parents to make the right call.
Some of the advice includes:
- 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 it, 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?
NSPCC chief executive, Peter Wanless, said: “Deciding if a child is ready to be left on their own can be a very difficult decision and 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.
“Children shouldn’t be left on their own if they are not happy with being left, or if they don’t know what to do in an emergency.”
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