The NSPCC has referred an increasing number of cases to the police and children’s services in the North West after receiving calls and emails from members of the public worried about children left home alone.
As the long school summer break approaches, the leading children’s charity has revealed that specialist counsellors on its 24-hour Helpline made 426 referrals last year (2016/17) to local agencies in the North West, up from 349 referrals made in 2015/16.
There were also 77 calls and emails from people in North West seeking advice about children being left home alone.
Although the law does not give a minimum age at which children can be left on their own, parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if children are put at risk of suffering or injury.
A number of people in Wigan have been prosecuted over the years, including a 25-year-old woman from Leigh who, in 2005, went out all night with her boyfriend leaving her 10-month-old baby in his crib.
Four years earlier a 32-year-old from Ashton was prosecuted for leaving her nine and seven-year-old sons in the house on their own all night.
Worried callers to the NSPCC Helpline have reported children being left alone overnight and young children left to feed themselves and use dangerous kitchen equipment.
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.”
The NSPCC is warning that although a child may seem responsible enough to be left alone without supervision, parents and carers should think carefully whether they would be able to cope with unexpected situations such as an emergency, a stranger calling at the house, being hungry or if the parent is away for longer than they thought.
NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless said: “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.”