The NSPCC’s urging parents and carers in Essex not to leave young children home alone as the summer holidays start.
Figures show 849 youngsters across the country were referred by the charity’s helpline to social services or police last August because of worries about them being left to fend for themselves.
A third were 5 and under.
To help parents and carers who may be considering whether or not to leave their child on their own for the first time this summer, the NSPCC is issuing guidance on leaving children home alone on its website.
Key points include:
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?
The NSPCC’s helpline is available 24/7 on 0808 800 5000 for free and confidential advice.