OPINION: Vital to ensure children are safe at home and outside this summer

It's against the law to leave children at home alone if it puts them at risk

It's against the law to leave children at home alone if it puts them at risk - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Don't be tempted to leave children at home alone if they're not ready, says Emma Motherwell of the NSPCC

With the summer holidays just around the corner many parents and carers may be wondering what to do when their child starts their well-earned break and work continues for the adults.

The NSPCC and Blakemore Retail have teamed up to help parents solve the tricky question about whether they should leave their children at home safely or let them leave the house unsupervised.

Blakemore Retail, which runs 269 SPAR stores in England and Wales, is supporting the NSPCC’s ‘Home or Out Alone’ campaign, which is rolling out new resources to provide parents with helpful advice to help keep their children safe.

Between work, appointments and other family commitments, every parent will have to make decisions about whether to safely leave a child at home at some point.

And, as children get older, it’s natural for them to want more freedom and learn to be independent - it is an important part of growing up, but there can be a lot to think about for parents.

There is no legal age to leave a child home alone as every child will mature differently, but it is against the law to leave the child alone if it puts them at risk. Parents know their children best, so if a child doesn’t feel comfortable, then they shouldn’t be left alone.

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Consideration of their abilities when it comes to dealing with issues that may arise is important, along with their ability to act responsibly and whether there may be risks that could arise.

Some children like to take advantage of every opportunity available to show they can be grown up and many will love the idea of being ‘in charge’, but being mindful that some children may find these experiences daunting is also important.

There are a few other things to consider before leaving a child at home too.

Most accidents happen at home and that’s why babies and very young children should never be left alone, even for a few minutes, whether they’re asleep or awake.

Is home a safe place for older children? Checking fire alarms, locks and windows are all working is crucial. And children will also need a spare set of keys, plus easy access to food and the bathroom if they need it.

Moving objects that are sharp is an obvious consideration, along with putting medicine and alcohol out of reach and out of sight.

It’s also really important that children know how to contact their parents or the emergency services if they need to and having another trusted adult’s number – just in case – is a good idea. When a parent is out with a child home alone, having that mobile phone in earshot and on ‘loud’ is also a consideration.

If a parent of carer is planning to let their child go out there are also a few things to consider and go over with the child.

For example, where do they want to go and what do they plan on doing when they get there. Are they going to be with friends and how far will they travel to reach this place? Also, if it’s later on in the evening how long will they be out and will it be until after dark?

If they’re going out they should know their full name, address, how to cross roads safely and they should have the numbers of two trusted adults too.

For further information and to download the full Home or Out Alone guide from the NSPCC, simply log on Home alone or out alone guide | NSPCC Learning and download the PDF.

If you’re concerned about the wellbeing of child being left alone at home then please call the NSPCC helpline for advice on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk, the helpline offers advice from our practitioners, it is also a place to report something that is worrying like a child being left at home.