The NSPCC is warning parents and carers in Sheffield to think twice about leaving young children home alone this summer.
As the summer holidays begin, the charity is asking parents and carers to think about whether their children could 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 anticipated.
Last August 849 children were referred by the NSPCC helpline to social services or police due to concerns about them being left unsupervised by their parent or carer.
A third of those children were aged five and under.
Throughout 2017 and 2018 there were 7,277 children referred to authorities due to concerns about them being left to fend for themselves, with the issue being worse in August during the long school holidays.
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."
Currently there is no law governing the age in which a child can be left alone.
The charity instead encourages parents and carers to read it's home alone guide, which gives questions they should ask themselves and their children before deciding to leave their child unsupervised.
They have also issued guidance on leaving a child at home, which can be viewed on the NSPCC website.
The Star asked mums in Greenhill whether they thought a child should be left home alone, and if it can be difficult as a parent during the school holidays.
Kaye Brammall said: "No way should a child be left to fend for itself for hours a day, if it's just to grab a pint of milk from shop that's different as it only for few minutes but definitely not for a full working day. I'm very fortunate in that I work term time and understand it can be expensive for child care but what's more important! Most accidents happen in the home."
Ami Woodhouse added: "I'm going both ways, I wouldn't leave my kids if I had to work but I do leave my kids if I need to go to shops. My kids are very good they both have phones and my son has a house key they don't answer door to anyone so I'm happy to do that and I trust them."
Sara Thomas said: "NSPCC provide guidance about leaving children at home and recommend that children under 14 should not be left for long periods. It has to be decided on an individual basis, not just on a magic age where you are suddenly old enough to be left alone.
"You need to consider maturity of the child, their feelings about being left alone, how long it’s for, if they are on their own of left caring for younger siblings, and how a child would cope with unexpected situations or emergencies."
Claire Rushton said: "It’s a tough call to make. This year is the first year that my child is too old to go to a childminder, most clubs or camps around us stop at 11 or 12. Having always worked full time I don’t have a support network of other mums and also don’t like to impose.
"I’m quite lucky in the fact that I can work from home a few days and I’m making my other half do the same but previously it was the amazing childminders we used that kept us sane in the holidays and allowed us to carry on working.
"It cost a fortune but was worth every penny! My boy will soon turn 13 and is very sensible and mature. I’m not comfortable leaving him for a full day but a morning or afternoon would be fine."
Sam Thompson said: "I have a daughter who is just 14. I wouldn’t leave her for the day as she doesn’t like to be left for that long. I’ve left her long enough to go the shops, go to a doctors appointment, but never for a long time.
"We always discuss being left and then decide between us about how long for or if she wants to come with me. She doesn’t open the door to anyone not expected and is fully aware of what she can/ can’t do.
"She is a very sensible child, but also sensitive. I wouldn’t change the way in which I manage her being in the house alone, when she’s ready for more, it’ll happen, no matter what!"
Guidance for leaving your child home alone can be viewed on the NSPCC wesbite or you can call NSPCC's helpline 24/7 on 0808 800 5000 for free and confidential advice.