THERE has been a jump in the number of children in Berkshire left home alone during the summer holidays.
A total of 36 under 16-year-olds were referred to local authority agencies last year, an increase of 21% according to the NSPCC.
The charity said its main fears were young children left to feed themselves, using dangerous kitchen equipment or fighting with siblings.
A third of calls from concerned family, friends and neighbours happened during the summer holidays when schools are closed for up to six weeks.
The NSPCC added that 70% of calls were judged so serious they were passed on to police or social services.
It has urged parents to think seriously about leaving children unsupervised and to talk to them about staying safe online and offline.
Louise Exton, NSPCC helpline manager said: “Summer holidays can be a fun time for children but it is also when they are more likely to be left home alone as parents face increasing childcare pressures.
“Childcare is the biggest cost for families after housing, which could explain why we see a spike in calls to our helpline during these months.
“Leaving your child home alone can be a difficult decision as children mature at different ages and there is no one size fits all answer.
“Parents are best placed to know what is right for their child so it’s vital there is flexibility for them to decide, but we would urge them to think carefully and use their common sense when deciding if their child could cope.”
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 cruelty to a child, which includes neglect, abandonment and failure to protect, if children are put at risk of suffering or injury.
The NSPCC stressed babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone while children under 12 are rarely mature enough to cope in an emergency.
Those under 16 should not be left alone overnight. If a child has additional needs, these should be considered when leaving them at home alone or with an older sibling.