A 13-year-old boy was discovered living alone for more than four months in squalid and freezing conditions, a court has heard.
The boy had a filthy mattress in a flat and had not been provided with adequate food or heating during winter months.
He was rescued last April following a tip-off to Dundee City Council.
Healthcare worker Michelle Williamson, 36, had pled guilty to wilfully neglecting the boy. She was ordered to carry out 165 hours unpaid work.
Sheriff John Rafferty also referred her to Scottish ministers for them to assess her suitability for working with children.
Dundee Sheriff Court was told it was quickly established that Williamson had allowed the boy to live alone.
The boy lived on his own five nights a week from December 2020 until 27 April 2021.
Sheriff Rafferty said: “During this time, a 13-year-old child was left alone for almost an entire week in a house that was filthy, had inadequate heating and had to survive on frozen food and carry-out meals.
“How someone could allow this to continue for such a lengthy period of time is beyond me.”
Williamson pled guilty to wilfully neglecting the boy by leaving him living alone in a cold house, on a filthy mattress on the living room floor and surviving on bowls of cereal.
The child – who cannot be identified for legal reasons – began occupying the property over the Christmas period in December 2020.
Despite the conditions he was left in, the court heard that council social workers had raised no other concerns about Williamson or children in her care.
Williamson, a mother-of-nine, continued to be employed as a healthcare assistant by a private firm after her arrest, but has been dismissed following her conviction.
Fiscal depute Dev Kapadia told the court the boy had wanted his own space and Williamson made arrangements for him to live at a flat.
Mr Kapadia said the living room of the property was the only one which was heated and the boy ate three bowls of cereal a day.
He said Williamson arranged for frozen food and the occasional take-away to be delivered, and would transfer money to the child’s bank account to top up the energy meter.
Mr Kapadia said: “Police received a call from child protection from the council, who had received an anonymous call about concerns a child was living alone.
“The door was eventually opened by the child, who indicated to them the reason he was home alone was because the accused had gone to the shops.
“The child told them they would contact her by phone, but while talking to police the child conceded they lived alone because they ‘needed space’.”
The court heard the property was in a state of disrepair and was dirty, with worktops piled with unwashed bowls and plates which had mould on them.
Mr Kapadia said: “There was little food – just a few tins and a packet of pasta. Dirty laundry lay everywhere and a double mattress in the living room had dirty bedding.
“Police noted there was £5 on the meter but no heating on. It was cold and uncomfortable.”
The court heard that Williamson spoke to police in June 2021 and told them she was a support worker.
Solicitor David Duncan, defending, said: “She displayed a very grave error of judgment. Significant lessons have been learned.”
Source: BBC News