The BBC has found that more than 500 people in England and Wales were arrested for leaving their child home alone.
What age should children be left home alone?
This is a question parents/carers will ask us from time to time as it is often a difficult decision and there are lots of factors to consider. There are no rules or laws around what age a child can be left home alone from because every child is different depending on how mature and adaptable they are.
What is the law?
There is no law for the minimum age a child can be left alone, but the law does say that you shouldn’t leave a child alone if they will be at risk. The choice is left up to the parent or carer to use their judgement on whether the child could be left alone.
- 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 this, 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?
Questions to ask yourself before you decide if your child can be left alone or not:
- Does your child seem to be responsible and mature for their age and always do what you tell him or her?
- Would they be able to fix themselves something to eat and drink and would you be happy with them using the cooker or microwave?
- Can you imagine how they’d cope in an emergency like a power cut or a flooded bathroom?
- Would they know what to do if the phone rang or someone came to the door?
- Would they know how to contact you or another family member or friend if they needed to? Do they have these contact numbers to hand?
- How would they feel about being left alone – pleased to be given the responsibility or scared by the thought of it?
Our Director of Parenting Education and Participation was on Downtown Radio this morning talking about this topic. Click the button below to listen again.