Should You Leave Your Child "Home Alone"?


A debate has sparked about what the appropriate age to leave children home alone is. The law gives no specific clarification, but parents may be at risk of prosecution despite there being no clear guidelines.

All children are different

Is Common Sense Enough?

The recent interest in this subject all stems from a mother who is battling to have a police caution removed from her record after leaving her 6-year-old son for 45 minutes to go on a driving lesson. 8 years later, the caution is still having an impact on her life and is hindering her from joining her chosen career path as a mental health nurse.

When asked about the case the Department for Education said "the law is clear", that parents can be prosecuted if an unsupervised child could have come to unnecessary suffering. There are no indications that the woman's child came to any harm but a nurse who knocked on the door raised the alert when the boy answered.

Generally, under 12's are rarely mature enough to be left at home, on their own for long periods. Under 16's shouldn't be left at home overnight whilst babies, toddlers and the very young should never be left alone according to the NSPCC, who have the backing of the Department of Education.

They have urged parents to take a common sense approach to deciding when their children are ready to be left home alone, as they know their children best.

Still Need Guidance?

For those parents who need extra guidance, Coram Children's Legal Centre have a guide to help parents on the points they should consider. It also contains a small amount of information that can be used to help decide what kind of baby sitter is appropriate for the job.

John Hemming, a Liberal Democrat MP has called for clarity on "how long and at what age" children can be left home alone. He comments that it is not "clear whether leaving them alone is either not an issue, a child-protection issue or a criminal issue". Parents need answers so they don't fall into the same trap as the lady in question.

Is it fair to say that a one size fits all approach may not be the best option considering all children mature at different rates?

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