Should there be a legal age limit for leaving a child home alone?

If there was a one-size-fits-all guide to parenting we would all have been perfect and known what to do.

As the summer holidays are now in full swing, working parents are faced with the challenge of finding extra child care, and the same old question that doesn’t have a specific answer is ‘When is it OK to leave a child home alone without an adult?’. There is no set age for leaving a child alone, but the law states there should be no risk of harm to the child.  It depends on how mature and adaptable the child is – this can vary greatly between children. This is very ambiguous and can be open to interpretation.

The NSPCC have expressed their concerns, and warn that children as young as one are being left home alone during the summer holidays. The charity said many children were at risk of harm during the “peak season” for being left alone, and urged parents to think before they went out.

The NSPCC offer some advice for parents and carers deciding if their child is ready to be left alone:

  • Never leave a baby or young child alone, not even for a few minutes—whether they’re sleeping or awake. Most accidents happen at home, and children under the age of five are most at risk of getting hurt.
  • Even a child approaching 12 may not be mature enough to cope with an emergency. If they need to be left, parents and carers should make sure it’s only for a short time.
  • If leaving an older child alone, make sure they’re happy about the arrangement and know when and how to contact a trusted adult and the emergency services.
  • Children under 16 shouldn’t be left alone overnight.

But is this enough?  Should there be a law for a minimum age to leave a child, or is it acceptable that each individual makes their own judgement?


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