When can you legally leave your child “Home Alone”?

Many parents find themselves considering leaving their children home alone while popping out to the corner shop for a pint of milk or to post a letter. Much preferring to take that risk than to endure the rigmarole of dressing the kids and loading them in to the car.  But by doing so are you acting illegally? Are social services going to come banging on your door?!

At present there are no hard and fast laws to say what age a child is allowed to be left home alone. The law acknowledges that every child is different and matures at different levels. The law therefore only specifies that a child should not be left alone if they are at risk. The choice is left to parents to decide at what age their child stops being at risk when left at home alone.

Parents must consider whether if left alone their child would be capable of responding to danger or an emergency situation. They should also assess whether their child is comfortable being left alone. If not then parents should not take the risk. If a child is left alone when they are at risk of harm then this may be considered neglect and parents may be prosecuted.

Indeed, recently, a mother who left her son of 14 looking after his 3 year old brother while she popped to the shops for half an hour received a police caution for cruelty.

The NSPCC has offered guidance to say that babies, toddlers and young children should definitely never be left alone, children under 12 should not be left alone for a long period of time and children under 16 should not be left overnight.

You know your child better than anyone so ultimately the decision is down to you, but think through the risks and consequences before popping out for that pint of milk.

If you are unsure as to whether you should leave your child alone, or you have been approached by social services or other professionals regarding leaving your child home alone, then please contact Stephanie at stephanie@kleymansolicitors.com who will provide you with some helpful friendly advice, parent to parent.