When Can Your Child Be Left Home Alone?
Authors: Nicola Conley & Tyne Harman
With the Easter holidays approaching you may be wondering about childcare arrangements and whether your child is old enough to be left on their own. What age do they need to be for it to be safe enough to leave them unattended? In truth, there is no law stating an age when you can leave a child on their own, however it is an offence to leave a child alone if it places them at risk of harm.
As we all know every child is different, and they all mature at different ages. You must always ensure that your child’s needs and interests are placed as a paramount consideration, taking into account the fact that, as a parent, you know your child the best, you know their maturity levels, and can use your own judgement to decide whether or not you think they are mature and capable enough to be left alone. You must also bear in mind your child's capabilities.
Guidance from the NSPCC suggests that children under the age of 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time. Children under the age of 16 should never be left alone over night, and babies, toddlers, and very young children should never be left alone. These are just some of the very broad and general guidance given on this issue.
As a parent, you could be prosecuted if you leave your child unsupervised ‘in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health’. If you are prosecuted, under legislation you can be fined or sent to prison if you are found to have placed a child at risk of harm by leaving them unattended.
Contact a member of our family law team for further advice on this or any other family-related matter.