Home Alone and the Law

 

I had made an assumption that there was a law that decreed how old a child must be to be left alone at home. With the long summer holidays now well underway and the inevitable dilemma for some parents on how to divide work and parenting while ensuring their kids are safe, I made a little investigation – and I was wrong. There is no legal age a child can be left home alone, but it is against the law to leave a child alone if it puts them at risk.

While not actually illegal, it is generally accepted that a baby or young child under 12 should never be left alone even when asleep, as they would not be considered mature enough to cope alone, and anyone under 16 should not be left alone overnight.

According to the NSPCC, no child who is not comfortable to be left should be left. That can be a tricky one. With the cost of childcare, along with everything else, going up, it might be a temptation for some families to overlook a child’s unreadiness to be left alone at home

The NSPCC knows only too well that while some kids will relish the chance to be independent, others could be traumatised by the experience. It recommends taking time to help build independence in the child over time. That makes sense but in the past four years concerns have been raised over 21,000 times in the UK over issues relating to unsupervised children with nearly half of the contacts taking place during the summer months.

Parents are advised to be clear about how their child will cope if something goes wrong. How do they deal with risk and are they responsible enough to stay safe? Talking to a child about what they’d do and how they think they’d feel in different scenarios is a good way to prepare them.

Perhaps it seems obvious but parents are advised to make sure that they have minimised dangers, set clear boundaries about what is acceptable and what is not, and ensured that children can safely access food . Remember that even though a child may be confident, make sure they have two emergency contacts , just in case.

The NSPCC has teamed up with Blakemore Retail for the NSPCC’s Home or Out Alone campaign, which offers a quiz to help parents make the right decision about leaving their children at home safely or letting them leave the house unsupervised.

If you’re worried about a child, contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

Kitty Parsons

Kitty has forgotten how long she has been here now but she loves Pembrokeshire for its beauty and it's people. She spends her time searching out stories for pembrokeshire.online, swimming in the sea , drawing and painting as Snorkelfish and eating cake. She says "Pembrokeshire.online has been an opportunity to celebrate this beautiful county and its people. Keep the stories coming. We love to hear from you."

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