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Leaving Your Children Home Alone

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 1 Feb 2017 |
 
Child Babysitter Home Alone Away

There is no fixed age at which a child is deemed ‘safe’ to be left at home alone. Rather than specifying an age, the law says that a parent commits an offence if leaving the child on their own puts them at ‘risk.’

In practical terms, it is not advisable to leave your child alone if they are under the age of 13. This is because even a short period of time spent alone can be distressing or lonely for them. You also have to consider whether your child could cope in an emergency. Of course, this is not an absolute rule and varies from child to child. Some children who are under 13 are particularly mature and may be better able to cope than some 14 year olds. Similarly, a 14 year old could have the emotional maturity of an 8 year old.

If You Decide To Leave Your Child At Home Alone

Make sure your child can contact you if they need to by telephone. Ensure that wherever you are you can go home immediately if you need to. Before you leave, take the time to explain the dangers of the home to your child, such as appliance and not answering the door, and ensure that they understand them.

Your child should understand how to ring the emergency services, as well as know who they can and cannot trust. You may also wish to give them a list of people they can contact, such as a nearby neighbour or other trusted person. Whatever happens, ensure that your child is happy to be left alone and tell them what time you will be coming back. You will need to keep your promise and not be late.

How Long Can You Be Gone For?

Again, there are no hard and fast rules on this. It will depend on the child, but you should remember that you could be breaking the law if you put your child at risk because of the amount of time you are absent. Under no circumstances should you leave a child under the age of 16 home alone overnight, and a toddler or baby should not be left alone at home at all, not even for a few minutes.

If you have to be away from your child, you may wish to get a babysitter. Again, there are no laws on how old a babysitter should be, but you should think twice about hiring a babysitter under the age of 16 unless you have carefully assessed their suitability. If you leave your child with a babysitter under the age of 16, you will still retain responsibility for anything that goes wrong while you are away.

Your Checklist

Before deciding whether to leave your child alone at home, it may help if you answer these questions:
  • Where will your child be left? In the home or part of the home?
  • How long will you be gone for?
  • Consider the age of your child, and their relative maturity and responsibility
  • What are the risks involved?
  • Will there be other children at home with them?
  • How will your child feel if they are left alone?
You know your child better than anyone else in the world, so you are in the best place to judge whether they are likely to be ‘at risk’ if left alone in your home.

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I'm at my wit's end. I have recently been widowed my youngest child is two I have one five one thirteen other fourteen I am left with no extended family or parents of my own for support I'm expected to work 16 hours as my benefit has been caped I went for a job interview which I got the job l had no choice as I could not afford a baby sitter as I have serious debts so I left my oldest son in charge who is responsible but unfortunately my 13 year old decided to play up for him and my five and two year old got felt pens and drew all over the wallsthe 13 year old removed my long stick matches from the shed and behaved stupidly I got the job but would of had to of left my older son in charge of the children to cover the hours requested as child care providers only offered 12 half hours free and another one not on the days or times I needed but due to fear of loosing my home due to not been able to cover the 90 pound rent I felt I had no choice untill getting home to find what had happened thus causing me to cry feel totally alone with no help I had to call the company and tell them I could not take the position leaving me distraut depressed feeling hopeless and what's the point I now AM getting into further debt fear loosing my home and roof over the head of my children which if I do I can honestly say they will be better in the care system and I sleep forever with my partner because I don't have help or support for my two year old child if she were in full time school then things would be different. Thankyou government for thinking of people and there situation the lady who didn't look and killed my partner has a lesser centance than I have been left with she lost her licence for 12 months I've lost my partner my children's farther now I feel I could loose my children and my home and when this happens I loose my life because I can't cope
Loopie - 1-Feb-17 @ 11:52 PM
@Aunt matilda. The increase in house prices has probably not helped. Years ago, one salary would be enough to pay the mortgage or rent, so the mother (or father) could stay at home while the other parent worked.
Peter Rabbit - 6-Aug-15 @ 12:16 PM
I am not surprised why parents feel pressurized , being forced back to work and worried about leaving their children home alone. What stupid idiot suggestedpenalising parents if they don`t go back to work? Obviously some one who doesn`thave children, or if they do they probably are wealthy enough to employ nannies. They say this is a free country? For whom? Certainly not for normal caring parents . They are just being legally blackmailed. When I was growing up mum was always at home and dad worked. We didn`t have much but at least we had mum at home and not a stranger looking after us. That`s the way it was back then. Maybe that`s why society has broken down. So called progress is not always a good thing. Maybe the Government should start looking back in the past for the answers. Because when it comes to family values, they just don`t have a clue!
Aunt Matilda - 5-Aug-15 @ 10:21 PM
Hi. I will need help from someone, I'm a working mum and my shift is 3pm till 11pm my husband is working up to 11.30pm every day such as me. I told my line manager to please change my shift hours for early shift but that was 5 months ago. The company is British I just don't understand how that could happen. Please I need help I dont won't leave my child at home alone she is 13 age, but I don't want to lose my job as well. Please.Thank You.
sue - 5-May-11 @ 1:03 PM
After reading the advice on this web site I feel less under pressured but still quite worried. For some time now I have been talking to parents who have been out of employment to look after their young children but are now facing problems finding support with childcare as the new government law states the unemployed now must seek work, everyone including parents with children young or old have to accept work from 16 hours per week (more if your child is 13 or above), or results may lead to being sanctioned. One word from me would describe how I feel about all this - "angry". Why has it come to this? Parents know full well leaving any child home alone still causes any parent to worry sick about their safety, I haven't left my children home alone since they were born, now as a parent with a child of 13 (my youngest) I am expected to work 40 hours per week! Childcare is a big problem for me and many parents accross the UK, I have no immediate family near by and friends are far from available as most work or have other issues. Agencies only offer support for babies and toddlers or clubs only offer support after school hours, some during school holidays. Child minders are rarely available and most will not mind children over the age of 12. So, my options are: leave my child home alone whilst I work. Tell the government where to stick their laws, but then be sanctioned. Take my child to work with me. As I am a devoted mum and want the very best for my children, working will be the better option but I can guarantee I will turn grey with worry if I have to leave my child home alone for more than an hour a day never mind 9 hours a day! I will continue to search for a childminder or any sort of club for children under the age of 16 with parents in full time employment. Unfortunately, the government are slightly unaware of how much worry and confussion they have created for parents with young children, also with no extra money or support offered for extra childcare facilities for parents, the governmentwill have some big issues eventually regarding the pile up of child welfare problems, probably in the next five years, knowing my children will never face any problem being un-safe, it is still worrying for many other mums and dads that are faced with this new law of "being forced back to work".Wishing everyone well Kris
Kris - 16-Apr-11 @ 4:28 PM
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