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Leaving Your Children Home Alone

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 5 Mar 2024 |
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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oliviastephen02 - 18-May-23 @ 10:00 AM
Is it legal to leave my 15yr old son alone while we go on holiday, he will be staying with his 17yr old sister.
Hereford - 30-Apr-23 @ 11:37 AM
Hi. I was wondering if it is ok to leave my 13 year old daughter. Who is very sensible in charge of my son overnight.
Yo-yo - 29-Apr-23 @ 11:07 PM
Hi I’ve been toying with doing something but I don’t know where I stand I know my sons mum works at the weekend on nights and leaves her 5 year old son with his 14 year old sister over night and on a Sunday night I take my son home and she looks after him over night also I just want some advise because she is thinking of moving further away and I have said he can move in with me full time as me and my partner work in the day and somebody is always there after school and over night Thank you
Danwell - 5-Feb-23 @ 2:46 PM
I’m separated from the wife but it came to my attention that she has taken my daughter roller skating lesson and left our 11 yo son home alone. She double locked the front door so if something did happen he would be locked in. He suffers from dyslexia and is very forgetful. This has left me feeling extremely angry and upset. Is this even legal?
Rocking - 26-Jan-23 @ 8:15 PM
Hi I have 17 year 6 month old boy his enough mature he doing study and work Im going to holiday in abroad for 4 weeks and he don't want to go with me because of his exam and my question is can I leave him alone at home is that okay with UK law please answer me thanks
Mrs Bably begum - 11-Nov-22 @ 6:28 AM
Hi, can I leave my 17 years old son to look after my 13 year old overnight? I have to go to abroad for a week.
MM - 12-Oct-21 @ 9:41 AM
Can I leave a17 , 15 and 9 year old overnight on their own?
Roobs - 18-Aug-21 @ 10:22 AM
Hello...i have 4 kids....3 12 13and 16 and half boy ....i want to start to go to work 4 to 9 evening...is ok to leave them home ? My work gonna be 2minits away.
Ana Maria Caldaras - 25-Mar-21 @ 9:13 AM
Hi can I leave my 17 nearly 18 year old son to look after my 13 year old overnight? Knowing that they are perfectly safe and my eldest is responsible?
Lucy - 1-Dec-20 @ 10:52 AM
My work are wanting me back in the office as my furlough period has ended. My husband works away and the only childcare I had previously was my mother in law who is now unable to help due to health. My work have suggested leaving my mature 10 year old son alone. I was extremely upset by the suggestion as its my job to make sure he is looked after. He currently stays home when I go shopping but we have constant communication via mobile and also have family aware when he is home alone so they can call and check in if my signal drops whe in the shopping centrehe loves that I trust him to stay home during this time. I on the other hand feel like I'm on a mission to get everything I need in record time to get home to him. My work hours are 30 hours a week with full days on Monday and Tuesdays. Due to covid19 I'm even more worried about sending him to a private childcare centre due to risk of being around others that my not stick to the safety guidelines and my son doesn't like the idea as he has never been in a childminding set up before. Can my work pressure me to do this? How long would be acceptable, as a maximum time frame to leave a 10 year old alone? My son is keen for me to leave him for longer as it makes him feel grown up but I dont want to get in to trouble. Also we have 2 dogs that he has grown up with and normally they would be out of the way (just incase... you never know). I don't know if having dogs actually impacts leaving him alone for any period of time? Any advise would be great. I normally get told im to protective and need to cut the apron strings but he is my world and want to make sure I'm doing the right thing as I would have him wrapped in cotton wool for as long as he would allow
Workmum - 18-Oct-20 @ 12:13 PM
I have an 23 year old disabled daughter with special needs She doesn’t want to go out But I need to buy food so can I leave my daughter home alone while I get shopping and I would be Gone for around 1hr and she would be able to use social media and video to contact me and she is safe in her wheelchair as she can’t get around the home on her own I just want to know if I can go out to do a shop for food as we can’t live without food
Sam - 23-Aug-20 @ 7:40 PM
Can i leave my 11 and 12year old home alone for 30 to 49 min while they are sleeping todo early morning market or say get breakfast they r very mature they no all contacts in an emergancy and my cousin lives behindus to go literrally 1 mile to store
Pumpkin - 17-Apr-20 @ 3:16 PM
Hi I'm after planning a holiday abroad for 2yrs time when my 3 kids will be ages 18yrs, 17yrs, 17yrs. Will I be I be OK to leave them for 2 weeks?
Night owl - 13-Apr-20 @ 5:53 PM
My soon to be ex girlfriendwent out at night and didn't return to get the kids up and ready for school ages 6 year old girl and 14 year old boy, can she get done for this I tried calling but no answer finally got back to me when kids where at school not first time she has done this, don't feel safe leaving my daughter with her.
Bert - 20-Mar-20 @ 5:28 AM
My ex and her partner both work and leave my 13 and 11 year old at home all day without any adult supervision. My 11 year old regularly calls me distressed with this situation. This child is allowed to walk the streetsalone and doesn't have the direct contact number for the mothers work in case of emergency. Is this allowed or acceptable? Thanks
Dboy - 23-Oct-19 @ 7:34 PM
I want to know if I can leave my 12 yr old with a 7 yr old just while I walk the dogs or pop to do a quick local shop ..?
Neemol - 23-Sep-19 @ 5:45 PM
I am after advice on leaving my 3 children ages, 14, 11 and 10 at home alone for about an hour in the morning 5:30 ish while they are in bed sleeping while I go to the gym. This is less than 1/2 a mile away so can get back quickly. Before doing so wanting advice to whether it legal or not. They would be safe and have big dog, good area and everywhere locked.
Lauz - 25-Jun-19 @ 10:26 PM
My daughter starts secondary school in September. She currently attends after school club as I work until 5pm. Once she starts in September she will get the bus home for around 4pm. By the time I’ve picked up her siblings from nursery/childminders and after school club I won’t be home much before 5:30. Can she be left at the house alone from 4-5:30? She is asking if she can, but I thought she had to be 13??
Nh200 - 11-Jun-19 @ 2:54 PM
I am asking for some advice, my ex husband and his new partnerare leaving my son13 alone at home with her other 4 childrenages 17 down to 11 all day whilst they both go to work, I live in the same town we operate a shared care facility which is a week on and a week off with myself covering all school holidays for my son, I work from home to facilitate this. This week was school holidays, my son should have been with me today ...he didnt let me know he was staying with his fathers children at home with no adult supervisionand I understood he was to be with me under my supervision ...I contacted his father and it appears they had planned to do this again tomorrow...is that allowed and is there anything i can to to prevent this happening again?
al - 26-Apr-19 @ 5:47 AM
Can I leave my 9 and 7 year old kids alone at late evening for 30 minutes?
Anna - 23-Apr-19 @ 7:10 PM
Can l leave my daughter 13 with her sister who is 10
Loz72 - 4-Apr-19 @ 1:28 AM
Can I leave my 13year daughter along with her sis for 4hours one day aweej
Loz72 - 4-Apr-19 @ 1:26 AM
hi ive decided to go abroad with an old pal as we have both had a stressful year and i just booked for a week - my children will be 16 and 18 and half by the time we go - I have left them on their own overnight from time to time and also when i have been at work , but once my daughter left the gas on and then switched it off so there was a smell of gas in the house once so ive now told them just use microwave. However , i know i did this myself when i was aged 36 so i think she just needs to get used to how it works Everyone else tells me they will be fine but im hoping to get an older sibling to stay if possible who is aged 30 . However I would say that my daughter (18) is less mature than my son (16) . When i left them overnight i rang them before bedtime and first thing in the morning - Sometimes I do a long shift at work 8am to 8pm but get home at 8.30 , so long as theres food ready made and snacks they have been fine Son knows how to put central heating on , use microwave, not answer door, how to get out in case of fire, everyone says im worried about nothing as my ex left them on their own for a week when he was working away (yes he gets them for a week then works away and leaves them)
sel - 20-Mar-19 @ 10:36 PM
I have a 15 year old son who as additional needs & his not a typical 15 year old.. I want him to have some independence & quite a few of my friends say l should give him more independence but l am unsure about leaving him on his own for at least 5/6 hours as l would like a night out as l haven't had a night out in a long time. My son can be immature sometimes but he does know some lifeskills e.g making drinks, making food & how to use a mobile. I would be very grateful for some guidance.
Butterfly - 30-Dec-18 @ 3:22 AM
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