What age can I leave my child at home alone?
Posted on 20th January 2020
A staple of the Christmas must watch list- we’ve all seen the Home Alone movies. For some a childhood dream; to be left home alone for a weekend to do whatever you please, the boss of the household! For others the stuff of nightmares! I personally fall into that latter category of if I’m home alone I will be checking for the bogeyman in the wardrobe, under the bed and jumping at my own shadows, so had I been left home alone as a child I’m not sure I would have coped. My younger brother on the other hand probably wouldn’t have realised if my parents had left him home and he most certainly wouldn’t have panicked if they ever did.
But just imagine for a moment that little Kevin’s parents had not left him home alone because they decided to go on holiday. Let us imagine that Kevin’s parents were going through a divorce and child contact was being disputed. Kevin’s mum thought it perfectly reasonable to leave Kevin home alone whilst she nipped out for milk. Mum left, got the milk, all was fine, Kevin survived and everyone lived happily ever after….until the following weekend when Kevin went to Dads. Once there, Dad realised he needed some bread, Kevin was watching TV, Dad says “come on Kevin you’ll have to come to the shop with me I can’t leave you home alone” and Kevin replies with “but Mum does it all the time”. Dad makes an application to the Court to have full care of Kevin because he no longer believes Mum to be a fit Mother as he does not believe Kevin should have been left home alone.
Everyone is different and every child matures at a different rate (we’re still waiting for my 24-year-old brother to mature!). Many Parents argue that they know their Child and they know when feels appropriate for their child to be left at home nonetheless what happens when Parents don’t agree?
According to the NSPCC there is no set age for leaving your child home alone. From a family law point of view, the law states that a parent should not leave a child if they will be at risk. Although it is important to remember under the Children and Young Persons (England and Wales) Act 1933, the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 and the Children and Young Persons (Northern Ireland) Act 1968, parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect. This means that they can be fined or sent to prison if they are judged to have placed a child at risk of harm by leaving them at home alone, regardless of where in the UK the child lives.
NSPCC offer some very useful advice to help make the decision as to whether Children should be left home alone:
Babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone - even if it's just while you pop down the road. Even if they're sleeping peacefully when you leave, they could well wake up and get very upset when you're not there to look after them. They would not be able to protect themselves in an emergency and may even try to leave the property to find you;
Children under the age of 12 are rarely mature enough to cope in an emergency and should not be left at home alone for a long period of time;
Children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight;
Parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if it is judged that they placed a child at risk by leaving them at home alone;
A child should never be left at home alone if they do not feel comfortable with this, regardless of their age;
If a child has additional needs, these should be considered when leaving them at home alone or with an older sibling;
When leaving a younger child with an older sibling, think about what may happen if they were to have a falling out - would they both be safe?
Finally, MG Legal, would always advise that if you are going through a separation or a divorce, and it is safe to do so, try to speak to your ex-partner to discuss leaving your child home alone before making the decision to do so.
MG Legal - Your Local Solicitors
Share this post: