Leaving a child on their own
There is no set age where it is ok to leave your children at home on their own. Everything will depend on whether your child is mature enough to be left and that they know how to cope in case of an emergency.
The NSPCC advise that most children under 13 years old are not mature enough to cope in an emergency, and should not be left alone for more than a very short time.
You should never leave babies or young children alone in the home, whether they are asleep or awake, not even for a few minutes.
Home alone: your guide to keeping your child safe
The NSPCC has produced a leaflet aimed at helping parents to decide when they should leave their children home alone and what they need to do to ensure their safety and wellbeing. It explains the risks of leaving babies and younger children unattended and provides advice on what qualities and experience to look for when choosing a babysitter. The leaflet explores how children feel about being left at home alone and what they might do in different scenarios, such as a power cut or if someone came to the door.
What does the law say?
There is no rule in law that tells us the age at which it is legal to leave your children alone. However, the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 states that parents can be prosecuted for wilful neglect if they leave a child unsupervised ‘in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health’.
The legal age for babysitting
The law does not specify how old someone has to be to be able to babysit.
However the NSPCC recommends that no one under 16 years old should be left alone to look after young children. If someone under 16 years old is looking after your child, you as the parents or guardian, and not the babysitter remain legally responsible for your child’s safety. You should still use judgement when choosing a babysitter, as someone 16 years old might not be mature enough to look after younger children.
The same careful judgements apply if your child wants to, or is asked to babysit for others.
If you suspect a child is at home alone
If you are concerned that a child or young person is at significant risk of harm, please contact the First Contact Team at Ashtree House on 01332 641172.
If you feel there is an immediate risk of harm to a child, contact the police by calling 999.
For more information, visit the NSPCC website.