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This is what the NSPCC says about what age you can you leave a child home alone or with older brothers and sisters



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Can I leave my child home alone?

With school holidays on the horizon and hundreds of working parents currently juggling a child in isolation it may be a question many mums and dads are asking themselves.

Recognising the demands on parents' time between work, appointments and responsibilities to other family commitments, the NSPCC is stepping in to try and help households reach the right decision.

With the school term ending, parents may be wondering how they'll be able to juggle work and childcare
With the school term ending, parents may be wondering how they'll be able to juggle work and childcare

With no specified legal age that a child can be left indoors by themselves it is a choice that rests solely with parents and carers.

Advice included on the government website makes it clear the law does not give an age when a child can be left - but reminds parents that it is an offence to leave a child alone if it places them at risk.

There is no legal age a child can be safely left, says the government, it is a decision for parents
There is no legal age a child can be safely left, says the government, it is a decision for parents

Parents instead, are told to use their judgment when it comes to deciding how mature a youngster is to manage the responsibility.

With the end of the school term around a week away, the NSPCC has launched its 'Home or Out Alone' campaign to help parents reach sensible conclusions about how well their child may manage at home by themselves - while there is also some advice for families considering letting their children outside unsupervised for the first time.

The charity admits that when to reach that milestone is a 'tricky decision' for parents to make.

The NSPCC advises no child under 12 should be left alone and definitely for no significant length of time
The NSPCC advises no child under 12 should be left alone and definitely for no significant length of time

What is the advice?

Breaking it down into age groups in its guide, the charity recommends parents try and avoid leaving older primary pupils under the age of 12 home alone, and definitely never for any significant length of time.

But whatever the child's age, parents are encouraged to think about whether their children are ready to be independent or not - this could include not only whether they're old enough but also do they have enough knowledge to deal with potential risk alongside asking them how they feel about being by themselves.

Parents are also advised to understand what parts of being home alone may worry a child, such as being afraid of the dark, so that where possible any potential worries can be resolved ahead of reaching a final decision.

But the NSPCC is quick to point out that any child worried about being left alone and who doesn't look ready for the responsibility shouldn't be made to stay by themselves and instead cared for by a friend or relative if necessary.

Would your children bicker and argue if left without an adult to manage the situation?
Would your children bicker and argue if left without an adult to manage the situation?

What about sibling babysitters?

As with leaving a child by themselves, there is no legal age a child can babysit.

Many parents with older children or step-siblings often feel more comfortable about leaving children together, says the NSPCC, particularly if one sibling is older.

Considering how well your children get on, whether there is a risk that they'll fight, asking the older child whether they feel ready for the responsibility, agreeing house rules and coming up with an agreed safety plan for an emergency are all bases experts suggest should be covered before choosing to shut the door on brothers and sisters at home together.

Parents are advised to ensure any devices left with children are locked down safely
Parents are advised to ensure any devices left with children are locked down safely

Checklists before leaving

The campaign guide also shares advice and information with parents about safety issues, boundaries and building trust before any family makes the move and leaves children in the house by themselves.

And for families getting ready to take that step for the very first time there is a checklist of things it is advisable they do.

This includes ensuring children's devices or technology they may use will keep them safe online, setting ground rules relating to friends coming over, activities they're permitted to do such as cooking or preparing food, putting any dangerous objects or substances out of reach and what to do if for example, someone knocked at the door.

This is alongside advice about making sure they understand what to do in an emergency, have a clear plan in place in the event of a problem and that they know who to call and how.

It is also suggested parents and children should build up any time apart slowly and that parents make a point of checking in often with those they've left behind as well as giving a clear indication of when they'll be back home.

Parents, says the NSPCC, should explore whether their children are happy to be left before doing so
Parents, says the NSPCC, should explore whether their children are happy to be left before doing so

The campaign is being run with the help of Blakemore Retail, which own 269 Spar convenience stores in England and Wales, which has donated £50,000 to the launch and will also be promoting the advice in its shops with posters and flyers.

Kellie Ann Fitzgerald, from the NSPCC, said: "At the NSPCC we know that deciding if your children are ready to stay home or go out alone can be tricky and will differ from child to child.

“We are delighted to have teamed up with Blakemore Retail on this new campaign which should help to take away some of the worry for parents and support them to make the right decision for them and their child to help keep them safe

“Parents and professionals can check out the Home or Out Alone campaign at nspcc.org.uk/safe-alone.”



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