At what age can children be left home alone?
For working parents, July and August can be particularly difficult as they’re forced to try and balance the competing pressures of work and childcare. For some, these challenges are likely to be even more severe this year with the cost-of-living crisis putting additional strain on family finances, forcing them to work even more hours.
There isn’t a legal age limit for leaving children alone. Still, NSPCC and Government guidance encourages parents to use their judgement before leaving any child home alone – especially those under 12 years old.
Infants and young children aged 0-3 should never be left alone – even for a few minutes. This includes visiting next door or leaving children in your car while you run into a shop. For older children, there’s no single rule for all, especially if a child has complex needs. It’s up to parents and carers to decide when and where it’s safe and appropriate for their child to be left unsupervised.
A child who doesn’t feel comfortable should never be home alone, and for those who do it’s still vital they’re left with contact numbers for a parent or carer and another trusted adult in case they ever feel unsafe, uncomfortable or unsure about something.
If leaving a child alone is the only option for an adult, then we have tips for parents to help make sure the young person feels safe. This includes checking in with them regularly and practising what to do in an emergency, if one happens while you’re away.