When Can A Child Be Left Alone…?

18 November, 2014

I have often been asked this question by parents who have separated. The logistics of caring for children becomes twice as difficult after separation as there are half as many adults available at any one time when a child goes from having one home to two.

The answer is that the law does not set an age at which a child can be left alone. It only says that a child must not be placed at risk.

It is clearer about other age limits – leaving education, joining the armed forces or getting married, for example.

The Times today reported that that their recent poll found that two thirds of parents want a legally binding age limit below which children cannot be left home alone without adult supervision.

There are many arguments for and against a legally binding home alone age limit. However, one argument in favour is that it would perhaps make it easier for parents to decide arrangements for children after separation. Currently, for example, one parents may be happy to leave a child alone at age 13, but the other parent may want to wait until the child is 16 before leaving them unsupervised. This causes stressful (and sometimes expensive) arguments that could be avoided with a legally enforceable rule. But what age should that be…? Most people seem to think 12 years. What do you think?