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Leaving children at home

There is no legal age at which you may leave your child at home alone, but it is an offence to leave a child alone if it places them at risk. It would for instance never be appropriate to leave babies, toddlers or young children home alone. You can be prosecuted if you leave your child unsupervised in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health.

If you need to leave your child home alone, make sure they are happy to be left alone and are mature enough to cope if there are problems. If they aren't confident about being left alone or you do not feel comfortable doing so, don't leave them.

What you can do to keep your child safe

  • Think about the possible dangers in your home.
  • Think about how long you will be gone and how long your child can cope on their own.
  • Make sure they know your mobile number and leave them a separate contact list of people you trust, just in case they can't get hold of you.
  • Tell your child what time you will be back, and let them know if you are going to be late.
  • Set some basic rules about what your child can and can't do while you are out.
  • Contact your child every so often to see how they are or ask a neighbour, family member or friend to do so.
  • Tell your child not to answer the door to anyone.
  • Make sure they are aware of the risks of dangerous objects like matches and knives, as well as medicines and dangerous chemicals.
  • Leave clear instructions for your child about what to do in an emergency.
  • Make sure they know how to unlock doors and where the keys are.
  • Teach them basic first aid.
  • Think about if your child will be alone or if other children under 16 years old will be with them. You might be happy to leave your child alone but not with another sibling or friend who is under 16.