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Children Alone at Home

If a child is not ready to be left alone, it can be a sad, lonely, frightening and potentially dangerous experience. There are many possible risks, both physical and emotional, which could affect the child.

1. Overview

1.1 There is no rule in law that specifies the age at which it is legal to leave children alone. The NSPCC advise that most children under 13 are not mature enough to cope in an emergency, and should not be left alone for more than a very short while. While this recommendation does not have the force of law, it is suggested as a minimum age. Children need a certain level of maturity to be safely left on their own.

1.2 Babies and young children should never be left alone in the home, whether they are asleep or awake, not even for a very short time.

1.3 If a practitioner has reason to believe that a young child/ren is home alone, they are expected to use their judgement and respond, depending on the circumstances.

1.4 There should have been sufficient attempts to rouse the parent/carer and, for example, a check that the parent is not in the back garden.

1.5 If, for example, the practitioner believes the parent is actually at home but choosing not to answer, they should call through the door that they are contacting the Police as it appears the child has been left alone. If there is still no response, then other action should be taken.

1.6 The practitioner should attempt to contact the parent immediately, by mobile phone, or other responsible family member. If for example the parent is at a neighbour’s and has left a child/ren alone, it should be made clear that the parent is to return immediately. The practitioner should discuss with the parent, after their return to the home and ascertaining that the child/ren is alright, the seriousness of leaving a child alone.

1.7 If it is not possible to quickly find out where the parent is and for them to return to the home and there is concern about a child’s immediate safety, the Police are to be contacted as they have a duty to take urgent protective action.

1.8 In all situations, the Practitioner is expected to remain at the home or outside the home if there is no access, until the parent returns or other action is taken, such as through the Police.

1.9 If necessary, the Practitioner should seek immediate advice from their Manager and/or the Named Person in their organisation or other relevant Named Person.

1.10 Any situation where a young child has been put at risk by being left alone should be referred to children’s social care.