What Does The Law Say About Leaving Kids Home Alone During Summer Holidays?

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By Law, are parents allowed to leave kids home alone during the holidays?

The six week summer holiday has rolled around for our children once again. For many families this is a carefree joyous period, no different than any other part of the year. Whilst for others, this time will be difficult to manage. Juggling work responsibilities and child care may prove costly, adding to the everyday pressures of parenting.

How long is it acceptable to leave children unattended, say at home on a Saturday night, or in the car parked up outside a supermarket whilst you do a quick shop?

When is it appropriate to leave children unattended, and under what circumstances are permitted by UK law? 

The England and Wales Law is broad regarding the topic. The Children and Young Persons Act 1993, simply states that ‘children must not be neglected or abandoned in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health.’  

NSPCC stats show that calls regarding children being left alone at home increases during the summer holidays.  NSPCC stats estimate that during the summer holidays, half of the calls they receive are referred to the police or social services due to severity of concerns. These calls were all in relation to children under the age of 10. 

Currently, the law doesn’t give a minimum age for leaving children at home for any length of time, but it is against the law if it puts a child at danger or risk. Parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if it is shown that they knowingly placed a child at risk.

NSPCC advises that young babies and toddlers should never be left alone.

Children under 12 are not mature enough to cope in an emergency, and therefore shouldn’t be left home alone for long periods of time. Teenagers shouldn’t be left alone overnight. 

The law and the guidelines are confusing. The law does not give a minimum age for leaving children home alone, but leaves it to the discretion of the parents. The law only Intervenes when a child’s safety or wellbeing has suffered. 

Only you know your children’s habits and behaviours. Each child develops differently; they all mature at different ages and paces. Leaving your child for long periods of time could seriously harm their sense of self, and put them at potential risk. When thinking about leaving your kids for a spell, use your common sense; how will they cope if something unlikely happened, and what are the potential dangers?

In today’s world, in the majority of couples both parents have to work in order to sustain family life. Many families rely upon childcare strategies over the six weeks holidays to ensure the wellbeing of their children, whilst some chose to take unpaid parental leave. Others arrange their shift patterns, alternating time at home with time at work, or take annual leave consecutively to match the summer holidays. 

The cheapest and most reliable option to keep children out of trouble is to rely upon extended family and friends. Those in your close circle; grandparents, aunties, cousins are all common babysitters. Drawing upon help from your loved ones is a great, cost effective option for supportive child care. 

If you have any concerns relating to this issue, please call 0113 232 2432 or alternatively email emma.beddoe@isonharrison.co.uk

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