Leaving children at home alone

There is no legal age limit for leaving a child on their own, but it's an offence to leave a child alone if this puts them at risk. Parents can be prosecuted if they leave a child unsupervised and this could cause the child to suffer or become injured.

How mature the child is

It is important to consider the child's maturity. It might be acceptable to leave a mature 12 year old alone, but not a 13 year old who isn't mature.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) advises that:

"children under the age of about 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time
children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight
babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone"

Preparation before leaving your child alone

If you intend leave your child home alone, you should:

  • leave a contact phone number and make sure you can answer it right away
  • leave a separate contact list of people you trust, in case your child can't contact you
  • talk to your child before you leave about how to stay safe, and tell them not to open the door to strangers
  • make sure dangerous objects like matches and knives are out of reach, as well as medicines and dangerous chemicals
  • leave clear instructions on what to do in case of an emergency (like a fire)
  • tell them what time you will be back, and don’t be late
  • set some basic rules about what they can and can’t do while you are out
  • teach them basic first aid

It's important to make sure that your child is happy to be left alone. If they aren’t confident about being left alone, you need to arrange someone to look after them.

Finding childcare

For information about different types of childcare, go to:

More useful links

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