The Daily Mail recently reported a case where a mother left her 12 year old son “home alone” while she went on holiday to Spain. It was reported that the boy didn’t want to go on holiday with his mother and stepfather.
The mother made arrangements to ensure her son would be cared for by a family friend but it came to light that the son had spent two nights by himself and had told his teachers that he did not know who was supposed to be caring for him.
The authorities were notified and the parents were arrested on their return home. The child who is now 14 years old was sent to live with a relative 300 miles away by the authorities. To this day this is where he still resides regardless of the fact that the parents were found to be not guilty.
It took two years to clear the parents of child neglect, the family friend gave inconsistent evidence and there was nothing to suggest that the couple had been anything other than excellent parents. Regardless of all the upset and distance between them, mother and son now speak regularly via phone and email and they see each other in the school holidays. You can read the full story here.
When is it OK to Leave a Child Home Alone?
What age do children need to be and how long can they be left home alone for? In England & Wales there are no solid rules. It all depends on the situation, the parents, and the age and maturity of the child.
Slater and Gordon Family Solicitor Caroline Watson said, “The law in this area is grey and left open to interpretation. Under the Children and Young Persons Act, parents can be prosecuted for wilful neglect if they leave a child unsupervised in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health”.
The NSPCC advises that before leaving a child home alone, you should set some ground rules and ask each child how they feel about being left alone. You should agree something that the child / children can be doing while you’re out such as homework and you should be very clear about the time when you’ll be back.
As parents you know your children best and you are the ones to decide if your child is mature enough to be left home alone. However you should still be cautious in your decision to leave your child and speak to them to make sure they are happy with the idea. Make sure that your child has your contact number/s and the number of any other responsible adults in case they need to phone someone in an emergency and can’t immediately get through to you.
For more information from the NSPCC, click here.
Caroline Watson is a Senior Family Law & Divorce Solicitor at Slater & Lawyers UK.
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