Remember young children should not be home alone

SIR, — The long summer holidays are just around the corner and while they’ll be welcomed by children, it can be stressful time for parents and carers because of the inevitable extra childcare.

Deciding if a child is ready to be left home alone during the holidays can be a tricky decision and it is made even more difficult by the fact there is no legal minimum age for children to be left alone to look after themselves.

So that means it is up to parents and carers to use their judgement when deciding if their child is ready to be on their own for an extended period. To help them, NSPCC Northern Ireland has some key advice and tips to help parents decide.

We recommend that babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone under any circumstances.

Children under the age of 12 are rarely mature enough to cope in an emergency and should not be left at home alone for a long period of time while youngsters under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight.

It’s important to remember that a child should never be left at home alone if they do not feel comfortable with this, regardless of their age.

Also bear in mind if a child has additional needs, these should be considered when leaving them at home alone or with an older sibling.

And remember when leaving a younger child with an older sibling think about what may happen if they were to have a falling out — would they both be safe?

When the wrong decision is made, parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if it is judged that they placed a child at risk by leaving them at a property by themselves.

Our specialist counsellors on our 24-hour NSPCC Helpline are available to offer members of the public help and advice but in the year 2016/17 they also made 60 referrals to authorities like police and social services in Northern Ireland after being contacted by members of the public concerned about children left home alone.

We know that children mature at different rates, so it’s vital there is flexibility for parents as they are best-placed to know what is right for their child.

With the school holidays on the horizon, parents should check their children are happy and confident and know what to do in an emergency if the decision is taken to leave them alone at the family home.

There’s lots of advice for parents on our website

Your etc,


Head of NSPCC in 

Northern Ireland.