In an article published on March 14th, Telegraph crime correspondent Martin Evans highlighted the lack of clarity in laws surrounding incidents of children, some as old as 15, being left home alone.
Parents who leave children alone for even short periods of time can be liable to prosecution for child neglect, should police deem the child’s safety to be placed at risk in the time that parents are absent.
However, the law is not explicit in defining what constitutes child neglect – although the Children and Young Persons Act of 1933 states that parents or carers can be prosecuted for leaving a child unsupervised, it is also given that parents are in the best position to make a decision on whether or not children should be left alone.
This would lead us to believe that responsibility for deciding if a child may be left alone or not falls to the parents or carers. However, due to the fact that the government passes judgement on the child’s ability to be trusted with being home alone, this is not the case.
The NSPCC advises that regardless of age, no child made to feel uncomfortable by the idea of being home alone should be, and that safety must be the primary concern when assessing whether or not to leave a child unattended.
When concerning age-bound advice, the NSPCC’s website suggests that babies, toddlers and young children should never be left alone, children under 12 should not be left alone for a long period of time, and children under 16 should not be left alone overnight.
It is understandable, then, why there is some element of confusion amongst parents or carers, as there are so many sources of influence on what they should do when leaving a child home alone, especially since former MP John Hemming has insisted that the law lacks definition on who is allowed to decide if a child may be left alone.
Since leaving a child unattended is at the discretion of the government, rather than its parents or carers, it is of no surprise that parents are angry at being kept in the dark over whose responsibility their child is.