NSPCC Gives Guidance On Leaving Children Alone

NSPCC talks over issues of leaving children at home coming up to the Easter holidays

NSPCC talks over issues of leaving children at home coming up to the Easter holidays

Dear Editor,

Now that the Easter holidays are on the horizon, many parents in Northern Ireland may be in the midst of sorting out extra childcare over the break.

At the NSPCC Helpline, we often receive calls asking about the appropriate age to allow children to stay home alone.

Between work appointments and other family commitments, it is inevitable that some parents may have to deal with this situation.

It can be difficult to know what’s best to do and it’s natural for parents to worry.

So with this in mind I thought this would be a good opportunity to give some insight into if and when it is safe for your child to be home alone.

Joanne McDonnell, Service Head, NSPCC Helpline.

In fact, there is no legal age that a child can be left home alone. However, it is against the law to leave a child alone if it puts them at risk.

Every child matures differently so it would be almost impossible to have a “one size fits all” law.

A child who doesn’t feel comfortable should never be left home alone.

And, obviously, infants aged 0 to 3 should never be left, even for a few minutes.

Also, we wouldn’t recommend leaving a child under 12 years old home alone, particularly for longer periods of time.

However, as children get older, they may want more freedom and independence and this can bring new concerns too.

It can present another tough decision for parents and carers and one that will differ from child to child.

That is why it is a good idea to have a plan in place with your child, to help to build up their independence at their own pace.

It is absolutely vital to talk to your child about how they feel about this situation and ask if they are worried about anything when being home alone and if they feel safe.

If in doubt, give the NSPCC Childline a call for advice and guidance.

Regularly checking how they feel can pinpoint any concerns and will give you an idea of how to help or why they might not be ready to be left alone.

If they are happy to be home alone for a while, it’s always good to check in with them to make sure they feel safe.

There is guidance and information at:


but the most important thing to remember is that a child who doesn’t feel comfortable should not be left alone.

Parents can also contact our helpline at:


for more advice. Our Childline service is available too, and children can contact us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on 0800 1111 or via a one-to-one chat on:


Wishing you a safe and happy Easter!

Yours sincerely,

Joanne McDonnell

Service Head,

NSPCC Helpline,