It is a difficult call for a parent to leave a child alone at any age, especially if quite young. During school breaks, working and single parents are often faced with making hard decision, some which make put them in a situaltion where they could be charged with abuse of their child or children.
The NSPCC have written a letter to Down News explaining the moral and legal background to this issue. If you are a parent, or planning to be a parent, check out the leter printed below.
RE: advice on caring for your child during school breaks.
Now the half-term holidays have begun, many parents with work or other commitments will have had to decide whether their child is ready to be left home alone for part of the week. It 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.
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. But it is vitally important that parents get this decision right – in some cases parents and carers are prosecuted for neglect if it is judged that they placed a child at risk by leaving them at a property by themselves.
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 is 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?
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 and 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 further advice for parents on our website:
(Head of NSPCC in Northern Ireland).