Home alone

When can you leave a child at home?

The law doesn’t say an age when you can leave a child on their own, but it’s an offence to leave a child alone if it places them at risk. Use your judgement on how mature your child is before you decide to leave them alone, e.g. at home or in a car.

The NSPCC says:

  • Children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time
  • Children under 16 shouldn’t be left alone overnight
  • Babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone

Parents can be prosecuted if they leave a child unsupervised ‘in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health’. This means that they can be fined or sent to prison if they are judged to have placed a child at risk of harm by leaving them at home alone.

 Advice for leaving a child at home

Whether you or your child are comfortable with the idea will often depend on how mature and adaptable your child is.

The advice below is there to help you make up your mind about whether leaving your child home alone is a good idea, as well as tips for choosing appropriate childcare if you decide it's not.

  • Babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone
  • 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
  • Children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight

A child should never be left at home alone if they do not feel comfortable with this, regardless of their age

If a child has additional needs, these should be considered when leaving them at home alone or with an older sibling

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?

Questions to consider?

Would they know how to contact you or another family member or friend if they needed to?

Do they have these contact numbers to hand?

How would they feel about being left alone – pleased to be given the responsibility or scared by the thought of it?

 If your child is over 16 and you think they’re ready to be left alone overnight, let them know exactly where you are and how they can get in contact if anything goes wrong. And remember to have those conversations about who they’ll invite over while you’re away.

For further advice: 


If you are concerned about a child who has been left alone at home please report your concerns to Children's Services or the police.