Babysitting and leaving children at home on their own

Leaving a child on their own

There is no set age where it is OK to leave children home alone. Everything will depend on whether the child is mature enough to be left, and knows how to cope in case of an emergency.

The NSPCC advise that most children under 13 are not mature enough to cope in an emergency, and should not be left alone for more than a very short while.

You should never leave babies or young children alone in the home, whether they are asleep or awake, not even for a few minutes.

What does the law say?

There is no rule in law that specifies the age at which it is legal to leave your children alone.

However, the Children and Young Persons Act (1933) states that parents can be prosecuted for wilful neglect if they leave a child unsupervised 'in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health'.

The legal age for babysitting

The law does not specify how old someone has to be to babysit.

However, the NSPCC recommends that no one under 16 should be left alone to look after young children.

If someone under 16 is looking after a child, the parent or guardian, and not the babysitter, remain legally responsible for the child's safety.

Parents should still use judgement when choosing a babysitter, as some 16 year olds might not be mature enough to look after younger children.

The same careful judgements apply if your child wants to babysit for others.

If you suspect a child is at home alone

If you are concerned that a child or young person is at significant risk of harm, please contact your local Duty and Assessment Team.

If you feel there is an immediate risk of harm to a child, contact the police by dialling 999.

For more information

Download the NSPCC booklet Home Alone: your guide to keeping your child safe.