The law does not set a minimum age at which children can be left
alone. However, it is an offence to leave a child alone when doing
so puts him or her at risk.
As babysitters are not 'registered' and there are no regulations
to govern this type of childcare, However, local authorities do
hold lists of registered childminders and some childminders may be
willing to do some evening or weekend babysitting.
Parents may also wish to find a sitter by asking a friend or a
relative with children for a recommendation or by looking in the
Yellow Pages or searching the web for babysitting agencies. Should
you use a babysitting agency, it is important that you are clear as
to how they vet their sitters, for example, do they interview and
take up references and do they complete a DBS
Both the NSPCC and RoSPA
recommend that babysitters should be over 16 years of age and that
parents ask for at least two references and contact the referees
themselves. RoSPA also suggest that parents complete 'risk
assessments' and think through all possible eventualities before
leaving their children with a babysitter. Further tips on good
practices when using a babysitter are available from both the NSPCC
How to decide if you can safely leave a child alone leftFurther
advice on good practices when leaving children alone can be
obtained by looking at the Royal Society for the Prevention of
Accidents (RoSPA) or the National
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
(NSPCC) (search for babysitting) or by ringing the NSPCC helpline
on 0800 800 5000.
There are many important things to consider
before you decide to leave a child alone. These include:
· the age of the
· the child's level
of maturity and understanding
· the place where
the child will be left
· how long and how
often the child will be left alone
· whether or not
there are any other children with the child.
For example, most parents would think it is
okay to leave a 16-year-old alone for the evening. But to leave
them for a week would be unacceptable.
Many young children play outdoors with other
children without supervision, most people would agree that this is
an important part of growing up. To leave children outdoors for a
considerable length of time though, or to allow them to wander off
without knowing where they are going, would be unacceptable.
You are the best judge of your child's level
of maturity and responsibility.
It is worth remembering that the NSPCC
recommends that most children under 13 should not be left alone for
longer than a short period of time and that no child under the age
of 16 years should be left overnight.