There is no law which states the minimum age that a child can be left alone but it is an offence to leave a child alone when doing so puts the child at risk. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) recommend that most children under 13 should not be left for more than a short period and that no child under 16 should be left overnight. They suggest that parents consider the following before deciding to leave a child alone:
Further advice on good practices when leaving children alone can be obtained from the NSPCC:
Alternatively you can call the NSPCC helpline on 0800 800 5000.
In some circumstances, parents can be prosecuted and fined if they leave their children in a situation which a court might judge to be 'neglectful'. This usually occurs when there is an 'incident' which requires intervention by the Emergency Services. It is therefore important that children are not left alone or with a babysitter without full consideration of the possible risks.
The NSPCC and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) both recommend the following when selecting a babysitter:
RoSPA also suggests that parents should consider all possible eventualities (complete a risk assessment) before leaving their children with a babysitter.
Further guidance on choosing a baby sitter is available from RoSPA and the NSPCC:
As there is no requirement for babysitters to be 'registered' and no legislation exists to govern this type of childcare, the Council does not hold lists of people who offer babysitting services. However, we do hold lists of registered childminders and some childminders may be willing to do some evening or weekend babysitting. Parents may also find a sitter by asking friends or relatives for recommendations or by looking in the Yellow Pages or searching the web for babysitting agencies. It is important, however, if you choose to use a babysitting agency that you are clear as to how they vet their sitters. For example, do they interview employees and check their references and do they do a complete CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check to ensure that the sitter is not considered a danger to children?