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How do you decide at what age and in what circumstances is it safe to leave your child alone or with a baby sitter?

Although there is no legal minimum age for a child to be left alone, it is an offence to leave a child alone when doing so puts them at risk of harm. So for parents and carers, how do you decide at what age and in what circumstances it is safe to leave your child alone or with a babysitter? The advice we would urge people to follow is that provided in the NSPCC guidance leaflet "Home Alone - your guide to keeping your child safe" (see Websites)

They advise:

  • never leave a baby or very young child alone at home, whether asleep or awake, even for a few minutes. It doesn't take long for unsupervised young children or babies to injure themselves;
  • most children under thirteen should not be left other than for very short periods;
  • no child under sixteen should be left alone overnight.

If you are considering leaving a child without adult supervision it is recommended that you take into account the following points:

  • the age of the child;
  • the child's maturity and ability to reason and act sensibly;
  • the place the child will be left;
  • how long the child will be left alone and how often this will happen;
  • whether or not other children are in the household;
  • if you have people nearby that the child knows and can who can be contact if they (or the babysitter) are worried or upset.

Finding babysitters

Babysitters do not need to be registered and there are no regulations to meet, so the Family Information Service does not hold details of this type of childcare. However, we can provide leaflets and advice on any aspect of childcare, including specialist services for children with disabilities.

If you are considering using a local person we would stress that babysitters should be over 16 years of age and be able to provide two referees for you to talk to before making a decision. Follow your gut instinct and that of your child. If you or your child doesn't like the person - don't use them. Many areas of Lincolnshire operate a baby sitting circle, where parents/carers sit for each other. Local village papers, post offices and toddlers groups will often have details for you to make contact. If there isn't one near you, why not set one up?

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Last updated: 31 May 2016

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