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At what age can children be left alone?

13:06 UK time, Monday, 7 February 2011

A mother-of-three has been given an official police caution for leaving her 14-year-old in charge of his three-year-old brother. What age is the right age?

Chris Cloke, from the NSPCC, says the law doesn't specify the age at which children can be left alone, but you can face charges if you put a child at risk.

Under Scottish law, a child must be deemed by the parents to be responsible.

At what age can you safely leave your child at home with no adult supervision? Can a child be over-supervised? How have you handled this issue in your family? Should there be a law specifying the age a child can be left alone?

This debate is closed. Thank you for your comments.


Comments

Page 1 of 6

  • Comment number 1.

    This will be controversial - I was happy to allow my elder child to go camping on his own at 11 to an official camp site - (the same age as I was). He had no troubles in the next 6 years - and was a sensible lad. Equally I would leave him on his own. He was not an idiot and he was responsible - he wouldn't light fires or anything else,

    There have been many children I've known I wouldn't leave alone at 16. It depends on the child and circumstances.

  • Comment number 2.

    13 - which is also the age at which we should send them to work. There, that'll upset the socialist do gooders that populate these pages.

  • Comment number 3.

    Well, it all depends on the child doesn't it, thats why medical staff use Gillick competence in kids. Some 10 year olds are sensible, know how to behave and could be left alone without the worry that they will do anything dangerous or untoward, however I have met many older kids, and adults who have the mentality of a toddler.

  • Comment number 4.

    It is not so much the AGE of the child, but the maturity of the particular one in question... not to mention whether you are leaving them for a couple of hours, a whole evening or overnight... and the most important bit, leaving one child to take charge of another, younger one.

    At what age would you consider a young person to be old enough to baby-sit? I certainly was 'sitting by 14, looking after children younger than myself - but in a village where my own parents were just down the road in case of any problems I could not handle myself.

    I venture to suggest that the parents have a better idea of the capability of their children than outsiders, however well-meaning do. If said mother of 3 believes her 14-year-old son to be perfectly capable of taking care of a younger sibling she should reject the police caution. Let them prove in a court of law that harm was done.

  • Comment number 5.

    SInce the administration of a caution is not tested in a court, it has no relevance to other people. It may be that in this one case the parent was negligent, it might simply be that the Police Officers were under pressure from others to 'caution', or even that the easy option was taken.
    One thing I do feel is that we do not need more laws, they will not protect one child, but simply lead to more public enquiries when things inevitably go wrong. A LAw would only penalise good parents and make no difference to the poor parent.

  • Comment number 6.

    An age where the parents feel that THEY have the right to decide, not an interfering nanny state or a nosy police officer with nothing better to do

  • Comment number 7.

    I have two older brothers, but when I was 12ish, they were getting to the age that they would be out of an evening, and my parents decided that I was suitably responsible to be capable of going to bed, and not getting into too much mischief, and it seems that they were right. As were the parents of most of my friends.

    However, that was in simpler times (1970s) - simpler, less obtrusive, less nannying, less interfering, less lititgious. More fun.

    It does strike me as strange that my generation has learned very little from their childhoods.

  • Comment number 8.

    Up until I was 13 if my Mum & Dad went out in the evening we would have a babysitter. My sister was 2 1/2 years younger than me. My parents deemed that I was responsible enough and ther was never a problem.

    It depends on the child 13/14/15 makes no odds. If tehy are responsible enough then what is the problem? Is it down to the fact that the other child was 3?

    Seems overkill to me. If neither came to any harm then what's the issue? And I thought that we had got rid of the Nanny State when Labour were ousted. Obviously not in some quarters!

  • Comment number 9.

    I think the law as it stands is far too vague as i know responsible 12 year olds and irresponsible 16 year olds.It depends on maturity as much as age but for legal reasons i would say 14 is probably a realistic age then those irresponsible parents would know where the line`s drawn and not be tempted to leave their 10 year old at home alone.

  • Comment number 10.

    The Scottish law seems resonable. Parents are the best judge as to how responsible a child actually is.

    A child, however, should not be left, to look after another child, however responsible, until they reach the age of at least 16.

  • Comment number 11.

    Here we go again, more dogooders and molliecoddling parents. First and foresmost it should be up to the indivdual family to decide, it is noone else's business.
    I used to walk home from primary school fromt he age of 8 and i let my 2 children walk home from school at the age of 10. They crave that independence, although it may be heart wrenching and worrying for you, you have to give your children that independance and responsibility from a young age, its what makes them confident and prepares them for the reality of life - keeping them under your wing until they are 16, just makes for pathetic children and often rebellious ones as they do not have a clue.

    Yes, there are some bad people about but you have to put your fears aside and as long as you have spoken to your children and laid down the ground rules there should be no problems only ones you create for yourselves. You can leave your children for a little longer each time to see how they fare and obviously if they mibehave or get frightened, you know the time is not right.

    I feel quite strongly about this as i have laways been trusted by my parents and i always trusted my children but one neighbour reported me for leaving my children whilst i popped out. I was a single mother and my children were 12 and 10 already walking home from school on their own. As it turned out the neighbour was told not to be so spiteful and that my children were perfectly safe but it is people like this who cause trouble for troubles sake.

    Leave ordinary families alone to bring up their children as they see fit and concentrate ont he really bad ones - social services never seem to concentrate on protecting the right children as we have seen in recent news reports but just seem to poke their noses into families who are perfectly ok waisting valuable resources.

  • Comment number 12.

    If the lady believed she was innocent of the charge, she should have rejected the caution and told the PC plods "see you in court".
    Then contact Max Clifford and arrange a media briefing....

  • Comment number 13.

    I am seventy years old and as a small child was often left to supervise my sleeping sister.

    I vividly recall how unsettled this made me feel but I never had the courage to speak out. When I had my own two children I made sure that the eldest wasn't put in this position.

    I am certain my otherwise very loving parents saw nothing wrong in their actions and both would have been mortified to learn how nervous I felt.

  • Comment number 14.

    I had a bad accident on the way to school when I was six years old, was stitched up at hospital, then, for a number of days after I was left at home on my own during the day as both parents went to work. The difference with these days is, I was taught right from wrong, I knew what I wasn't to do. But like those days (1950's)parents had to go to work, it's not an ideal world, sometimes things have to be done that break rules, there were no child minders in those days but today, many can't afford them because their wages are so poor. If you leave a child alone at night whilst you go boozing or clubbing it well, that say's a lot about you as a parent.

  • Comment number 15.

    2. At 1:40pm on 07 Feb 2011, Awld divil wrote:
    13 - which is also the age at which we should send them to work. There, that'll upset the socialist do gooders that populate these pages.
    ---------------------------------------------

    Is that why you said it you rebel you?

    Yeah let's have 13 year olds trying to tell us about mortgages and being GPs and stuff. That'll make the place better won't it.

  • Comment number 16.

    I didn't hear the slot on the Breakfast show and the paragraph:

    "A mother-of-three has been given an official police caution for leaving her 14-year-old in charge of his three-year-old brother. What age is the right age?"

    Gives no indication of the actual reason that the caution was given, or even the circumstances which made the police aware that the 14-year-old had charge of his three-year-old brother.

    In the absence of this supporting information we can hardly give a sensible comment.

    Personally, I think that a secondary school child should be capable of looking after themselves sufficiently to be left home alone for periods of time which might involve preparing and eating a simple meal. Sometime between that age and 16 years of age the child should become capable of "babysitting" a sibling as well.

    As we gaze at our navals here in this forum, there are children of 14 years and younger acting as the main carer for an adult who should have care of them. They do this with precious little support from society at large. Can these children look forward to a respite if they are not sufficeintly "responsible" to provide care to another. Sadly no.

  • Comment number 17.

    When I was a child, my father made me go to work at the age of eight, there was no ifs and buts he was a very hard father and I along with my brother and sisters all had to work in the family business from an early age. He regularly beat us, and I mean beat us, with fists, leather belts and kicks, for perhaps forgetting to put the kettle on, or something even more minor. There was absolutely no love in his life for his children, we were just a means to work.

    As the years rolled by, and he died in 1971, I vowed I would never harm, or ill treat any child in my care, but shower them with as much love and affection as I could spare, and show them the right path through life. I really dont think fourteen is a suitable age to leave a child in charge of a baby, I would only leave someone aged 16/17 in charge of a baby, and even then I would be apprehensive.

  • Comment number 18.

    I can definately remember being left alone at times when I was around 9 or 10, brother being a year older. Not very often and I remember it almost as a treat. Left some sandwiches, told what time we should go to bed and that's when we did.

    It all comes down to how the children are brought up.

  • Comment number 19.

    Oh and with regards to the question, I don't think age matters. I'd say it would depend more on the maturity of the child doing the looking after. I'd trust my 12 year old neice over some adults I know.

  • Comment number 20.

    It varies from child to child. Of our four, one was very responsible at 14, two at 15, the other 18. Our daughter has been babysitting since 16, but that was after she had taken a course and gained a qualification. We stopped walking our children to school at the end of primary school, but in the knowledge that they walk to secondary school in groups. Leaving a 14-year-old to look after a 3-year-old is totally irresponsible. Social services provide parenting courses for people who are inept. This lady could be referred to one.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    It would depend on the child but most normal kids that are well developed & adjusted would do fine on their at the age of 12 yrs. Others may not depending on their physical/psychological state/development.

  • Comment number 23.

    This is a total abuse of power and the officers concerned should be disciplined.

    There is no Law that was broken here, even the NSPCC admit that, so what offence did these officers dream up to issue a caution?

    It is their job to enforce the Law not create it.

  • Comment number 24.

    I suspect that socio-economic stress was at the back of this mother's decision to allow her 14-yr-old to undertake care for his younger sibling. Child-minding costs are high, household incomes low and falling, so really is she to blame when there are things that need doing where you can't drag along three kids? I think she was under pressure, and although her's isn't a decision I would have made, I still think that her circumstances might show that a formal police caution was 'killing a butterfly with a hammer' somewhat. That said, I hope that other parents might be deterred by this event from leaving their young children in the care of early-teens.

    While I agree that each individual child develops at their own rate, hence mentions of the Gillick test etc in comments so far, I think that another consideration is the age of the children that the older child has been asked to supervise. A normal three-year-old is usually very active, inquisitive, and has very little sense of their own limits, or of dangers in their environment. The 14-year-old in question was one of three siblings and in charge of the youngest, a three-year-old, which begs the question, what age was the other sibling? And what happened that warranted police presence? I think that it is safe to say that any fourteen-year-old might feel overwhelmed, or might be fearful of knocks-on-the-door - how could they protect the others if there was an intruder? Would the babysitting child know enough basic first-aid if the younger child had a nosebleed or some other minor injury, to know what to do? It isn't a fair situation in my opinion. I am a mother, and would not expect anyone under the age of sixteen, no matter how mature, to undertake babysitting duties. I would have to know the sixteen-year-old in question very well, and they would have had to have had some experience caring for children with strong references from other parents. The onus is on parents to protect their children, it is negligent to shrug this responsibility off onto too-young shoulders.

  • Comment number 25.

    My school friends parents went to the club every saturday night. They left us in the house alone,TV,open fire (we at to put coal on it to keep it alight) bottle of pop,chips that we at to fry in a chip pan, baked beans and eggs we at to prepare. We were 12 years old at the time. I didn't think of it at the time, but they must have trusted us.

  • Comment number 26.

    It depends very much on the Child, basically when they are capable of the basics of looking after themselves, and have the maturity and self discipline not to wreck the joint whilst on their own. My son is 11, and we will quite happily leave him on his at home for a couple of hours if we have something to do he is not interested in. But then he has earned our trust in that respect, and if he abuses that trust then the privilege will be withdrawn.

    I would not leave him in charge of another child at his age, at 14 ,that would depend on his capabilities and common sense at that age.

    I don't think this should ever be something for an arbitary law, it has be down to the commom sense of the parents, and their responsibility if it goes wrong.

  • Comment number 27.

    Some 16 year olds I wouldn't leave in charge of a dead goldfish.

    On the other hand I was left supervising my younger sisters by the time I was 12 for short periods during the day but had a babysitter until I was 14 for longer periods and evenings.

    It really is a difficult issue to determine because you have to factor in the maturity of ths child, the amount of time they are left, the time of day and how much younger the sibling is.

    This one is purely down to the parents.

  • Comment number 28.

    What a complete waste of public money. If there is no law being broken here, why did this woman receive a caution in the first place?

    As a Scout Leader, I used to train 14 year olds to look after not one, but six younger kids on a camp for up to 48 hours with no direct adult supervision. Other leaders I knew used to train their 14 year olds to cope with up to two weeks away at a camp without adult supervision.

    But then, along came 'the child abuse industry' and all that stopped. Now I am not talking men in dirty raincoats here, but all these interfering busybodies who get paid fortunes as child protection 'experts'. Far from protecting children, these people do nothing other than protect their own empires or as was discovered last week 'tick the right boxes'.

    Funnily enough, the worst of them are now employed by organisations like The Scouts. The pettifogging rules and the way they see every interaction between adults and children as either potentially sinister or injurious to their health is the reasons why (and rightly so) volunteers are avoiding this kind of work in droves.

    The worst part about this case is that women is now doomed for the rest of her life. Although a caution is most definately NOT a conviction, because of the hard line taken by the 'child abuse industry' she will now never be able to work with children in either a voluntary or paid capacity for the rest of her life.

  • Comment number 29.

    2. At 1:40pm on 07 Feb 2011, Awld divil wrote:
    13 - which is also the age at which we should send them to work. There, that'll upset the socialist do gooders that populate these pages.
    ---------------------------------------------

    Is that why you said it you rebel you?

    Yeah let's have 13 year olds trying to tell us about mortgages and being GPs and stuff. That'll make the place better won't it.
    -----------------------------------------------

    I thought they were already......

  • Comment number 30.

    One thing is for sure it all depends on how the children have been brought up and whether they have been taught a sense of responsibility; thereby hangs the tail these days.

    However, the parents should always decide, the poor Police have enough to do without getting involved in child care, that is for the parents to do; thereby hangs another tail!

    The problem is that as we have all read over recent years so many parents have no responsibility themselves, like leaving the children in the house and going on holiday etc.

    I was in trouble at 16 if I didn't get home at the time my parents told me to be back, these days kids half that age are roaming the streets after midnight. So how on earth anyone can decide on an age that a child is considered responsible enough to either be left alone or look after a younger relative I don't know.

    One thing is certain it is the fault of the parents, NOT the children.

  • Comment number 31.

    10. At 1:51pm on 07 Feb 2011, Manzoor Wahid wrote:
    The Scottish law seems resonable. Parents are the best judge as to how responsible a child actually is.

    A child, however, should not be left, to look after another child, however responsible, until they reach the age of at least 16.


    ===========================================

    Recommend this post.

    Although when I look at the items which hit the headlines where teenagers have put news of a party whilst their parents are away on Facebook and not realised the consequences - perhaps older. It really does depend upon the child and whether the parents really do have any idea as to what their children are up to - so many don't seem to have a clue.

  • Comment number 32.

    Depends on the child.

    I was left alone from about the age of 12 but I was responsible to know not to touch the cooker, fire or substances under the sink.

    I started babysitting for my younger brothers when I was 14 & they were 11 & 6 but our Nan did live next door and I knew to go straight to her if there were any problems.

    I'm in my 30s now but the world is different & parents leaving their kids to go the pub on a bender or on holiday is just not right.



  • Comment number 33.

    At what age can children be left alone?


    18!!!

    After all they are not allowed to vote until reaching that age.

  • Comment number 34.

    When they can be deemed responsible, which might be 11 for one kid, another might not be so until 16.

  • Comment number 35.

    It's a bit obvious that if the parent is cautious enough AND if the child is mature and sensible enough, then it doesn't matter what age. I used to look after my younger nephew alone on many occasions when I was 13, and he was 7. My parents had taught me strong ethics and discipline, so the guilt of doing anything dangerous was always present.

    My nephew was mostly scared of being alone, rather than seeking to make havoc, so often stuck by me when we were left alone. We both new the dangers of fire, and how to respond in case of one, not to answer the door or phone, not to drink bleach or alcohol, I knew where my dad's naughty movies were hidden, but knew never to watch them.

    I think there is a reason why there isn't a strict law for leaving children on their own, and that's to allow parents to use their own judgement. I'd rather that than being told by an outsider how I should look after my own kids.

  • Comment number 36.

    Depends on the individual. The Queen's eldest son is 62. I doubt he could cope on his own.
    David Cameron and most of his mollycoddled Cabinet would also struggle if having to face the real world "alone".

  • Comment number 37.

    Surely this MUST depend on the Youngster in question
    Some are MORE responsble than others
    This is up go the Parents THEY are the only ones that can decide this.
    THERE USED TO BE THE LATCH KEY KIDS when I was at school,this was un-advoidable because in those days both Parents HAD to go to work in order to live and it was war time as well.--Having said this it looks like this era is comming BACK, the way that Cameron is behaving.-- But the youngsters of today are a lot differant in many ways and it could lead to trouble,again this is DOWN to Cameron,--- He is Presenting the situation with all these CUTS, so it could happen,-- It will be interesting to see just what DOES happen should it come about,- Cameron could NOT know about this situation and its consequences, lets wait and see

  • Comment number 38.

    This is difficult and comes down to two factors, is the child left in charge capable and able to make reasoned rational choices and capable of providing a safe healthy environment, is the child who is being supervised going to be compliant and behave in a way that would enable the older child to be an effective minder. My 16yr old niece is more than capable of looking after my 16 month old son, but i would not attempt to allow her to supervise my 3 year old, simply because 3 year olds are unpredictable and prone to tantrums and as all parents know at 3 they are more likely to push the boundaries.

  • Comment number 39.

    When I was young, I was left alone from the age of 9 during school holidays. Back in the 60's things were a lot different and children were more sensible and parents less paranoid plus of cause there were less criminals and criminal activities around in those days. Seeing some of the things "children" get up to these days, I'd say they cannot be left alone until they are parents themselves, but in many cases today that means 14 years old, or even younger.

  • Comment number 40.

    28. At 2:17pm on 07 Feb 2011, TheKingsNewClothes wrote:
    What a complete waste of public money. If there is no law being broken here, why did this woman receive a caution in the first place?

    As a Scout Leader, I used to train 14 year olds to look after not one, but six younger kids on a camp for up to 48 hours with no direct adult supervision. Other leaders I knew used to train their 14 year olds to cope with up to two weeks away at a camp without adult supervision.

    But then, along came 'the child abuse industry' and all that stopped. Now I am not talking men in dirty raincoats here, but all these interfering busybodies who get paid fortunes as child protection 'experts'. Far from protecting children, these people do nothing other than protect their own empires or as was discovered last week 'tick the right boxes'.

    Funnily enough, the worst of them are now employed by organisations like The Scouts. The pettifogging rules and the way they see every interaction between adults and children as either potentially sinister or injurious to their health is the reasons why (and rightly so) volunteers are avoiding this kind of work in droves.

    =======================================

    I remember my days in Scouts - I encountered more than one "leader" who had no business being anywhere near children. Our District Commisioner was done for child abuse if I remember correctly.

    I was asked to leave the Scouts myself for challenging a leader who aimed a kick after me after (rightly) accusing him of cheating to win at a game. It was a good job I was quick enough to see it coming.

    What sort of grown man aims a kick at a 13 year old boy who he's supposed to have a duty of care over?

    Scouts? Schmouts.

  • Comment number 41.

    One careful reading of the headline would have made anyone with half a brain realise the point of the protest concerned leaving a fourteen year old in charge of a small child. It is not something a responsible parent would have done. A person aged 14 is still a child. Treat them as such.

  • Comment number 42.

    "A mother-of-three has been given an official police caution for leaving her 14-year-old in charge of his three-year-old brother."

    That is ridiculous. At 14 most people I knew were quite capable of looking after younger siblings and did so as a matter of course.

    Perhaps the 14 year old was abnormally irresponsible?

  • Comment number 43.

    It is not the govUK’s job to say the age a child it has never seen is mature. Its own members prove regularly that age is no gauge of maturity
    Why do these women leave the children at home alone? Because they are the product of the NU-Lab “we’ll care about your kids, you do not have,” attitude. Have a baby, no need to bother with relationship, no need to have a male part provider that cares about the result.
    Produce sprog, get benefits, go on party time and leave it at home! Time for this to change, working tax credits and child credits, child benefit, make them dependent on minimum standards of parenting!

  • Comment number 44.

    as many people say it depends on the child but the case that prompted this HYS was a case of child left alone in charge of a toddler which is a different question. Also length of time is an imortant factor, there's a big difference in leaving a child alone while you pop to your corner shop and leaving a child alone while you go away for a weekend.

  • Comment number 45.

    2. At 1:40pm on 07 Feb 2011, Awld divil wrote:
    13 - which is also the age at which we should send them to work. There, that'll upset the socialist do gooders that populate these pages.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    Kapow ! That's shown them.
    Are there any "do gooders" that aren't socialists ?
    Are they a better class of "do gooder" ?
    I must remember to ask my 14 year-old when she gets back from her shift down t'pit.

  • Comment number 46.

    In the eyes of the Law Children OVER 10 years of age are classed as being responsible for their own actions in the adult sense, so therefore I personally can see NO real reasons why an young adult of 14 years of age cannot be responsible for looking after a younger sibling.

    One has to look at this in the context that in the early 1900's many Children left School at between 13/14 years of age and started Working Full-Time in the adult World of Work, so therefore if any 14 year old doe's not have any medical or mental reasons to the contrary, then looking after a younger sibling should not pose any problems.

  • Comment number 47.

    12. At 1:56pm on 07 Feb 2011, killcrash wrote:
    If the lady believed she was innocent of the charge, she should have rejected the caution and told the PC plods "see you in court".
    Then contact Max Clifford and arrange a media briefing....

    23. At 2:13pm on 07 Feb 2011, Phil Davies wrote:
    This is a total abuse of power and the officers concerned should be disciplined.

    There is no Law that was broken here, even the NSPCC admit that, so what offence did these officers dream up to issue a caution?

    It is their job to enforce the Law not create it.


    Hear hear and spot on.

  • Comment number 48.

    In a society that doesnt support working when you have kids if you are a single mother/father then what else do you suggest we do?
    Child minding does not support working as you end up paying more out than you earn, and lets face it the benefits are being cut all over the place so no hope there. So come on MR wet lettuce Cammeron what do we do? All he cares about is how much he can squeeze out of the taxpayers! obviously! Care for Children, naaa the Conservatives have never been known for it. This Gov makes us ill.


  • Comment number 49.

    13. At 1:58pm on 07 Feb 2011, thomas wrote:

    I am seventy years old and as a small child was often left to supervise my sleeping sister.

    I vividly recall how unsettled this made me feel but I never had the courage to speak out. When I had my own two children I made sure that the eldest wasn't put in this position.

    ***************************

    First of all I want to say WOW and Great! for a 70 year old to be posting on here let alone anywhere else, using a pc and the internet. I wish my gran did the same thing.

    As for what age I think a child should be able to be left alone at 'HOME'. I think 13 as the minimum, as long as the child is mature enough.

  • Comment number 50.

    21. At 2:12pm on 07 Feb 2011, jack wrote:

    The country has gone mad, my mother left school at 14, worked in job, yes paid work and helped her mother look after two young children, my wife left school at 15 and worked a 40 hour week. In todays mamby-pamby "Nanny State" UK,


    The Scottish law which applies in this type of case is The Children & Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 section 12. Note 1937.
    In England, The Children and Young Persons Act 1933, like the Scottish Act, doesn't allow a person under 16 to have parental responsibility for a child, A person who tried to give a person under 16 such responsibility would therefore remain legally responsible.
    In other words even in the 1930's it was not permissable to legally delegate parental responsibility to person under the age of 16.

    "Children and Young Persons Act 1933 c 12 (1) If any person who has attained the age of sixteen years and has the custody, charge, or care of any child or young person under that age wilfully assaults, ill-treats, neglects, abandons, or exposes him, or causes or procures him to be assaulted, ill-treated, neglected, abandoned, or exposed, in a manner likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or injury to health (including injury to or loss of sight hearing, or limb, or organ of the body, and any mental derangement), that person shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, .....................

  • Comment number 51.

    My daughter deals with things in a very sensible way.
    Her girls are 19, 13 and 6, and she is happy to leave all three at home, with the older girl in nominal charge. She will leave the sensible and level-headed 13 year-old alone for a few hours, but never in sole charge of the 6 year-old, mainly because she feels that's too much responsibility to put on a young teenager.
    However, she will never leave her 19 year-old airhead bimbo at home alone at night, because she and her friends will inevitably throw an impromptu party, and trash the house. Despite earnest promises to the contrary, it's happened several times.
    Leaving young children alone is obviously unwise, but the finer judgement about teenagers depends on the parents' knowledge of the individual child, and should be a matter for the parents, not the Law.







  • Comment number 52.

    My mother in law looked after her family's cows when she was 5 - 6 years old. That was less than 50 years ago. I don't haveany cows, but I try amd let my (young)kids take responsibility for as many "grown-up" things as possible i.e. managing their pocket money, chores, wiping their own nose. Don't know if it'll work, but normally a 14 should definitely be able to look after a 3 year old. If not, poor world.

  • Comment number 53.

    When I went through a divorce, I pointed out to the judge that my xwife was leaving a 9 year old alone and had proof she was doing so. I was told to 'shut up' by the judge. 'Sometimes you cant avoid it' his words.

    Seems to me the police are stepping outside their duristiction.
    This is a social services deal I believe or Cafcass.

  • Comment number 54.

    Do not breed more kids if you cannot take care of them yourself. If your child is the parent as soon as you have things to do then something is wrong with the whole responsibility of parenting. The older kids, especially the teens are just discovering the various changes in their own bodies, some cause irritation and irrational behavior, this anger just transforms into either coldness towards the younger siblings, or violence.
    There is absolutely no justification for parents to leave their children alone while the adult has other priorities. Next time go to sleep and do not make love that leads to unwanted pregnancies.

  • Comment number 55.

    Police state anyone? no laws were broken and no-one was harmed in any way shape or form, well until the police interfered that is.

  • Comment number 56.

    2. At 1:40pm on 07 Feb 2011, Awld divil wrote:
    13 - which is also the age at which we should send them to work. There, that'll upset the socialist do gooders that populate these pages.

    ///

    Because that's what it's all about, isn't it, upsetting those you don't agree with? A fine example you are setting. Immature as you are, I hope you don't have children yourself, that would be irresponsible. I am not a socialist by the way, just someone with an intact sense of decency.

  • Comment number 57.

    The first response is clearly to criticise the "Nanny State" for daring to intervene in such a personal matter!
    However if any catastrophe happened to a child looking after an even younger one, then the state/social services/local council would be pilloried!
    The state should set a minimum age at which MOST youngsters should be capable and leave parents to decide if their child at that age IS capable.
    The risk of 'anything goes' is to CHILDREN, not the adults that let them 'get on with it'.

  • Comment number 58.

    I know two young lads or similar age, there's about a year between them. The youngest I would trust with my dog - a trust I do not place lightly as he can't tell me what goes on when I'm not around! The elder, well I wouldn't ask an adult to babysit him his behaviour is so poor. The youngest would probably haggle me up on a babysitting rate and do a good job, the other would more likely take the flat rate and leave as soon as I turned the corner and think about getting back before I did.

    At 13 I was working on a market stall, at 14 I'd moved to a shop by 16 I was working in a supermarket and paying rent as well as buying my own toiletries and doing food shopping too. We need to allow kids to develop; sooner rather than later. The way things are going we are facing a future where you can have a degree but won't understand that radiators get hot and will burn you.

  • Comment number 59.

    Both my parents worked and when I started secondary school (aged 11) I was allowed a front door key. My sister was in the year below me and got a key too. So we were on our own from the end of school to about 6 pm when our parents returned from work.
    We were allowed to make ourselves tea and that included cooking something. Obviously we were responsible and trustworthy enough to be left alone and I think it helped immensely when we left home. We are both in our thirties now. There are many people in their late teens, twenties and older who do not seem to able to do any household chores let alone cook for themselves and seem dependent on others constantly.

    It just goes to show that it depends on the individual.

    Some children are fully capable of being left on their own and looking after younger siblings (ok, i accept my sister is only 16 months younger than me and i wasn't looking after a toddler) and there are some adults who couldn't be trusted with a dead houseplant.

    Also I wonder if it is different now as children do seem to be maturing (mentally) later now. Perhaps it's because it appears that responsibility is not something that children are given so much now, so they don't learn it?

  • Comment number 60.

    Here is the original story. It's from the Daily Express so I don't know how accurate the reporting is.

    http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/227553/Police-caution-mum-for-leaving-son-14-to-mind-three-year-old-brotherPolice-caution-mum-for-leaving-son-14-to-mind-three-year-old-brother

    It looks like this "incident" happened in 2009 and has only come to light as the mother is fighting for a law change.

  • Comment number 61.

    At the age of 14 I was regularly babysitting other people's children. There was never a problem of any kind and if there had been, I would have known what to do. Generally the kids were good kids and did as they were told.

    This was even before the days of everyone having a mobile phone. I think people are a lot more paranoid now, and I do sometimes wonder if it is that constant ability to be contacted that makes them that way. I think I'm the same, a few days ago I called my husband in a panic because I'd sent him a text message a few hours beforehand and he hadn't responded. (He was fine.)

    Maybe we all just need to relax a bit. A 14 year old looking after a 3 year old doesn't necessarily mean that the mother should be accused of some sort of crime. It depends on the 14 year old, really.

  • Comment number 62.

    50. At 3:05pm on 07 Feb 2011, Freda Peeple wrote:
    21. At 2:12pm on 07 Feb 2011, jack wrote:

    The country has gone mad, my mother left school at 14, worked in job, yes paid work and helped her mother look after two young children, my wife left school at 15 and worked a 40 hour week. In todays mamby-pamby "Nanny State" UK,

    The Scottish law which applies in this type of case is The Children & Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 section 12. Note 1937.
    In England, The Children and Young Persons Act 1933, like the Scottish Act, doesn't allow a person under 16 to have parental responsibility for a child, A person who tried to give a person under 16 such responsibility would therefore remain legally responsible.
    In other words even in the 1930's it was not permissable to legally delegate parental responsibility to person under the age of 16.

    "Children and Young Persons Act 1933 c 12 (1) If any person who has attained the age of sixteen years and has the custody, charge, or care of any child or young person under that age wilfully assaults, ill-treats, neglects, abandons, or exposes him, or causes or procures him to be assaulted, ill-treated, neglected, abandoned, or exposed, in a manner likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or injury to health (including injury to or loss of sight hearing, or limb, or organ of the body, and any mental derangement), that person shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, .....................

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    Thats the problem here, the Law has one Age for this and another Age for that, in as much that today you can go to Work at 16 and do a Full - Time Adults Job, whereas you cannot drive a Car until you 17 years of Age, and you cannot vote in a General or Local Election until you are 18 years of Age, and so on.

    On the other side of the Fence, we have seen Children ( or: young Adults ), having Children of their own as young as 13 years of Age.

    All this adds up to is that the Law whether we like it or not has not moved with the times for better or worse, and is today an Ass of a Dogs - Dinner.

  • Comment number 63.


    17. At 2:01pm on 07 Feb 2011, FlashMagski wrote:
    When I was a child, my father made me go to work at the age of eight, there was no ifs and buts he was a very hard father and I along with my brother and sisters all had to work in the family business from an early age. He regularly beat us, and I mean beat us, with fists, leather belts and kicks, for perhaps forgetting to put the kettle on, or something even more minor. There was absolutely no love in his life for his children, we were just a means to work.

    As the years rolled by, and he died in 1971, I vowed I would never harm, or ill treat any child in my care, but shower them with as much love and affection as I could spare, and show them the right path through life. I really dont think fourteen is a suitable age to leave a child in charge of a baby, I would only leave someone aged 16/17 in charge of a baby, and even then I would be apprehensive.


    I'm sorry to hear about your unfortunate upbringing. My father was ignorant as well, and although it made me resilient earlier on in life, it made my confidence drop like a stone.

    I disagree with you on your second note, however. My father never trusted me, and I vowed to go university, taking on loans and funding myself in order to find my independence. The lack of trust shown to children is why they become rebellious. No one likes being corrected when they're trying (even if reluctantly), and everyone is entitled to make mistakes; it's how we learn. Unless you know for sure that this child can only be tended to 24 hours a day, and you know yourself that this child is capable of being sensible, there should be no reason why we should have to monitor them that often at home.

  • Comment number 64.

    At what age, that depends on the person. However most 14 year old's can look after a three year old for thiry minutes. They were in as safe a place as they could be....AT HOME...
    How many Police officers did this travisty of justice tie up, when they could be looking for criminals, like phone tappers?

  • Comment number 65.

    Just a thought - a child, just like an adult can be very,very intelligent but, for both child and adult, if they are not born with common sense well, either can be a danger to themselves, think about it. There are some children who from a very early age are carers for their parent or parents, they can only do that if they have loads and loads of common sense.

  • Comment number 66.

    Perhaps clear cut criteria should be put into place with regards to leaving children at home.

    If an age was defined by law then there wouldn't be any grey areas and parents would either be prosecuted or not and settle the arguement.

  • Comment number 67.

    From the evidence where I live, it seems that you're not allowed to leave a child alone at any age as long as they're in your house. However, you can kick them out the door to roam the streets at 4 or 5 years of age and no-one bats an eyelid.

  • Comment number 68.

    In my opinion, a 11-year-old can be expected to look after themselves and a 16-year-old can be expected to look after themselves and someone below the age of 11.

  • Comment number 69.

    Children are considered not to be responsible for there actions! sadly many adults still find it hard to be responsible, or act in that responsible manner.

    As a retired professional I have been asked on many occassions to assess if the person was able to act in that manner. Several was due to loss or threat to life. On many occassions the adults would remain in a state of denial even months and on the odd occassion years later.

    I also have been approached to turn a blind eye, without a care or thought of cost to my profession and or my families expectations, as if I did not act in a responsible manner, my job and my professional skills were always called to attention, often by the same person who continued to be in that state of denial.

  • Comment number 70.

    2. At 1:40pm on 07 Feb 2011, Awld divil wrote:
    13 - which is also the age at which we should send them to work. There, that'll upset the socialist do gooders that populate these pages

    Gosh yes, how did you come up with something quite so upsetting for us all. Oh the tears we will shed.

  • Comment number 71.

    @27. At 2:17pm on 07 Feb 2011, lalacollins wrote:

    Some 16 year olds I wouldn't leave in charge of a dead goldfish.
    +++++++++

    Does this mean you can't be trusted with a live goldfish?


    Only clear cases of neglect should be pursued, and yes they can be clear and easily distinguishable from the majority of harmless cases where children are left at home by parents, whom deem the children responsible enough.

  • Comment number 72.

    It totally depends on the child. If a parent isn't able to work out when their child is mature enough to remain unsupervised they probably shouldn't be breeding. I was alone in the house for a few hours after school from the start of secondary school onwards & got myself into a nice little routine, walk the dog, tidy, do my homework etc. When I look back I can't remember a time I wasn't trusted to play out on my own too, I distinctly remember myself & a friend aged about 5 or 6, making a "picnic" (marmite sandwiches & apples!) & telling our mums we were going exploring,we made it to the end of the road where there was a park & there we stayed. It was a VERY quiet village & I'm probably overestimating the freedom I had, I suspect there nay have been a certain amount of covert parent spying going on, but I never got in a bit of trouble, self inflicted or otherwise.
    All that being said I think my generation was a little more independant & a little less cosseted than the current one (but don't we all think that?!) I was working from 13 (actually 12 but that was illegal, so we won't tell anyone ;)) & was babysitting my older sisters kids on my own from 13 too. I would think a 14 year old is plenty mature enough to babysit a 3 year old, after all only two years after that they're considered old enough to create one of their own.

  • Comment number 73.

    The police are laughable.They issue an offical caution for something as trival as leaving a 14yr old on his/her own but will do nothing if less than 5 people complain about yobs-often under the age of 14 who are breaking your windows,smashing your car or generally causing mayhem.What a country we live in,are all the police so stupid and robotic that they cannot see how they are being made a laughing stock and alienating the very people who pay their wages.We hear that 10,000 will go by 2012-lets make that ALL of them and recruit "sensible" police officers who are hands on who are using common sense instead of quoting the law verbatum.God give me strenght!

  • Comment number 74.

    49. At 3:03pm on 07 Feb 2011, AndyS wrote:
    First of all I want to say WOW and Great! for a 70 year old to be posting on here let alone anywhere else, using a pc and the internet. I wish my gran did the same thing.

    ------------------

    I'm 70 so there are more of us than you think. I have more time now, when I was younger I was far too busy. One thing that perhaps older people can add is a bit of perspective as we have actually lived through a little more than those who are younger.
    The age children can be left is so variable that it's almost impossible to legislate. At fourteen I was more than capable of looking after my siblings. I was the eldest and very reliable. However I was also a naughty child so I had the advantage of being one step ahead of other youngsters. A lot depends on where you live, we live out in the sticks and in the past it was difficult for a child to get help, now with mobile phones contact with others is so easy. Children should be told what to do in an emergency and then it is the parents decision. It also depends on the children being supervised, some are far more difficult than others, there are many adults who can't cope with these kids. There are so many imponderables that any set age is impossible to decide. It is only with hindsight that it can be decided whether or not a decision was right. The authorities have this advantage, we can all be right after we know the outcome.

  • Comment number 75.

    The real joke is that at 14 years old there are a few children in Britain who are the parent of a 3 year old! You can legally marry or join the army at just 16 which makes this all the more ridiculous.

    Its also interesting that the police consider a child of 10 responsible enough to be prosecuted for a crime, but not responsible enough for a spot of baby sitting? Incidentally who called the police in the first place? Someone must have made a complaint for them to be aware of the situation.

  • Comment number 76.

    I guess it depends on the individual situation, and on why the mother left the children alone. If she left them for some kind of emergency or to go and do something important that she couldn't do with the kids in tow then fine, but if she left them so she could go out partying for the evening then that's a completely different matter. You would hope that the police would exercise some common sense in cases like this however, and that they would only act if they genuinely felt there was a risk, and not simply because of the ages involved. If the kids were sitting quietly watching TV or they were sleeping then there's minimal risk. If the eldest child was knocking back the booze and inviting all his mates round for a party then I'd expect them to do something.

  • Comment number 77.

    "Should there be a law specifying the age a child can be left alone?"

    No. Because not all children of the same age can handle a certain situation equally. Some are apt & smart others can be dull as a dead log. We must leave it to the parents' judgment. After all, they care for the well being of their children better than anything.

    Law is emotionless & blind.

    As for me, I used to babysit my kids if their mother has plans to go out.

  • Comment number 78.

    "At what age can children be left alone" is the ridiculously worded question by someone within, or by the BBC HYS Team as a whole who have no idea of what many children underwent in the past and today?

    Are there more parents leaving their child alone when these children have a key to let themselves in after school? Probably. I certainly did - but with no other siblings or adults either. This is nothing new - but it doesn't make it right.

    When I became a parent - I did the complete opposite as I knew how lonely it can be. Also, how dangerous too. Yes, I was left alone, but my parents were both in full-time shift work where I didn't see either of them for several days. A key on a ribbon in the 1960s - was that unusual - I simply don't know.

    Never mind, that's ancient history. Perhaps I was lucky and had the brains or spirit to overcome perceived neglect? However, for our children - independence encouraged, but with consistent and debatable rules.

    As your children grow - expect the worst, and the best, from your children and their friends too - at the same time .. look at your own behaviour too?

  • Comment number 79.

    39. At 2:34pm on 07 Feb 2011, Green Future wrote:
    When I was young, I was left alone from the age of 9 during school holidays. Back in the 60's things were a lot different and children were more sensible and parents less paranoid plus of cause there were less criminals and criminal activities around in those days.
    ______________________________
    Apart from Mira Hindley & Ian Bradey..... or Mary Bell... or the Krays.....

    This idea that there was less crime in the past is completely ridiculous. Petty crime is hard to measure but the murder rate has remained about the same since WW2. In Victorian times we were shipping enough criminals abroad to populate Australia (and they were the ones we didn't hang!) Sherlock Holmes & Dickens rather tell a different tale about how much 'less crime' we had 100+ years ago.

  • Comment number 80.

    Children are not as experienced as an adult if a life-threatening emergency occurs at home whilst no adult is present. It's a huge unjustifiable risk. From an Italian's perspective, I shudder every day at what I see: children as young as 6 walking to school alone. Children 'thrown-out' of their family homes at 16 to fend for themselves. Don't parents love their children in the UK? Parents in Italy take offence if their children leave the family home before they get married.

  • Comment number 81.

    19. At 2:03pm on 07 Feb 2011, deleted wrote:
    Oh and with regards to the question, I don't think age matters. I'd say it would depend more on the maturity of the child doing the looking after. I'd trust my 12 year old neice over some adults I know.
    ################################

    Ain't that the truth, it's a wonder some of us reached adulthood looking back at some of the things our parents did.

    I work alongside a mother with two children under 5, she has grandparents (who fall asleep) and often her husband (who is totally accident prone) as minders so she's constantlly phoning home to find out whats happening (usually from the kids themselves).

    The thing to remember from this story is that a child of 3 was involved, whilst the 14 year old could probably look after themselves what would have happened if say the young child had swallowed something nasty?


  • Comment number 82.

    All this story highlights for me is that contrary to what the police service say, we obviously don't need so many constables employed if they can afford to waste time prosecuting soft targets like this.

  • Comment number 83.

    Nonsense. When I was a teenager in the 1970s 14 was the age people started earning a bit of cash from babysitting. Before WW2 14 was the age people went out and got jobs.

  • Comment number 84.

    Neither should the law determine the age at which an adolescent can take responsibility. WHY DOES EVERYTHING IN ENGLAND REQUIRE A RULE. Is is possible that young workers in this country have been poorly educated and along with lack of experience are incapable of making a decision without a tick box on a form. Sorry, but England is down the pan with no sign yet that it will ever surface.

  • Comment number 85.

    I know of ten year olds locally who are mature and responsible. I know thirty five year olds who are as daft as a brush. It really is very difficult to legislate. Some say let parents decide. Here again, I've lived in this are for a long time and there are parents out there that I wouldn't entrust to care for my parrots.

  • Comment number 86.

    It's incredibly simple. If police respond to an unattended child & all is okay, the police will be criticized for being frivilous. If police respond to an unattended child who turns up dead, the police will be criticized for not being proactive.

  • Comment number 87.

    If you have sensible / responsible parents not an issue, but alas we don't live in a society where parental judgement calls can be trusted!

  • Comment number 88.

    2. At 1:40pm on 07 Feb 2011, Awld divil wrote:
    13 - which is also the age at which we should send them to work. There, that'll upset the socialist do gooders that populate these pages.
    .........................
    That used to be the minimum age allowed for work. I couldn't do a paper round until then. It was my mum that stopped me doing paper rounds - she was fed up having to deal with the wet clothes. Never bothered me!

  • Comment number 89.

    Eak,

    Walked to school (approx a mile) at 8, had a paper round at 9, had a saturday job in a shop just after passing my 11plus aged 11.

    I babysat when i stated secondary school, and traveled 15miles in each direction to my secondary school.

  • Comment number 90.


    80. At 3:58pm on 07 Feb 2011, Space Dust wrote:
    Children are not as experienced as an adult if a life-threatening emergency occurs at home whilst no adult is present. It's a huge unjustifiable risk. From an Italian's perspective, I shudder every day at what I see: children as young as 6 walking to school alone. Children 'thrown-out' of their family homes at 16 to fend for themselves. Don't parents love their children in the UK? Parents in Italy take offence if their children leave the family home before they get married.


    Quite a sweeping statement to make about parents in the UK, particularly when the Italian Mafia are running rampant all over Italy and Sicily. Even tomatoes are not safe!

    Schemes, such as road safety campaigns, network police force, anti-corruption and crime prevention, and the media play a part in minimising problems for Little Tommy in getting to school on his own. The only problem these days are the amassing of huge tractor/tanks that dangerously offload and onload the infants of the school runners.

    No country is perfect, and certainly not Italy!

  • Comment number 91.

    80. At 3:58pm on 07 Feb 2011, Space Dust wrote:
    Children are not as experienced as an adult if a life-threatening emergency occurs at home whilst no adult is present. It's a huge unjustifiable risk. From an Italian's perspective, I shudder every day at what I see: children as young as 6 walking to school alone. Children 'thrown-out' of their family homes at 16 to fend for themselves. Don't parents love their children in the UK? Parents in Italy take offence if their children leave the family home before they get married.

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    Children have always been at some risk to themselves, for I remember when I and some friends use to climb trees to collect Conkers etc, and sometimes this was either in a large Park or Fields where there was no Adult around ( otherwise, we would NOT have climbed these Trees in the First - Place ), so in Life there is always the possibly of something going wrong.

    Also,it is not beyond the capabilities of someone between the Age of 13 to 16 to make a call on a Mobile Phone in any Cases of there being an emergency should a younger Child fall out of a Tree etc:.

    Otherwise, wrap your Children in Cotton-Wool, and go with them everywhere they go, even when they go out with their Friends.

  • Comment number 92.

    At age 14 I went to work full time in Australia when the school leaving age was 14..............so what exactly is the problem today, are kids thick or do busybody's have nothing better to do....I guess the later!

  • Comment number 93.

    Peter_Sym wrote:
    Its also interesting that the police consider a child of 10 responsible enough to be prosecuted for a crime, but not responsible enough for a spot of baby sitting?


    I agree Peter, what I find even more interesting is that the government are perfectly happy to allow young children to be the primary carer for their disabled parent yet somehow a child of the same age is considered too young to look after their younger sibling for thirty minutes while their mother went to the shop.

    So, on the one hand we have children acting as full time carers for adults while on the other we have a child acting as a temporary carer for another child, one is perfectly acceptable and the other results in a Police caution.

    I wonder if this inconsistency is a result of the many billions of pounds that the government saves as a result of the very hard work of our child carers ?

  • Comment number 94.

    There should be no set age - at least, not a very high one.

    When it comes to giving things like medical consent, a person (child or otherwise) is judged on their competence and everything proceeds accordingly. The same should apply here, with the parents as the primary judge.

    I know plenty of 14 year olds who would be more than mature enough to look after a young sibling for a while - given that they know how to contact their parents and so on if anything should go wrong.

    I also know a few who I would not put in charge of a cardboard box.

    When it comes to this particular incident, of course, we have no idea of the full background, only what the mother decided to tell the media, so it is impossible to judge.

  • Comment number 95.

    20. At 2:05pm on 07 Feb 2011, mikeriverside wrote:
    It varies from child to child. Of our four, one was very responsible at 14, two at 15, the other 18. Our daughter has been babysitting since 16, but that was after she had taken a course and gained a qualification. We stopped walking our children to school at the end of primary school, but in the knowledge that they walk to secondary school in groups. Leaving a 14-year-old to look after a 3-year-old is totally irresponsible. Social services provide parenting courses for people who are inept. This lady could be referred to one.

    -----------------

    So you had a child aged 14 who you considered to be responsible, but the 14 year old in this case is deemed by you to be irresponsible, despite you not knowing them and the facts of this case.

  • Comment number 96.

    A child is old enough when they are mature enough.
    If the police feel the need to caution parents in such circumstances then obviously there is a need to clearly and openly state the age at which children can be left alone and the age at which they can suoervise other children. Without clear guidance there will be differnces in application and what is considered acceptable in one area could lead to action in another.
    Unless the case used had some other reason involved (sibling cruelty, wild drug party etc) then if I were the parents I would not have accepted the caution and let them try and prove in court I had broken a law.

  • Comment number 97.


    86. At 4:21pm on 07 Feb 2011, old cop USA wrote:
    It's incredibly simple. If police respond to an unattended child & all is okay, the police will be criticized for being frivilous. If police respond to an unattended child who turns up dead, the police will be criticized for not being proactive.


    There's a difference between pure and simple neglect and just utter over policing, such as this one. Social services and the NSPCC have a knack at confusing the 2, investigating those innocent or minor cases that need no real attention, and overlooking the plan as day situations. That is what everyone is annoyed about.

  • Comment number 98.

    Possibly kids today are suffering from the lack of the green cross code man, the Tufty club &, my personal favourite, Charley. I followed every rule that cat ever set & to this day the phrase "Do you want to come & see some puppies" still strikes fear into my heart.

  • Comment number 99.

    Oh and I let my kid LIGHT fires in the woods too roast potatoes on he must have been about 10, he used to go swimming in a quarry pit with a canoe over his shoulders no probs at all, he used to ride his bike to school without a helmet, he eat sweets by the bucket load, did a paper round till he was 18................actually, I must remind him of this and what a great life he had.

    Our friends went on bike rides on home made bikes slept under the stars had no money and drank water from a standpipe!

  • Comment number 100.

    It seems reasonably simple to me: in legal terms a 14 year-old is still a child. I wouldn't leave a child of any age in sole charge of another child.

 

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