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 NSPCC recommends 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:
- the age of the child
- the child's level of maturity and understanding
- the place where the child will be left
- how long the child will be left alone, and how often
- whether or not there are any other children in the household.
As babysitters are not 'registered' and there are no regulations to govern this type of childcare, we do not hold lists of people. However, we do hold lists of registered childminders. and some childminders may be willing to do some evening or weekend childcare.
You might decide to find a sitter by asking a friend or relative with children for a recommendation, or by searching the web for babysitting agencies. If you decide to 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? Do they complete a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check?
The NSPCC and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents recommend that babysitters should be over 16 years of age and that parents ask for at least two references, contacting 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 and RoSPA.
For childminding information contact the Family Information Service on 01582 548888 or via e-mail on [email protected].