Most parents probably look towards the school holidays with a mixture of relief and dread. For many working parents, childcare is a huge difficulty, mainly because of the cost. Much confusion and worry can come about with children that seem a bit too old for childcare but perhaps a little too young to leave home alone.
As experienced family lawyers we often get queries from people wanting to know what the law says about this. As has been highlighted in the recent Coventry Telegraph article, this has always been a grey area as far as the law is concerned and the guidelines from the NSPCC are particularly helpful although not law as such.
Ultimately, as a parent you know your own child and what you feel comfortable with – although it’s worth considering what you think another ‘reasonable’ parent would do in the same circumstances. After all, we can all have quite different views and the law is still not precise on this issue.
If in doubt, and if you can, talk to the child’s/children’s other parent about their views. It may also be worth speaking to friends and colleagues that also have children to see if you can get a feel for what other parents might do. That may give you a steer as to what is commonly deemed acceptable – and help you to feel more comfortable in the decisions that you make.
It is worth remembering that prosecution is possible in such circumstances, although fairly rare probably because most of the time, most people manage to get the balance right. Think about how it would look to others if something untoward happened and your child had to cope alone. If you’re still really not sure, it’s worth a conversation with an objective third party and that may be a teacher, childminder or trusted Family Lawyer to name but a few.