Mum Who Left Six-Year-Old Home Alone Fights To Strike Child Neglect Charge From Records

10/11/2014 13:37 | Updated 20 May 2015

Home alone

A mum who left her six-year-old son home alone for 45 minutes is fighting to get a caution for child neglect removed from her records.

Eight years ago, the mother left her son on his own at home while she took a driving lesson.

The woman, called Joan, told the Sunday Times the lesson was her last before she took her test and she tried to find someone to look after her boy.

She said: "We went to the school but it was closed. There was no one home to look after him. He was in no danger when I left him."

She returned to find the police on her doorstep after a nurse called at the house and the boy answered the door.

Joan went to her local police station and was given a caution, which has since meant she struggled to pursue her chosen career as a mental health nurse. She is now trying to have the caution removed.

She added: "I applied to five universities to study and four did not accept me because of this caution. I am now trying to get this removed. My son is 14, at school and absolutely fine."

The Government is being urged to issue guidance on the age at which children can be trusted on their own, and for how long.

At present the law does not state an age when a parent can leave a child on their own.

It is, however, an offence for a child to be put at risk by not being supervised.

The Department for Education directs parents to the NSPCC for information.

However, Lib Dem MP John Hemming is calling for the Government to be clearer about the circumstances in which parents could be cautioned or prosecuted by police.

He told the Sunday Times: "It is not at all clear for how long and at what age children can be left alone.

"Nor is it clear whether leaving them alone is either not an issue, a child-protection issue or a criminal issue.

"I sent my daughter, then aged 10, on the train from Birmingham to stay with my mother in Devon. There were no changes and she was met at the other end. Was that acceptable?"

He added: "I find it odd that whereas it is lawful to send the child to the park and leave them there, it is not lawful to leave them home alone.

"My main concern in all this is clarity. The law should always be clear. We need a debate about what the rules should be."

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "The law is clear that parents can be prosecuted if they leave a child unsupervised in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health. It is vital children be kept safe."

· children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time

· children under 16 shouldn't be left alone overnight

· babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone.

An NSPCC spokesman said: "It is vital we have a common sense approach ... because [parents] are best placed to know what is right for their child."