Home-alone dilemma brings confusion
Questions have been asked after readers claimed it was illegal to leave a child under 14 at home alone after yesterday's Sideswipe included details of the 11-year-old girl our reader left at home for an hour while she took a sibling to the doctor, all the while cursing school holidays. What does the law say about leaving children under 14 home alone?
Information on the CYFS website says it is against the law without making "reasonable provision for their care and supervision". But one person's reasonable is another's never ever, right? CYFS' explanation goes on to say it depends on how long and how often they are left alone. Right. Still kind of unclear. Then it says this: "Older children, who are still under the age of 14, are generally not sufficiently mature to be left without adult supervision for more than a short time. They're also not old enough to be left alone on a regular basis." OK, but how long is too long and how regular is too regular? Then they add confusingly that if you must leave an older child who is still under 14 they need to make sure the kid knows who they can contact if there is a problem, possible emergencies and what to do and that they feel "confident about being left alone".
Youth Law says more definitively parents cannot leave under 14s alone at home without making "reasonable provision" for their supervision and care. "This usually means making sure you have a babysitter," they say, adding that some over 14-year-olds aren't mature enough to be left alone and leaving them alone could "amount to neglect or abuse". Does that make it clear parents? Didn't think so. "I get questioned on this a lot," says S. Rochelle Furneaux of Enspiral Legal. "I figure if something bad happened you would get slammed, but then, if something bad happened legal liability would be the last of my worries."
Hedgehog has companion in death
"Walking to the local shop a few days ago I noticed a dead hedgehog on the roadside, presumably hit by a passing car," writes Loren. "Someone had moved its body to the kerbside gutter. It was still there the next morning. But it now had company. A child's stuffed toy dog had been placed next to the hedgehog, as if to comfort it in death. This remained true on the third day as well. But on day four the hedgehog and the dog had gone. My guess is that the child who had wanted their toy dog to comfort the hedgehog had now provided it with the dignity of a funeral and burial. I would like to salute the simple human tenderness of that act - not only from the child, but also from the parents who happily bowed to their child's caring instincts."
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