Old story, but still relevant
Police caution mum for leaving son, 14, to mind three-year-old brother
A MOTHER who left her son of 14 to mind his three-year-old brother while she went to the shops was given a police caution for “cruelty” and was suspended from work.
Police cautioned a mum for leaving her teenage son in charge of his three-year-old sibling
Last night the case ignited a debate over when it is acceptable for parents to briefly leave older siblings home alone as carers.
Police found that the un-named healthcare assistant left the brothers alone together for just 30 minutes.
Although there was no “incident” and they were not believed to be in danger, the mother was cautioned by officers for “committing an act of cruelty on a child or young person.”
She has also remained suspended from her job in the Thames Valley since September 2009 because the caution is revealed under Criminal Records Bureau checks.
The woman, in her mid-40s, who is fighting for a law change and reinstatement, claims the system makes her “unemployable”. As well as being unable to pass a CRB check, the caution automatically bars her from working with children for 10 years.
This was despite her being taken off the barred list by the Independent Safeguarding Authority after a year-long social services probe produced a “glowing” report which confirmed her children were healthy and well looked after.
UK law fails to spell out when teenagers can look after their younger brothers and sisters but police can prosecute parents if they feel their actions put children at risk.
The NSPCC advises that no child under 14 should be left home alone and no child under 16 should care for someone younger than themselves.
Siobhan Freegard, co-founder of Netmums and a mother-of-three, said: “Parents are left to rely on their own judgment but sometimes they will make the wrong call.”
Consultant psychologist David Spellman, who works with children, said: “Fourteen-year-olds are very different from one another.
Kids who probably shouldn’t be left alone are, but that doesn’t necessarily constitute neglect.” The crime reduction charity NACRO said that it was “outrageous” the healthcare assistant remained unable to work
Spokesman Tim Linehan said: “It demonstrates the double jeopardy of the system where someone has been removed from the barred list but a caution continues to come up on a CRB check and they risk losing a job as a result.
“One of the problems with cautions is that people don’t realise they are recorded as an offence and they go on a person’s record, which can be discovered when a CRB check is carried out.
“An employer who sees that someone has a caution may then exclude them from employment.”
In November two nurses who were barred from working with youngsters for leaving their own children unattended, had the bans overturned.
One had been barred for leaving an 11-year-old at home while she went to the shops.
The other, a male nurse, was cautioned after his wife briefly left their children alone without his knowledge.
Both are now suing the Government for damages.
A source close to the healthcare assistant, who is married, said: “She feels she is dedicated to her family but because of this the system has effectively ended her career and made her unemployable.”
'INTELLIGENCE AND MATURITY OF THE CHILD IS KEY'
PARENTS last night said there needed to be clearer guidelines over leaving children.
Charity officer Janet Cropper, 49, from Windermere, Cumbria, said she regularly left daughter Naomi, 16, home alone for brief spells from the age of 10.
She added: “I believe people need firmer guidelines. Naomi got to an age where she didn’t want to go to a childminder after school any more and she was very mature.”
Mother-of-three Vivienne Smith, 60, from Sale, near Manchester, said she left her son Paul, then 14, in charge of his five-year-old sister Zoe when they were growing up. She said: “Paul would arrive home from secondary school on his bike and Zoe would be brought home from primary school by another parent – a close friend.
“He would look after her for about an hour and make her tea until I returned from work. I didn’t think twice as he was a very responsible lad.
“There were never any problems and I didn’t feel I was letting anyone down.
“I think it boils down to the age of the children and the teenager’s intelligence and maturity.”
Ah, but Madeleine was nearly 4 and very intelligent and mature for her age, with perfect gen*****.
So that's all right then.
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"And if Madeleine had hurt herself inside the apartment, why would that be our fault?" Gerry
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