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How to Choose the Right UK Babysitting Website

UK Babysitting Websites image


This category reviews websites offering provisions for finding a babysitter.  Although there is no legal definition, in the UK, babysitting generally means childcare:

  • Taking place in the child's home
  • Short-term
  • Not requiring qualifications (the NSPCC recommends babysitters to be a minimum age of 16; below this age the parents remain legally responsible for anything that may go wrong during their absence).

What are Au Pairs?

Some of the websites in this category cater solely for au pair searches.  Like a babysitter, an au pair does not require formal qualifications and may be expected to carry out babysitting while the parents are out.  However there can be quite a lot of difference between a babysitter, professional or otherwise, and an au pair. 

The word "au pair" literally means "on a par" or "equal to" which means  the au pair becomes an equal within the family, and is not a domestic worker.  The concept originated in Europe after World War 2 where young girls went to live in other countries to learn a language and become immersed in another culture as part of their education. 

These days boys as well as girls can be au pairs although most au pairs are girls.  The au pair is generally offered expenses and pocket money and a room of their own within the family house.  In exchange, they are expected to carry out work related to childcare which can include some light domestic work.

What should you, the employer, consider?

It is important to think carefully about the expectations you may have about hiring any childcare worker, be it a babysitter or an au pair. Some of the websites offer example contracts for you to download.  It is highly recommended that you carry out as much research as possible before hiring someone, particularly if you are new to the process. 

It is important to note that all of these websites (although they may offer some monitoring), do not meet any of the candidates or vet them in any way.  If you decide to plump for an agency, they will be much more rigorous in their choice of candidates.  By using a website you are saving money but will have to take responsibility for all the ground work yourself. 

Some of the websites offer excellent advice, but the best ports of call are always: (i) your local council's Children's Information Service, (ii) the government website about becoming an employer and (iii) Ofsted for information about regulations on childcare.

Safety and Security

This is an issue at the forefront of the mind of any parent when looking for childcare.  Using the internet  brings added risks so it is wise to be extra vigilant. The reviews here will give you an idea of what the websites have to offer, but it is always wise to keep informed of other people's experiences when using them.  The most common abuse of profile matching sites is the financial scam.  Never under any circumstances send money before you meet the candidate and always run identity checks and, if possible, CRB checks.  Do not be shy about doing this as any candidate should expect a CRB check.  If they appear to object then they are either not genuine, hiding something, or simply acting unprofessionally. 

Of course this goes for the other side as well, for au pairs, babysitters and nannies looking for jobs.  Great care must be taken in making sure family profiles are genuine and, if possible, go through a website that monitors its clients' activities and at least undergoes some checks.  Never go to anyone's address without having met them first in a public place, preferably with someone you know to accompany you.

Website Formats and Features

Now that the serious matters are dealt with, let's look at the website features.  There are three main formats of the websites in this category: agencies, advert listings and online matching services. In a nutshell, here is how the differ:

  1. Agencies: Choosing to hire an agency is usually the most expensive way of finding childcare. Most of the agencies reviewed here cater for wide childcare needs as well as offering babysitters. These agencies offer the whole agency package and you should expect to pay upward of £900 to get you started. There is, however, one agency in this category which caters just for babysitters and charges a modest fee on top of the babysitters rates. The agency testifies that these sitters are well known to the company, so you are paying for peace of mind. 

  2. Advert Listings: The advert listing sites offer free registration but if and when you want to contact candidates, you usually need to pay a subscription fee to benefit from this and additional features.  We have rated the websites in terms of the quality of the profiles and the volume of candidates profiles available.  Generally the more popular the website the better your chances of finding a candidate in your area.  These websites offer fairly basic features, usually allowing candidates to upload photographs and outlining their qualifications and experience.  You will be able to carry out searches based on certain criteria, such as qualifications, times available and whether they have had a CRB check or not.

  3. Matching Services: The matching services are like advert listings but they offer the matching facility (not unlike internet dating databases).  Some of the agencies offer a wide range of services including training and courses for childcare providers and parents whereas others in this category require a subscription and therefore offer a degree of support. There are also free listings.  Some websites offer additional services for childcare providers and customers, ranging through support services such as child behaviour consultations to in house courses for carers.  Other websites and agencies offer social clubs for the childcarers which can help them to form support networks.  Some of the added features may be charged separately and you may need to contact them directly for a list of rates.  Whether you choose an agency or decide to take the search into your own hands, do plenty of research and always go on your gut feeling.

The Bottom Line

You will find babysitting websites which cater for a variety of needs and budgets. We hope that our buying guide, expert reviews and user reviews are useful in your search for a babysitting website that's right for you.