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Babysitters are not 'registered' and we don't hold lists of people.

As babysitters are not ‘registered’ and there are no regulations to govern this type of childcare, we do not hold lists of people. However, we do hold lists of registered childminders and some childminders may be willing to do some evening or weekend babysitting.

Babysitters do not need qualifications or certificates and are suitable only for short periods of childcare – for example when a parent goes out for an evening or needs to do something without the child. Babysitters should not be used for long periods of regular childcare such as while a parent goes to work each day.

You should choose a babysitter who is reliable and experienced, ideally with a reference or good reputation for babysitting. It is recommended that babysitters are over the age of 16 – if you use a younger babysitter and harm comes to your child you may be held responsible. Even a 16 year old may not be mature enough. A very young child, a child with challenging behaviour or a child with a disability is likely to need an older, more experienced babysitter in order to remain safe.

Older siblings may also find their younger brothers and sisters are less co-operative when they are in charge for a long period so a babysitter might be a safer option.

Even with family and trusted friends you should establish rules and let them know your childcare routines. Also, let them know about any allergies and leave a numbers to contact you in case of an emergency.

Parents may also wish to look in the Yellow Pages, or search the web for babysitting agencies.

Should you use a babysitting agency, it is important that you are clear as to how they vet their sitters. For example, do they interview and take up references and do they complete a Criminal Record Bureau check?

Both the NSPCC and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) recommend that:

  • babysitters should be over 16 years of age
  • parents should ask for at least two references and contact the referees themselves.

RoSPA also suggest that parents complete ‘risk assessments’ and think through all possible eventualities before leaving their children with a babysitter.