This information is to help you make an informed choice about babysitting, which usually means someone else caring for your child at home in the evenings. Leaving your children in the care of someone else is a big responsibility, as is the welfare of the sitter.
What is the law regarding babysitters?
There is no law in England and Wales to stop anyone of any age from babysitting. A person under the age of 16 cannot be charged with neglect or ill treatment of a child left in their care.
Parents remain responsible and can be charged themselves if their child is harmed in any way.
The NSPCC recommend 16 years as a minimum age for a babysitter.
How do I choose a sitter?
There are no specific legal regulations around the use of sitters, however it would be undesirable to leave the care of children with a person under the age of fourteen (this is the age when a young person can be legally paid for work).
Parents are urged to assess their own situation.
If a sitter is under sixteen years of age, you should be aware that you take full responsibility should anything happen to the children left in the care of a sitter.
- Has the sitter undertaken a babysitting programme?
- Have you discussed with your children, and, if they know the sitter personally, are they happy with your choice?
- Introduce the sitter to your children to see how they react to each other
- Ask a potential babysitter to provide you with at least two people you would contact for a reference. These could include a parent who has used them previously, a college tutor or a teacher.
What does a sitter need to know?
- An address or telephone number where you can be contacted and the approximate time of your return.
- What to do if your child becomes ill or distressed.
- What are your instructions to the sitter if your child plays up or is naughty?
- How is the sitter going home? Negotiate with the sitter an arrangement that suits you both. If the sitter is staying overnight, what are the sleeping arrangements and should they go to bed before you return?
- What to do in an emergency? The name, address/ telephone number of somebody living locally who could give help and assistance quickly.
- Any dietary requirements or allergies your child may have.
Discuss the rules
- The bedtime routine: do the children like a bedtime story? Feeding, nappies, bathing, etc.
- What my children are allowed/not allowed to do? TV programmes, use of computers, going out
- What can the sitter do in my home?
- Be clear regarding the sitter's use of the family's CD, microwave, access to the drinks cabinet, etc.
- Can the sitter bring friends round to keep them company?
- What do I provide?
- You may want to provide a snack or supper.
- Payment. Be clear beforehand the amount of money to be earned by the sitter for the time spent looking after your children.
Parents are recommended to choose young people who take their responsibility as a sitter seriously.
The care of your children is in their hands and the least you can do is acknowledge their commitment to being prepared for all possible occurrences.
For details of the Red Cross Babysitter's Training Package, please contact the Red Cross on 0844 871 11 11 or visit Red Cross