Babysitters provide occasional help with childcare for families and tend to be young people from the local area, who are sometimes still studying in sixth form or college. Although the law does not state at what age young people can look after children, if you employ a babysitter who is under 16 years of age, you are legally responsible for their safety, as well as your child's. If your child is thought to be at risk because they are not being looked after properly you could be prosecuted.

If you are thinking about asking your older child to look after their younger brother or sister you should make sure that they are happy to do so and that they are aware of their responsibilities.

What you can do to keep your child safe when you are using a babysitter

Here are a few things to think about when employing a babysitter, even if it's through a well known and trusted agency:

  • Think about using a babysitter that has been recommended by someone you know.
  • Find out what relevant experience they have with children of a similar age to yours, and that they are responsible, reliable and safe.
  • Think about using a babysitter who has taken courses in child development and first aid.
  • If the babysitter says they have qualifications or a Disclosure and Barring Service check that they have, make sure you see the original certificate.
  • Ask to see references, these can be from previous babysitting jobs or from a course tutor if the babysitter is still at college.
  • If you have the slightest doubt about a babysitter, don't use them.
  • Explain to your babysitter about possible dangers in your home, or any specific medical conditions your child has.
  • Tell your babysitter if you don't want them to bring other people into your house, such as their boyfriend, girlfriend or a relative.
  • Make sure the babysitter has your mobile number or a way they can get in touch with you in an emergency.
  • Always come home at the time you arranged or earlier.
  • Always listen to what your child has to say about the people who have looked after them. If they are not happy, find someone else.

If your own child is over 16 and has started babysitting, make sure that they:

  • understand their responsibilities as a babysitter and would know what to do in an emergency, such as if there was a fire.
  • know some basic first aid and consider taking some basic training in the safe care of young children.
  • have the parents' contact details and an alternate emergency contact number.
  • know you are available to step in and help in a crisis.
  • know the child or children before they look after them.
  • know what is expected of them and what they will be paid.
  • arrive on time.
  • take their mobile with them if they have one, or let you know the telephone number of the house they are babysitting at.
  • write down the routine, rules and details for looking after the child.
  • are always patient with the child.
  • have a safe way of getting to the house they're babysitting at and home again.

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