When was the last time you had a night out? When you become a parent, catching a movie or going out for dinner gets a lot more complicated. If you’ve aunts, grandparents or siblings living locally, then they may be happy to do you a favour and mind the kids while you go our. If however, you live a long way from family or close friends, the only option might be to hire a babysitter. Leaving your kids with someone you don’t know is daunting. One of the main worries parents have is about criminal records checks. How do you know that the person looking after your children is safe?  

Finding a Babysitter

If you don’t have relatives or close friends, you have a range of options for finding a babysitter. One of the best – and cheapest – ways is to try to network with other parents locally. People whose kids are in the same class as yours at school might be happy to look after your kids, if you return the favour at some point in the future. For parents with younger children in childcare or nursery, some of the staff there might be happy to babysit in the evenings for some extra money. If you have friends with older teenage children, they might be happy to earn some extra cash by looking after children. If none of that applies, your only option might be to hire someone through an agency.  

Babysitting Agencies and Criminal Records Checks

One of the main advantages of using an agency is that they can run enhanced DBS checks on their sitters. This is the same level of check as someone would have for teaching or nursing. However, only registered bodies such as agencies can ask for these checks. Most babysitting agencies will have something on their website about the criminal records checks they run. If they don’t, then you should be asking why. An enhanced disclosure check is a very detailed look into someone’s criminal past. Police look at all previous convictions and cautions, not just the most recent. There are very strict rules about what sort of businesses can ask for enhanced disclosure checks. Individuals cannot ask for DBS checks on themselves, and clients such as parents can’t ask for them either. You can’t as a parent ask the agency to see your babysitter’s DBS certificate. It’s therefore a matter of trusting that they have checked properly and know what they’re doing.  

Self Employed Babysitters and Criminal Records Checks

People who offer babysitting services on a self-employed basis rather than through an agency can’t get the same detailed level of DBS check. All self-employed people can ask for a basic disclosure check, whatever industry they are working in. A basic disclosure certificate just shows your current, unspent criminal convictions and cautions. It can certainly be used as a type of character reference, but it is no way as detailed as other types of disclosure. That’s not to say avoid self-employed babysitters. A disclosure check is just one small part of the sorts of checks you can run on a childcare worker. Perhaps the most important element is the personal recommendation or reference. Always try to speak to someone who has used the sitter’s services before. Alternatively, many websites have a feedback function to leave comments after someone has been round. Most sitters will be happy to come round, meet the kids and have a chat. Once you’ve used someone once, then it’s easier to use someone a second time. Take care with someone who appears desperate for work, or who is charging very low rates compared with everyone else. They will either be very inexperienced, or have some other reason why they can’t get work.  

Children As Babysitters

There’s also a lot of misunderstanding about what the rules are around teenagers babysitting younger children. There’s no law giving a minimum age that a teenager can babysit, although many charities recommend 16 as a minimum. However, this very much depends on the individual teenager. The one thing to remember is that children under the age of 16 cannot get DBS checks in any circumstances. It’s therefore usually best to stick to using teenagers who you know well and who you can trust with your own children.