Mother and Baby

Grandparents, Babysitters And Friends – The Informal Childcare Rules You Need To Know

Section: Childcare

You’ve got someone to look after the kids so you’ve got a night out – just make sure you’re playing it by the book

Childcare costs are rising. So if you’re able to turn to grandparents, friends and older children to help look after the kids while we’re at work it seems like a no-brainer. But you still need to get certain rules in place.


If you would be lost without your mum and dad to help look after the kids, you’re not alone. More than a third of British families rely upon grandparents as their main form of childcare, according to the Daycare Trust.

On average, grandparent carers provide 10 hours of childcare each week – with many providing wrap-around care during school holidays or additional hours before and after nursery. This is really hand if you need to supplement the 15 hours free early education, for example.

Most report being happy to look after their grandchildren, but it’s worth coming to an arrangement on hours – especially if your mum and dad still work. Establish how many hours they will do and encourage them to be honest about their limitations. It should be a joy, not a duty.

Also be upfront about costs and be sure to reimburse them for travel, days out and food. Childcare provided by a relative is generally not eligible for the Childcare Tax Credits – in order to claim this, a grandparent would have to register as a childminder, publically advertise their services and be paid to care for at least one other non-related child.

On average, grandparent carers provide 10 hours of childcare each week


While there are official babysitting organisations and services, if you call upon a sensible teenager or an older niece to watch younger children while you enjoy a night out, you’re not alone. As the law doesn’t specify how old someone needs to be to babysit, it’s up to your to decide whether that person is responsible enough. As we all know, some 16 year olds are far more mature than others.

The NSPCC advises that babysitters should be at least 16. It’s also worth noting that if you allow someone under the age of 16 to look after your child, you remain legally responsible for the child's safety. You can also be prosecuted for wilful neglect if you leave a child unsupervised "in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health”.

Do you have childcare concerns? Here are some solutions to common problems

And older children aren’t just being called upon to watch the kids while we enjoy a night out. According to the Daycare Trust, around one in 10 families have used a carer aged between 15 and 24 in the last six months – with one third providing informal childcare on a regular basis so parents can go to work.

If you leave children with older siblings for any length of time, it’s advisable to make sure they’ve had first aid training and know what to do/where to get help in cases of emergency.


While grandparents, babysitters and friends do not need to be registered to look after your children you need to be careful if money exchanges hands.

It may seem a no-brainer to hand your brilliant niece £20 for looking after your toddler for the evening, but there are certain regulations around this. Ofsted rules state that friends cannot gain a reward for looking after a child aged under eight for more than two hours outside their home without being registered.

There are ways around this, though. A friend will not need to be registered if the children are all aged over eight, if they are looking after the children in their own home or if the care is for less than two hours a day.


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