CHILDCARE: Most parents go on recommendations from family or friends.
Your friend's just called; your favourite band is performing tonight and she's got tickets! There's just one problem: who will look after the children?

It's a conundrum many single parents face. What to do with your child at short notice when something comes up or you just want some downtime?

Just recently the Daily Mail ran a story on the rise of babysitting apps. It's a great idea: parents submit a request, the app alerts babysitters, and the booking can be confirmed in minutes. An hour later there's a knock at the door and ta-da!

In the UK, parents have access to apps such as Bambino, Bubble and UrbanSitter. But what are the options available to South African parents?

Sitters4U, started by Bianca Steyn in 2007, operates in all areas of Cape Town, Pretoria and Joburg.

“I started the business 10 years ago online as the solution to a personal problem I had as a single mom. At the time, agencies did not require first aid, vehicles, or even experience. As a mom I was a little horrified that our childcare standards from professional agencies were below international”, says Bianca.

“I started Sitters4U in my spare time, after work, waking at 4am to answer e-mails and interviewing in the evenings. Eventually I left my previous role and started working on it full time. I have never looked back.”

The company uses a strict vetting service when it comes to their babysitters and au pairs to give parents peace of mind by doing reference checks, background checks and are required to submit both police clearance and first aid certification.

And the costs involved?

“The once off booking fee is R429. However, on the club booking fees work out to as low as R110 per booking. The candidates are paid separately, at rates varying depending on their age, experience and qualifications and the number and ages of children from R75 to R150 per hour,” adds Bianca.

She is also in the process of developing an app to give parents quick and easy access to the service via their mobiles. “We are currently looking for developers although our wireframe has been built.” Currently funding development from her side, the app will be called SitSnapp.

Another local site called Babysitters Club operates throughout the country. A area search brings up a string of profiles closest to you. Click on a profile and a detailed CV pops up listing the sitter's experience. Once you've made a selection, a booking can be made.

Registration is free, while the hourly rate starts at R75 per hour with a minimum of three hours per sit. Rates do however vary between babysitters, depending on their qualificationsand experience.

Most parents go on recommendations from friends and family when choosing a babysitter or au pair. Finding a babysitter online is another story. We asked a few moms would they use an app or online specialist service. This is what some said:

Megan Baadjies, mother of two-year-old Mayah, says she'd never consider the use of a babysitting app, let alone someone she's found online.

“My mom currently looks after her, and I'm nervous enough putting her in a crèche, but I won't get a nanny from an app.

“I have no problem getting a maid, but not a nanny!”

Liesl van der Schyff, mom of tweens, aged nine and 11, says she would consider using a babysitting app.

“We all want our children to be independent and take care of themselves. But I feel that children should be under adult supervision – it gives them the independence to liaise with adults other than mom and dad or even gran.”

Important links:

Sitters4U: www.sitters4u.co.za/article/home

Get notications when SitSnapp will be launched: sitsnapp.com/

Babysitters Club: babysittersclub.co.za/