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British au pairs shun US

THE EXPERIENCE of the British au pair, Louise Woodward, at the hands of the United States legal system is being blamed for a sharp fall in the number of Britons applying to work as nannies in the US. According to figures compiled by US agencies, including the largest, Au Pair in America, 400 British au pairs will take up such jobs this year, compared with 1,500 in 1997.

Quoting au pair agencies in both the US and Britain, the Washington Post says that many young British women were scared off after Ms Woodward was convicted of murder following the death of a child in her care and sentenced to life in prison. The conviction was reduced to involuntary manslaughter on appeal and the sentence reduced to time served, allowing Ms Woodward to return to Britain last June.

The details of Ms Woodward's life as an au pair that emerged during the trial - the long hours caring for two small children, the restrictions on her social life and the isolation of many suburbs - illustrated the downside of the arrangement.

t The parents of the baby who died in Louise Woodward's care yesterday asked a judge to force her to pay them "several million dollars" in damages for the child's death. The lawyer of Drs Sunil and Deborah Eappen, who sued Ms Woodward for the wrongful death of 8-month-old Matthew, has said they were not interested in getting money from her, but in ensuring that she did not get rich from their child's death. A decision is expected by the end of the month.