Cost of babysitters rises to £5 an hour

...and in some places, it's up to £15, making it the most expensive part of an evening out
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Once considered as a source of pocket money for teenagers, babysitting is now big business. A new report, published today, shows that hiring a babysitter can now be more expensive than the cost of an evening out, with the average rate approaching £5 an hour.

A standard four-hour shift for a babysitter now costs almost £20 according to the survey - more than the average price of going to the cinema, the pub, a dinner party, or having a pizza. Other parents are forced to pay more than the going rate, which can rise to more than £15 an hour plus expenses in London.

The study, by financial services company Mint, a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland, reveals that babysitting has become more lucrative than many other part-time or evening jobs for teenagers, students and young professionals, including working in a restaurant (£3.60 an hour) or at a supermarket (£4.50).

The survey of 4,300 adults also shows that many parents had difficulty finding babysitters, often having to forgo a night out.

Jerry Toher, managing director of Mint, said: "Some parents are devising clever solutions to recruit sitters such as sharing a sitter, or teaming up with other parents to form a 'babysitter bank'." Susan Wake, director of Rockabye Babysitters Ltd, one of London's biggest agencies, said parents were paying higher rates because they were getting value for money - and peace of mind.

The company covers most of London, including hotel such as Claridges, and charges £8 an hour. Mrs Wake has between 50 and 60 professional sitters on her books, aged from their early 20s to their mid-50s.

"The average professional babysitter is female and in her 30s," said Mrs Wake. "We have some actors, plus secretaries and other young professionals who want to supplement their incomes, plus some mothers and grandmothers. For clients, the most important thing is their children. Within reason, it doesn't really matter to them how much they have to pay."

Danielle Berends, 33, has been babysitting professionally for two months, after moving to London from Sydney. Working for Kensington-based Topnotch Nannies, she earns £10 an hour, with a minimum of £40, plus her cab fare home each evening.

"I love being with kids and it's good money - better than bar work," said Ms Berends. "It often involves sitting for families who have come to London for a break, so I go to their hotel and look after the children. It's not something I want to do for ever, but at the moment, I'm really enjoying it."