A childcare trial – Babysitters of Kensington and Chelsea

I was recently offered a free babysitting trial by Babysitters of Kensington and Chelsea – BOKAC – who are expanding further west. My friend Anya, who lives in Chiswick, trialled the service. Here are her thoughts:

BOKAC was launched in 2011 by Anna Cameron while she was working in London and babysitting for local families as a way of earning extra income. She soon found that she had more families to babysit for than she had evenings free, and had also noticed a lack of services that allowed parents to book and pay for babysitting appointments online. After securing a website developer and recruiting their first babysitters, BOKAC was born.

The business has grown steadily ever since whilst maintaining strong relationships with both parents and sitters. Central to BOKAC is providing a service that is efficient, personal and reliable. Anna meets each candidate for a face to face meeting to discuss their childcare experience in depth as well as establish they are reliable and responsible individuals. Babysitters can only join after providing two references: one from someone they currently or have recently been employed by and one from someone they have recently babysat for.

How BOKAC works

  1. You create an account then create a job by selecting the date, start time and end time that you need a sitter for
  2. Then select the sitters that you would like to send your request to
  3. You receive email notifications from sitters as to whether they are available or unavailable
  4. Finally choose your sitter and complete the appointment via our online booking system

Pricing structure: BOKAC charge £10 per hour for all appointments between 7am-1am and £15 per hour after this, or on special holidays (e.g. New Year’s Eve). They do not charge booking or monthly fees and, as long as you are not late back, there are no transport costs to cover.

Babysitting house imageTrying to find a regular babysitter is hard, especially when one is a single mother with no willing husband / partner to cover for a girls’ night out or a trip to the theatre, so I was certainly up for trying out BOKAC. I have tried another agency which includes fees on a quarterly basis and then an admin fee every time you make a booking; you then pay the babysitter a set price per hour.

BOKAC seemed to make it simple – you book the babysitter via the website, you pay your credit on the website and that is that. You don’t need to search for cash at 11pm at night deep inside your handbag – BOKAC pay the babysitters direct. So I went ahead and started the process.

Admittedly I didn’t quite get the website initially but Anna Cameron was on hand to help at any stage at the end of an email. Looking at the calibre of the babysitters – they all have profiles and photos and a little bit about themselves and their experience with childcare – they reminded me of the people I mixed with in my twenties when I lived in Fulham – and indeed I think a fair number do live in Fulham or Clapham.

They are all bright young things – all look terribly nice, well spoken, probably great at skiing, sport, travel, and they all have day jobs so they choose to babysit for extra cash which is always handy. They are not CRB checked and are not professional childcarers, but Anna vets them with references and meets them all, of course. So you book a job via the website (which is very smartphone-friendly: a real positive).

You create a job by putting job title, date, start and end time and then a list of the babysitters come up and you can filter via languages spoken and age ranges covered. You then select your filter and a list of your chosen babysitters come up who will be sent a notification of your job request. You then get many replies / rejections in your email inbox until one says yes: and you feel relieved!

Lunchbox iconYou can access your job at any time, send the babysitter a message, change the hours, cancel etc via the website. In the babysitter’s profile it shows the age groups they are comfortable with, the weekday, Saturday and Sunday availability times and the areas they are available to babysit in in London. After a couple of false starts (more below) I had a lovely lady called Sarah, in her early 20s who works as a merchandiser for a leading High Street store during the day, and who plays lacrosse and tennis on the weekends. She arrived on time with a nice smile and tried to shake my hand (but unfortunately my three year old decided to be clingy and tearful).

Sarah wasn’t remotely fazed and chatted away to my son but eventually I decided it would be easier if I put him to bed – and then off to sleep he went. So a relatively easy evening for Sarah and I could go out knowing my son was in capable hands. Anna Cameron really cares about her business and monitors the website and bookings constantly.

The pros

I found it to be an easy process – even from my phone – and there were no extra fees on top of the flat rate per hour. I ended up with a lovely babysitter and if I had any issues or queries, a helpful Anna Cameron was just at the end of an email.

The cons

Whilst I initially found someone to cover my night out, she then cancelled due to a family emergency on the day before and Anna could not find anyone else to do the booking, so I had to make alternative arrangements. When I tried again for the following week the next person cancelled on the day, again for a family emergency.

Anna, I have to say, was all over it – apologising and saying she would do the babysitting job herself if she couldn’t find anyone else. Luckily Sarah was free. There was a slight confusion over hours (Sarah told me I could have longer but I’m not sure if this information had been passed on to Anna) but all was fine in the end.

To sum it up, I wonder if my location – near a mainline station but not near a tube – could have contributed to the difficulties and late cancellations. I think BOKAC is a great service but its move further west is still in its infancy and there are still some teething problems being addressed.

Thank you, Anya, for your honest review 🙂

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