A shortage of nannies and au pairs has sparked a childcare crisis for families, forcing some parents to cut working hours or quit jobs.

Experts warn that the scarcity of childminders is becoming critical as parents return to offices after 18 months combining working from home with looking after children during the pandemic.

Travel bans for people from countries such as Australia and New Zealand meant that the number of nannies and au pairs coming to the UK fell to almost zero.

And an exodus of young people from abroad due to other factors, including Covid and Brexit, has left many families struggling to find help, according to the childcare industry.


About 45,000 families, including nurses and police officers who work long hours or unusual shifts, rely on au pairs for childcare.

But the cost of a qualified nanny is prohibitively expensive at more than £2,000 a month.

Cynthia Cary, who runs Rainbow Au Pairs in Hartfield, East Sussex, has received more than 300 enquiries from families since January and would usually supply 120 au pairs.

This year, however, she has placed just five because of the 'massive' shortage.

Carole Payne, who has run Nanny and Au Pair Connection in Bolton for more than 35 years, said: 'I've had people crying down the phone saying they can't go to work because they can't find childcare.'

Au pairs, often female and under 25, live with a host family and help with childcare and housework for about 25 hours a week, typically earning 'pocket money' of about £100 per week.

Charles Grimley, a doctor at a Lancashire hospital who relies on au pairs, said: 'I've struggled with after-school childcare in particular.

'I'm a single parent, my children are not old enough to be left to sort themselves out and my son has special needs.'

Jamie Shackell, chairman of the British Au Pair Agencies Association, has been approached by more than 500 families seeking affordable childcare, most of whom she was unable to help.

The association is urging the Government to introduce a temporary childcare visa.

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