Australian parents across the country are set to benefit from a full mobile app service that allows them to access and hire trusted, reliable and qualified babysitters, carers and nannies for their children at just the touch of a button.
Sittr is an app created and developed by parents for parents. It is the brainchild of Samantha and James McKinnon who came up with the idea after experiencing their own frustrations with finding a reliable carer for their three young children.
'We were fed up with the process of hiring a babysitter for our kids. There was no easy solution. We would spend hours vetting, sometimes late into the night. It was hard to tell who was genuine and who wasn't. I didn't want to leave my kids with just anyone. I wanted to know I was hiring someone I could trust," said Samantha.
'One of our goals at Sittr was to create an app that was easy to use where you could call your partner, organise a night to have dinner together or see a movie and then book a carer within minutes. It was important for us to create a product that's simple to use and works like any other on demand app in the market for food, taxi services and manual labour," she said.
What makes Sittr unique?
Sittr is unique in that they offer a full screening of all potential babysitters including a Working with Children Check so each person that signs up goes through a thorough screening process. They also offer Public Liability Insurance (which no other service offers) and all carers on the platform require a minimum level of first aid training that includes management of asthma and anaphylaxis so parents know that they are getting the best carers for their children.
Sittr also operates in the same way as Uber in that parents don't need to worry about paying the babysitter at the end of the evening. All payments are processed via the app.
Question: What is the app, Sittr?
Samantha McKinnon: Sittr is the simplest, most trusted way to find and connect with top rated babysitters and nannies. We use technology to solve the issues of safety, complexity and affordability of informal childcare such as babysitters and nannies.
We've been around for more than two years. In fact, we were the first digital babysitting service to launch in Australia, and we have spent the last two years perfecting Sittr to ensure it's a credible, robust service Australian parents can rely on and trust.
Just recently we found out that we've cracked the top 100 lifestyle apps in the Apple App Store and are now without a doubt the no.1 childcare app in Australia.
Question: What inspired you to create this service?
Samantha McKinnon: Back in 2014, we were on holidays in Japan. We asked the hotel concierge to quote us for a babysitter for three hours while my husband and I went out to dinner for his birthday. They told us that they charge more for boys - because they are usually more naughty - and the final quote was nearly $400 AUD. We nearly laughed and cried at the same time. This is where the idea of Sittr was born!
This is not an isolated problem in Japan either, this is happening all over the world. I would love to see Sittr in other countries, where you can be on holidays and book a qualified, vetted carer to mind your children. Since inception, we have helped many families who are visiting Australia on holidays and have used Sittr to book a carer to come to their hotel or take their children on a day out while they work. We have assisted families from the UK, the USA, New Zealand, Hong Kong and interstate.
Question: What issues did you have finding a reliable carer for your three young children?
Samantha McKinnon: As parents of three young children we faced many challenges when it came to finding a reliable babysitter, not just overseas but in Australia too. There was no easy solution. We were just fed up and we knew other parents were experiencing similar frustrations.
We would spend hours vetting, sometimes late into the night. It was hard to tell who was genuine and who wasn't. I didn't want to leave my kids with just anyone. I wanted to know I was hiring someone I could trust.
We also used services that charged a fee for just sifting through applications – paying a fee just to email a few babysitters for a job is ridiculous! That's why we don't charge to search for a sitter or to place a job on our platform. We try to make the whole process very fair and ethical.
One of our goals at Sittr was to create an app that was easy to use and you could call your partner, organise a night to have dinner together or see a movie and then book a carer within minutes.
It's so simple to use and it works like any other on demand app in the market like food, taxi services, manual labour etc.
Question: How do parents use Sittr?
Samantha McKinnon: It's very easy to use. Parents can download the app for iPhone and Android or go to www.sittr.com and search for a carer. On the carer's profile you can read about their experience and real reviews from other parents. Then when you are ready to book, parents can either send a request directly to a carer or post a job which goes out to multiple carers at once. Then at the end of the night, the carer completes the job in the app and the funds are released into their bank account. It's completely cashless.
Parents can rest assured that all carers have senior first aid credentials, are background checked and are covered by Sittr's comprehensive public liability policy.
Question: What is the cost associated with the services?
Samantha McKinnon: We believe that parents deserve better options when it comes to having someone who is qualified and trustworthy look after their children, so we've made our pricing really simple. No membership fees, no booking fees. There's just an hourly rate of $27/hr.
Furthermore, we've priced the service so that parents can get the same level of service as a high-end agency, but at a fraction of the cost.
Question: How can carers use Sittr?
Samantha McKinnon: We have over 500 fully vetted carers, representing an acceptance rate of only five per cent. We get hundreds of babysitter applications each week and only a small amount of applications get approved. This is to ensure that the carers we have on the app are people that parents across the country can fully trust.
If you would like to enquire about being a carer, simply download the Sittr app or go to the website www.sittr.com and create a carer profile.
Before you create your profile, ensure that you have a valid Working with Children Check or the equivalent for your state, First Aid Certificate and a copy of your driver's license or passport handy to complete our verification process.
Question: How can a parent determine whether they need a babysitter, carers or nanny?
Samantha McKinnon: A babysitter is someone who comes on a casual or ad hoc basis to look after the kids when parents have an appointment or need a date night. The typical family might use a babysitter once or twice a month.
Nannies on the other hand are required more regularly – anywhere from full time, 5 days a week to just a few hours once a week to do school pickups or drop offs.
Sittr caters to parents who need either type of care and both babysitters and nannies go through the same rigorous vetting process.
Question: Can you talk us through how you put applicants through a screening check?
Samantha McKinnon: All carers are personally vetted by the Sittr Team.
Firstly, all carers must be over 18.
We verify their identity, so we know they are who they say they are.
We verify their Working with Children Checks, so we know they have clearance to work with children and don't have any criminal history.
We require all carers to have current, senior first aid qualifications, which includes training for dealing with asthma and anaphylaxis related emergencies and meets national childcare standards. This certificate is commonly used for Childcare workers, Nursing, Lifesavers, Swimming instructors, First Response workers.
And lastly, all the carers are covered by our unique, public liability insurance policy.
As I mentioned, only about 5% of the carers that apply to Sittr actually get approved so parents can rest a little easier knowing that only the top carers get through.
Question: Why was it important for you to offer Public Liability Insurance?
Samantha McKinnon: All our babysitters and nannies are covered by our comprehensive, public liability insurance built specifically for childcare industry workers.
As parents, we don't like to think that things could go wrong. But accidents do happen. They can happen when parents are present or when under the care of grandparents, a babysitter or a nanny " no matter how careful we are.
Professional nannies, babysitting agencies and childcare centres have carried Public Liability insurance for decades; however, until Sittr was launched, it was not something that online platforms have focussed on and for good reason. It requires thorough vetting of carers and building trust with insurers " something other platforms shy away from because their goal is to sell access to their database and absolve themselves of all responsibility for what happens after the parents and carers connect.
Before Sittr, babysitters that wanted to protect themselves with insurance had to take out their own costly policies. With Sittr, they are automatically covered every time they accept a job through the platform.
Question: Can you share a success story, from Sittr, with us?
Samantha McKinnon: We hear many success stories all the time, for example from families that have been so anxious about leaving their child with a babysitter for the first time, but then are blown away by the caliber of the carers on Sittr.
One great testimonial was from a family that had recently relocated from the UK to Australia and needed some extra help as the mother was starting her job straight away, the father was looking for work and the children were waiting for the school term to start. In this instance two of our carers were able to come in and share the load helping the family get settled in Australia and making that tough transition so much easier.
Interview by Brooke Hunter