Looking for childcare over the summer months? You might be a bit wary of au pairs, thinking they are likely to be young with little experience of looking after children and more interested in the local night life. So what about a granny au pair?
The Granny Au Pair Agency was set up in Germany in 2010 and has grown fast. It now has mainly German, Swiss and Austrian au pairs placed in countries from England and the United Arab Emirates to Malaysia and Australia. England is one of the most popular destinations.
It works like a dating agency, matching nannies and families, with the Agency helping families and grannies with creating their profiles. Grannies are either older women who haven’t yet got grandchildren or grannies whose grandchildren have grown up. All of them are interested in travelling abroad and learning about new places.
The website has a part for grannies and a part for families as well as general information. The newest families are at the top of the grannies page so grannies can see them. In turn, grannies can ask to be given a prominent space on the families page. Families have to screen the nannies themselves through interviews and checks. If families report a problem or concern, the Agency will follow up and families can change nannies if they don’t get on. The main problems so far, though, have been accidents when nannies have injured themselves abroad.
The Agency also has a languages club which helps the au pairs find language courses so they can feel more confident going abroad or know where there might be suitable language classes when they get to their placement.
Granny Au Pair also works with partner agencies, for instance, in New Zealand. It is run by an Austrian who moved there and contacted the Agency. Because they are on the ground they know the legal situation there and can advise on different types of visas and other issues and Granny Au Pair can suggest grannies.
England is one of the most popular destinations and Grania Grozinger, spokesperson for the Agency, says if Britain votes to leave the European Union it could have an impact, as Grannies or families may have to pay for work permits.
The Agency has also recently started a spin-off section in Germany where grannies can find babysitting jobs in their local neighbourhoods.
Ingrid Dengel is 68 and from Austria. She has been a granny au pair for a year. She says she contacted the Agency after reading about them in the media and because she wanted to live with a family in another country and improve her languages.
Last year she spent three months with a family in Switzerland and in November she was in the UK for three weeks. She returned in January and will be here till August, looking after two children, aged four and two, in a German-English family in Cambridge who have had several granny au pairs.
“I have learnt a lot and I think the children have too,” she says, adding that she would definitely do it again. “The family is very nice, friendly and hospitable. I am a real part of them.”