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Brexit: Number of Europeans applying to be au pairs in UK plummets by 70%

The number of Europeans applying to become au pairs in the UK has fallen by about 70%, according to new figures.

The British Au Pair Agencies Association says the figure has dramatically dropped in the last three years because of concerns about Brexit.

Currently, au pairs from the EU do not need a visa. They stay with a host family who provide them with a room, food and weekly "pocket money" of £80 to £100.

It is unclear how this key childcare option will continue when freedom of movement ends after Brexit.

Rebecca Haworth-Wood, who chairs the association, said: "The biggest worry at the moment is what will happen.

"We've got au pairs due to come now, I think I've got 35 due to come in the next two weeks and are not sure what will happen on 1 November.

"They will all be going home for holiday at Christmas and they're not sure what will happen when they go - and nor are the families."

Cheryl Newbury, a single mother-of-two from Weston-super-Mare, has been using au pairs for two years and says losing them would be disastrous.

She added: "For me personally, it would be my career (that would suffer), I wouldn't be able to work and I would lose my home and I'd probably be on benefits as a single mother and for me that would happen quite quickly.

"They live in. Also they bond with your children and with you. It's having the flexibility.

"As a nurse I'm a deputy ward manager, if I'm on call there are times when I have to go in on an emergency and it's having somebody who can be flexible but also it's like having someone who is part of the family."

Ms Newbury's current au pair is Chiara Rigobon, a 21-year-old from Italy.

This is the second summer she has stayed with the family, and she told Sky News she is worried about being able to return in 2020.

She said: "It's an amazing experience. It's really helpful for me not only to improve my language but also helpful for me to be more sure of myself - confident.

"[Brexit] worries me because this is a good experience for everyone. I really hope Brexit can allow us to come again."

Au pairs from outside the EEA (European Economic Area) are able to enter the UK on a youth mobility visa but it is not known whether those from inside the EEA will also have to apply post-Brexit.

The Home Office told Sky News it will set out plans for its new immigration system shortly.

A spokesperson said: "Freedom of movement as it currently stands will end on 31 October when the UK leaves the EU, and after Brexit the government will introduce a new, fairer immigration system that prioritises skills and what people can contribute to the UK, rather than where they come from."