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HMRC apologises for problems with Childcare Service website

By Rachel Lawler
HMRC has apologised for the technical problems associated with the Childcare Service website since its launch earlier this year.
John Thompson, chief executive at HMRC, said he was “very sorry” that parents were experiencing problems with the service. He said that 244,000 parents have applied for tax-free childcare and/or 30-hours free childcare using the website so far.
From these initial applications, 208,000 parents have both with their codes and accounts set up. However, 2,600 parents are still waiting for a technical issue to be resolved.
Compensation for parents
HMRC has issued 1,138 30-hours eligibility codes manually and a total of £45,687 has been paid to parents as compensation in lieu of top-up payments they were unable to receive. HMRC has also made 373 payments directly to providers after parents were unable to access their accounts.
Thompson also said that the service was currently ‘on track’ to meet the Department for Education’s target of having 200,000 successful applications for the 30-hours by 31 August.
Thompson was writing in response to a letter from Nicky Morgan, chair of the Treasury Select Committee, who had queried the performance of the Childcare Service site. Morgan welcomed HMRC’s response, but said that “clearly, further improvements are still required” as many parents have still been unable to access the service.
Ongoing problems
Morgan said of HMRC’s response: “Whilst it is welcome that HMRC has made ‘significant improvements’ to the website since it was launched in April, thousands of parents are still unable to apply for the childcare to which they are entitled in the way that the government has envisaged.”
Neil Leitch, chief executive at the Alliance, commented: “We recognise that HMRC are working hard to rectify the problems with the website, but the fact remains that thousands of parents and childcare providers have been adversely affected by these glitches.”
Neil added: “While we welcome Nicky Morgan’s intervention on this matter, it really is a case of too-little-too-late. Both 30 hours ‘free childcare’ and tax-free childcare were key conservative manifesto promises, which the government seem wholly unprepared to deliver. The very least we expected was investment in an IT system that parents are able to use, and through which providers are able to receive the payments that their businesses rely on.”
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