HMRC challenged over childcare website failures

HMRC has come under fire over problems with its new childcare service website, amidst claims that IT glitches and other problems have prevented some parents from making claims

Parents are required to use the dedicated HMRC website, which went live in April, to apply for the 30 hours and tax free childcare (TFC) schemes. Reported problems include an inability to verify the details of parents or their child, or salary information, and parents being locked out of their TFC accounts.

Nicky Morgan, chair of the Treasury committee and former education secretary, has written to HMRC head Jon Thompson, requesting detailed information on the issue.

This includes the proportion of website users receiving error messages, including the message ‘We’re experiencing technical difficulties. We don’t know when the service will be available again. Please try later.’ 

Morgan is also seeking information about the dates and times of outages since the system went live in April, the number of complaints to the helpline, and how long it has been taking to respond to calls. 

Morgan said: ‘It’s concerning that some parents have struggled to apply for childcare funding due to technical issues with the government’s childcare service website.

‘To make matters worse, it appears that the childcare service helpline, for parents suffering problems with the website, is also experiencing technical difficulties.

‘I have written to Jon Thompson at HMRC, which runs the website, to ask for further information, such as the duration of outages, the number of complaints, and the number of people who have been unable to access their childcare service account.’

An HMRC spokesman said: ‘We know that some parents and childcare providers have experienced difficulties accessing the service, and we are sorry about the inconvenience.

‘We've now made significant improvements based on customer feedback, and on average more than 2,000 parents are applying successfully every single day.

‘We continue to make updates to improve the customer experience and ensure everyone can easily access their account.

‘Parents and providers experiencing difficulties or needing technical support can phone the childcare service helpline on 0300 123 4097.’

Morgan’s letter makes clear that HMRC’s problems with the childcare services website are likely to be on the list of issues the Treasury committee selects for investigation when it reconvenes in the autumn.

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