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HMRC responds to Treasury Committee chair over Childcare Service website

David Bicknell Published 04 August 2017

New chair Nicky Morgan asks HMRC permanent secretary Jon Thompson for detailed answers to 12 questions; HMRC apologises inconvenience to parents and childcare providers


New Treasury Committee chair Nicky Morgan has called for answers from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) over the performance of the HMRC-run Childcare Service website.

Morgan has written to HMRC chief executive and permanent secretary Jon Thompson requesting detailed information to a series of questions on the issue, “in preparation for any Treasury Committee consideration of this matter.”

It follows what Morgan says are “reports” of problems with the website, through which parents access the government’s tax-free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare schemes. Morgan said the reports were of customers struggling to access help in solving the problems encountered.

Morgan asked for information on 12 areas, including:

  • The number of users who have successfully completed an application for a childcare service account split by which service they use
  • The number of users who have started an application, but not returned to it for more than a) one week b) two weeks c) three weeks d) four weeks or more
  • The number of complaints made about the website’s service, and a breakdown showing the nature of the complaint
  • The number of calls to the website's helpline, and a breakdown of the reason for the call
  • The average wait-time for accessing the helpline; the proportion of calls abandoned before being answered; the average length of answered calls; and the proportion of callers making repeat calls to the helpline
  • The number of people who have been unable to access their childcare service account
  • The amount of compensation paid to those unable to use the site to pay childcare providers
  • The latest RAG status of the Tax-Free Childcare project

Commenting on the correspondence, 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.”

In a statement, an HMRC spokesperson told Government Computing , “Government childcare support will cut thousands of pounds off bills for millions of households, supporting parents to return to or remain in work.

“More than 180,000 parents have successfully applied for a childcare account. 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.”

It is understood that Thompson will respond to Nicky Morgan’s letter directly in due course.

HMRC pointed out that the government is on track to deliver 200,000 codes by September 1, adding that parents can check what childcare support is available on the Childcare Choices website, where they can also access the childcare calculator to see which offer is most suitable.

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