The Childcare Voucher Providers Association, which obtained the figures from the Treasury a fortnight ago, estimates that the number of childcare providers that have signed up to Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) is equivalent to a third of the total number of registered childcare providers in the UK - around 30,000 providers.
The most recent Ofsted statistics show that as of 31 December 2016, there were 70,900 nurseries and childminders registered with Ofsted in England.
Given the figures, which have been released less than a week after parents could start applying for the scheme, the CVPA has warned that many parents who sign up for it could be 'left in the lurch' if their childcare provider has not registered for it.
HMRC, which is delivering the scheme along with the Treasury and Department for Education, said it was unable to confirm the number of providers that have signed up to TFC because of the upcoming election. However, in March HMRC told Nursery World that more than 20,000 childcare providers had signed up to TFC and it anticipated the number to rise as the launch of the scheme drew closer.
The Treasury is currently unable to advertise the scheme in the run-up to the general election.
The CVPA is now renewing its call for the Government to keep childcare vouchers open alongside Tax-Free Childcare instead of closing the scheme to new entrants in April 2018.
Existing users of vouchers will be able to continue to use them after April 2018, but only if they stay in the scheme and with their current employer.
Jacquie Mills, chair of the CVPA (pictured), said, 'There are winners and losers with both schemes (childcare vouchers and TFC), which is why it is best to have both running so parents can chose which is best for them and have the option to switch between them.
'Under current plans, after April 2018, parents who leave the voucher scheme to use TFC won't be able to re-join vouchers if they change their mind, their circumstances change or they find their childcare provider has not registered for TFC.
'It is concerning that just 30,000 childcare providers have signed up to TFC, and because of the upcoming election, the Treasury is unable to advertise the scheme. I suspect a large proportion of that number are nurseries that are part of large chains as it is unlikley childminders would have pre-registered for TFC.'
HMRC was unable to reveal to Nursery World the number of parents that have so far signed up to the scheme. The Government has said it expects that only half of eligible parents - around one million - to sign up to TFC.
To qualify for the scheme, parents have to be in work and earning at least £120 a week and no more than £100,000 per parent per year. TFC is open to workers on the minimum wage and the self-employed.
The Treasury has confirmed that mothers on maternity leave can still claim TFC for existing children.