The details, which have since been removed from the website, which providers and parents must access for Tax-Free Childcare and the 30 hours, appeared on its 'Search for a Childcare Provider' page, despite the fact childminders had not given their permission for the data to be published.
HMRC removed the facility from their website to correct the error, following complaints from affected childminders.
A spokesperson for HMRC said, ‘We have temporarily closed the childcare provider checker, as there was an issue with the system. Our suppliers – NS&I and Atos – are working to rectify this and will re-open the childcare provider checker once it is working as it should. Parents and providers can continue to apply through the service.’
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, who was alerted to the error by its childminder members, said, ‘It is completely unacceptable that confidential childminder data, including details of home addresses, was published on the Childcare Service website, and those affected are absolutely right to be angry at this breach of privacy.
‘While we recognise that HMRC is now working to resolve this issue, it never should have happened in the first place, and it certainly shouldn’t have taken so long for HMRC to finally acknowledge that something had gone seriously wrong.
‘With Tax-Free Childcare already in effect, and just two months until the roll-out of the 30-hour offer, we are still receiving regular reports of problems with the Childcare Service website from both parents and providers. This simply isn’t good enough. Government needs to get a grip on this policy and fast, and so we hope HMRC will be looking to review and address these ongoing issues as a matter of priority.’
It is the latest blunder in a catalogue of errors by the Childcare Service to do with Tax-Free Childcare (TFC), which a number of providers and parents are still unable to sign up to or use.
According to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Elizabeth Truss, ‘As of 22 June 2017, the Tax-Free Childcare helpline has answered over 80,000 phone calls from parents and over 40,000 calls from childcare providers. The average call response time is 4 seconds
‘As of 22 June 2017, almost 50,000 parents had successfully applied for tax-Free Childcare and over 40,000 childcare providers had signed up.’