As Nursery World has reported, the Childcare Service website, which is run by HMRC, has been plagued with technical glitches since it went live in April, affecting parents’ ability to register for Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours childcare.
In order to receive 30 hours free childcare in September, eligible parents need to have received a code from HMRC by 31 August and take it to their childcare provider to secure a place.
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association, said, ‘We welcome this move to offer compensation and feel that it’s the right thing to do. No-one should lose out on their entitlement. We also add that we urge the Government to deal with claims swiftly, as well as ensuring that the issues are resolved and the system works for everyone as we count down to full roll-out of 30 hours in September.’
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, 'We are glad that the Government has recognised the distress that many parents have experienced due to the ongoing technical glitches affecting the Childcare Services website, and we welcome the offer of compensation to those who have lost out on childcare support as a result.
'It was the Government’s responsibility to ensure the site was fit for purpose prior to being launched, and it’s incredibly worrying that these issues weren’t picked up during testing.
'Ultimately, this situation demonstrates what happens when you do not invest adequately in an ambitious project, and it is hard not to draw parallels with the 30 hour offer.
'We hope that the Government recognises that it needs to adequately fund the required childcare places, as well as investing in the online systems that support the schemes.'
Last week Nicky Morgan, chair of the Treasury Committee, wrote to HMRC demanding answers about the performance of the Childcare Service website.
The letter was in response to the difficulties that many parents have experienced with the website, including numerous technical glitches, an inability to verify parents’ or their child’s details and/or salary, and parents being locked out of their TFC accounts.
Ms Morgan said she had written to chief executive and permanet secretary 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.
Shadow early years minister Tracy Brabin also wrote to Mr Thompson on 4 August with her concerns about the registration process for 30 hour childcare. 'I have been approached by both parents and settings to complain about faults with the online registration system and helpline, which are managed by HMRC,' she wrote. 'Nurseries tell me that if parents don't register in time, their funding will be delayed.'
According to a Freedom of Information request made by the MoneySavingExpert website nearly 947 official complaints had been made about the website between its launch on 21 April and 18 July.
New guidance published on the gov.uk website under the heading ‘Childcare Service Compensation’ states that: ‘If you’ve been unable to access Tax-Free Childcare through your childcare account for technical reasons, you may be able to claim compensation.
‘If you’ve been affected by technical issues, you may be able to get the government top-up as a one-off payment. We’ll also consider refunding any reasonable costs directly caused by the service not working as it should, mistakes or unreasonable delays.’
It says that parents may be eligible for these payments if they have:
- been unable to complete their application for Tax-Free Childcare
- been unable to access their childcare account
- not received a decision about whether they are eligible, without explanation, for more than 20 days.
To make a claim, parents must send HMRC a brief description of the issues they have had, copies of receipts for payments to childcare providers, their full name, home address, National Insurance number, and bank name, account number and sort code.
According to HMRC, more than 180,000 parents have applied successfully for a childcare account, and around 2,000 parents are applying successfully daily.
HMRC says that parents that have already applied for 30 hours free childcare should be able to get their code by signing into their childcare account and selecting ’30 hours free childcare’. The code should start with ‘500’.
HMRC is advising parents that have not been able to complete their application to receive their 30 hours free childcare code for technical reasons to call them on 0300 123 4097.