HMRC faces probe on Childcare Service website failings
New Treasury Select Committee chair demands core performance details after reported problems
Nicky Morgan Credit: PA
HM Revenue and Customs has been warned that it could be subjected to a probe into reported failings with a website that helps parents access government funding to help with childcare costs.
New Treasury Select Committee chair Nicky Morgan today published a letter to HMRC permanent secretary and chief executive Jon Thompson requesting core performance data on the Childcare Service website, which is run by the non-ministerial department.
The website is the main access point for the government’s Tax Free Childcare scheme, which offers up to £2,000 a year per child in support for parents, as well as provides details on entitlement to the government's flagship pledge of 30 hours of free childcare.
- HM Revenue & Customs gets new drubbing over Concentrix failures
- Pro-Remain Tories elected to chair powerful select committees
- HMRC blames Concentrix debacle for fraud-reduction problems
But in recent months service users have complained of being effectively locked out of the site and directed to an error message saying: “We're experiencing technical difficulties. We don't know when the service will be available again. Please try again later.”
Some service users have said the issues have left them unable to access funding they need to pass on to nurseries, and caused them to incur late payment fines; others have complained about being unable to complete an application.
Concerns have also arisen in relation to HMRC’s ability to support service users seeking help to resolve the problems they encounter.
In her letter to Thompson, committee chair Morgan asks for details of the number of successful applications for Childcare Service accounts and information on the number of users who have started applications but not returned to them for periods of a week or more, as well as on accounts that have been deactivated.
She is also calling for figures on the proportion of website users who receive error messages, the number of hours the website has been down since the beginning of April this year, and for details on the number of failed applications.
Additionally, Morgan wants to know a breakdown of calls to the service’s helpline, average waiting times and numbers for abandoned calls.
She warned Thompson that information was being requested “in preparation for any potential Treasury Committee consideration of this matter”.
“It’s concerning that some parents have struggled to apply for childcare funding due to technical issues with the government’s Childcare Service website,” she said.
“To make matters worse, it appears that the Childcare Service helpline, for parents suffering problems with the website, is also experiencing technical difficulties.”
Last year MPs put HMRC through multiple grillings for failings with an outsourced fraud and error-checking service for tax credits that left significant numbers of people with their benefits suspended and a helpline service that was unable to cope with their remonstrations.
Watchdog MP Meg Hillier slams two-year time-lag that has seen millions of pounds spent on...
Post-implementation evaluation admits many employers see new system as a burden
HMRC staff reviewed 73,000 stopped or amended tax-credit claims and closed a further 181,000...
DWP, HMRC, DCMS and Cabinet Office staff win 2017 Reimagine Challenge for joined-...
One in four workers in the UK has financial worries. In this article, Elaine Jefferys, Money...
While some civil servants are tech savvy, others lack the skills to embrace 21st-century ways of...
Microsoft shows a few of the ways that governments can turn data into insight
Microsoft reviews the technology that can help police officers perform their jobs more...