In the UK, childcare has become one of the largest expenses working parents have. It is because of this that the government has introduced a number of schemes to help with said costs.
Schemes such as 30-hours free childcare and tax-free childcare have helped many parents reduce the amount being paid toward childcare costs. However, a recent glitch in the government’s system has been causing problems for countless parents.
Indeed, many parents have experienced delays with their payments thanks to a glitch on the government’s Childcare Choices website. This has led to difficulties with, among other things, paying a childcare provider and facing fines for late payments.
While some parents have been unable to process their money and payments, others have been told that payments have been made when, in actual fact, they had not.
This is not the first time the scheme has suffered problems. Just over a year ago, some parents had been unable to open accounts while others were able to pay money into their accounts but were then unable to get it back out.
Nicky Morgan, chair of the Treasury Committee at the time, described the website as ‘unfit for purpose’. With more problems occurring, it is likely that MPs will once again be quick with their criticisms, especially when their constituents are left with financial difficulties.
A spokesperson for HMRC said, "We have identified an issue which has resulted in delays to some Tax-Free Childcare payments. We apologise for the inconvenience that this has caused to parents and providers. The affected payments have been processed. Childcare providers should receive payments on 7th November and we have contacted those affected by email."
Some parents were left angry after not being made aware of the problems. For example, one such parent, Felicity Hannah, only discovered the website had a glitch when her childminder called to say she had not been paid.
The mother of three said, "I use tax-free childcare each month to make payments to my childminder, my nursery and my after-school clubs. HMRC hadn't let me know that there had been any issues at all and then yesterday my childminder messaged me to tell me that I had not paid her, which was embarrassing."
Ms Hannah went on to say, "I checked my tax-free childcare account and the money was showing as paid, so I rang the tax-free childcare helpline and the woman cheerfully told me that there was a glitch, that loads of payments were delayed and that she had been taking calls about it all morning. She told me it would take 'one or two more days' but did not give me any specifics.”
Ms Hannah was upset that no one had informed her of the issue. She said that had she known about it, she could have arranged to pay her childminder herself. She also mentioned that had her childminder known, then she could have ‘taken steps to manage her own personal finances’.
She added, "But there has been no contact from HMRC at all. I tweeted about the issue and I've had replies from people and businesses who are in overdrafts and taking out loans because their payments haven't come through."
With more and more people moving on to the new tax-free childcare scheme after the closure of the Childcare Vouchers scheme, there are fears that more problems will occur. Ms Hannah said, "This is particularly worrying because more and more people are supposed to be moving onto this system rather than childcare vouchers and yet this glitch has happened and has been so badly handled. It is bad enough that there is a problem with the payments but much, much worse that they haven't bothered to tell anyone."