A botched system upgrade by childcare voucher provider Sodexo has left dozens of parents unable to pay their childminders and nurseries – with some risking late payment fines.
Angry parents left without cash to provide care for their children have taken to social media to vent their frustration at the childcare provider's account and payment-related problems, which began in late November.
Their complaints include:
- Being unable to log in to their childcare voucher account, meaning they can't pay their nursery, nanny, au pair or childminder.
- Childcare payments leaving their accounts but failing to arrive in the care provider's account.
- Childcare-voucher purchases not being credited to parents' accounts.
Parent Danny Woodland-Payne told how he'd been "unable to access my childcare voucher account and pay [my] carer for five weeks" while Arlene O'Connor said Sodexo had taken money "and not passed payment to [the] childcare provider who [is] demanding payment or a late fee applies".
Childcare vouchers allow parents to pay for childcare from their pre-tax salaries, meaning they save money by paying less tax.
Sodexo is one of several firms which help run the schemes on behalf of employers. Employers deduct the cost of the vouchers from their workers' pay packets and pass it on to their scheme provider. Parents can then log in to their account, access their vouchers online and use them to pay childcare professionals who have also signed up to the scheme.
For full info on childcare vouchers and how they could save you money, see our guide.
What are parents saying?
More than 20 parents have contacted Sodexo via Twitter in recent weeks to complain about the account issues:
@SodexoUK_IRE you've taken ££ from us & not passed payment to childcare provider who are now demanding payment from us or a late fee applies— Arlene O'Connor (@arlenemcd27) January 9, 2017
@SodexoUK_IRE what's happening with the childcare vouchers? The lack of contact is beyond a joke. Was told it would be in account yesterday— Michelle Allen (@MKAllenFCA) January 7, 2017
@SodexoUK_IRE I can't access my online account.Childminder £600 down.No response to anything.Where's my money? @MartinSLewis @BBCWatchdog— Emma (@whittotheginger) January 7, 2017
@SodexoUK_IRE when is your childcare voucher issues going to be sorted? Had no probs with AllSave, been with you 2months ¬hing but probs— DebbieNetball (@Netballcoachnow) December 30, 2016
@SodexoUK_IRE how long is your site gonna have issues for I've been unable to access my childcare voucher account and pay me carer for 5 wks— Danny Woodland-Payne (@DannyWoodland) December 22, 2016
Disgusting from @SodexoUK_IRE @BBCWatchdog. Not paid childminder end of November. Not answering daily calls and emails.— Sel (@oh_sel) December 15, 2016
@SodexoUK_IRE what is going on with yr childcare voucher arm? I've been waiting TWO WEEKS to pay my childminder & now phone won't connect.— Nixish (@nsg123) December 13, 2016
@SodexoUK_IRE Still can't log on to my account since your upgrade. I'm now over a week paying my provider & can't get through on phone. 😬😬😬— Nicola Burnett (@MissB0108) December 8, 2016
I'm an affected parent – what can I do?
Sodexo is advising affected customers to email it on email@example.com, stating their name, contact number, post code, ID number and details of their query.
You can also tweet the company using the handle @SodexoBR_UK, or call 0800 328 7411.
Sodexo says it's quadrupled the resources it puts into its customer care teams to address the current issues, and says it aims to resolve most issues over the phone or over email within 48 hours.
However, parents have complained about being unable to reach Sodexo in recent weeks, with the company admitting on 6 January that it had "an extremely high amount of queries coming in".
The Childcare Voucher Providers Association (CVPA) – an industry body of which Sodexo is a founding member – confirmed that parents should contact Sodexo in the first instance regarding any problems they've been having. But if you're not happy with Sodexo's response you can contact the CVPA to register a complaint at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What does Sodexo say?
In a statement given to MoneySavingExpert.com, Sodexo confirmed that a system upgrade had caused "issues with payments and access for a small proportion of our childcare voucher customers". The company first spotted the issues at the end of November.
It added: "As a result of the system upgrade, some of the payments to childcare providers were not correctly processed. However, the majority of any missing payments have now been reimbursed. We are currently assessing whether any other payments are still outstanding and are processing immediate payments as necessary."
The firm said most of its payment issues have now been resolved, but it was still working on restoring affected parents' access to their online accounts.
What if I have to pay my childminder again?
If you consistently fail to pay a childcare provider for their services, there's a risk they could refuse to care for your child, or charge you late payment fees – though we've not been able to confirm whether any parent has been left out of pocket by Sodexo's current issues, and the company says it's now resolved most payment problems.
But if the worst happens and you need to pay again, there are things you can do to try to claim the money back:
- Keep receipts and evidence: Make SURE you get a receipt for any payments you have to make to your childcare provider, along with evidence (such as account statements) of any interest or fees you have to pay if you're forced to use a loan, overdraft or credit card to make the payment.
- Contact Sodexo for a refund: Tell the company you want a full and prompt refund of the fees or payments you were forced to make as a result of the problems. List the refunds you require and provide copies of your receipt and other supporting evidence.
Have you been affected by this issue? Email our news team with your story.