Parents and carers trying to register for key Government childcare schemes are still encountering technical problems – nearly two weeks after MoneySavingExpert.com first revealed the website was affected by intermittent set-backs.
Update 30 May 2017: Since we first published this story last week we're continuing to get reports from parents of major problems with the site. HMRC says it's aware of the ongoing issues and is still working on fixing them.
The Childcare Service site, run by HM Revenue & Customs, was set up last month to enable eligible parents and carers to apply for tax-free childcare and to receive a planned 30 hours of free childcare a week.
Under the Tax-Free Childcare scheme, parents and carers in England can open a special account to save for childcare costs. For every 80p you deposit, the state adds 20p, up to a value of £2,000 per child per year – see full details in our Childcare Costs Help guide.
However, since the service's launch, many parents have struggled to log on or access parts of the site.
MSE first reported the site's technical problems nearly two weeks ago but many more readers have been in touch to report that they are still encountering issues. These include:
- The service repeatedly experiencing technical difficulties and being told to try again later
- Logins failing to work despite successful applications for a username and password
- Tax-Free Childcare applicants being told they've applied for the planned 30 hours scheme instead
- In the odd case, delays receiving Government top-ups for the Tax Free Childcare scheme
Have you tried using the government's Childcare Service website to apply for help with childcare? Tell us about your experiences by filling in our survey.
What you can do if you're affected
Unfortunately if you're struggling with the new website there's little you can do other than keep trying.
HMRC told us that as the new childcare scheme has been launched as a digital service, you do have to apply online both to open a Tax-Free Childcare account or access the 30 free hours of childcare scheme – it's not possible to do it by phone or post instead.
However if you experience problems using the site you can contact the service helpline on 0300 123 4097.
'The call centre couldn't help me'
Ester Knibbs told us that after four days of trying to log in to the website to apply for the 30 free hours scheme, the site informed her that she had created a tax free childcare account, which she did not want.
Ms Knibbs said: "I rang the new call centre set up for this service and spoke to lady who admitted that there have been so many problems and she couldn't help me, as she didn't know what to do. She passed me through to someone else but this person couldn't help either.
"[I've been] left with no [application for] 30 hours free childcare... and a [Tax Free] childcare account that I won't use."
Katie Downward from Walsall told MSE that she had experienced delays in receiving Government top-ups through the Tax-Free childcare scheme.
Ms Downward said that payments had been delayed for weeks as a technical problem made it appear that she was wrongly ineligible for the scheme.
She said: "I added money to my account before my childcare fees were due on Friday 5 May but no top up was added.
"I called the helpline to inform them and the girl on phone said I wasn't eligible. I disagreed and she contacted another department, who said I was eligible and that it was a glitch on their side. I had no choice but to pay my childcare provider without a top up from the Tax Free Childcare scheme."
Elsewhere, Andy Foote from Bournemouth told how a technical glitch meant he had been unable to complete his online saved application for the planned 30 hours of free weekly childcare – and now had to wait to reapply.
Mr Foote said: "On speaking with the helpline, I asked if they could cancel my saved application. They said it was not possible and I needed to wait 30 days if I wanted to start a fresh. As such I am now forced to wait until early June to reapply."
What does HMRC say?
A spokesman for HMRC apologised to those experiencing difficulties and told MoneySavingExpert that a technical update on Monday night should address some technical issues with the site.
He said: "While the vast majority of customers successfully apply without any issues, we are aware that some parents and childcare providers have been experiencing technical difficulties with the childcare service and we apologise to them.
"We investigate and act on these issues as soon as they're brought to our attention."