Treasury Committee chair Nicky Morgan MP has written to the head of HM Revenue & Customs to demand answers on the performance of the troubled Childcare Service website.
The site was set up to help parents apply for the Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours' free childcare schemes, but it's been dogged by technical issues since its launch in April.
Now Morgan has written to Jon Thompson, chief executive and first permanent secretary of HMRC – which runs the site – requesting detailed information about its problems.
Yesterday MoneySavingExpert.com revealed there had been almost 1,000 complaints about the childcare website between its launch on 21 April this year and 18 July.
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How the Childcare Service website works
Parents and carers have to register with the Childcare Service site to access two Government schemes to help with childcare costs:
- Free childcare – Parents in England can register for 30 free hours of childcare.
- Tax-Free Childcare savings scheme – Parents in the UK can open a special account to save for childcare costs. For every 80p you deposit, the state adds 20p, up to £2,000 per child per year – see full details in our Childcare Costs Help guide.
Tax-Free Childcare opened in April to parents of children under four years old, and will be extended to those with older kids later this year.
Morgan: 'Technical issues are concerning'
Former Education Secretary Morgan said: "It's concerning that some parents have struggled to apply for childcare funding due to technical issues with the Government's Childcare Service website.
"To make matters worse, it appears that the Childcare Service helpline, for parents suffering problems with the website, is also experiencing technical difficulties."
In her letter, Morgan demands information such as:
- The proportion of website users receiving error messages (including the message "We're experiencing technical difficulties. We don't know when the service will be available again. Please try again later.").
- The number of hours the website has been down since 1 April 2017, and the dates and times when it has.
- Of the website users completing the feedback form, the proportion stating they were very satisfied, satisfied, neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, dissatisfied, and very dissatisfied.
- The number of complaints made about the website's service, and a breakdown showing the nature of the complaint.
- The number of calls to the website's helpline, and a breakdown of the reason for the call.
- The average wait for the helpline; the proportion of calls abandoned before being answered; the average length of answered calls; and the proportion of callers making repeat calls to the helpline.
- The number of people who have been unable to access their Childcare Service account.
- The amount of compensation paid to parents and carers unable to use the site to pay childcare providers.
HMRC says it will respond to Morgan's letter in due course.
A spokesperson apologised for the inconvenience, but added that more than 180,000 parents have successfully applied for a Childcare Service account.
Parents and providers struggling with the site can phone the Childcare Service helpline on 0300 123 4097.