Child­min­ders un­paid af­ter tech­ni­cal glitch

Fam­i­lies Chaos at the gov­ern­ment’s tax-free child­care scheme means many have gone un­paid, writes

The Guardian - - MONEY - Rupert Jones

Child­min­ders across the UK were left un­paid this week fol­low­ing a tech­ni­cal glitch at the gov­ern­ment’s tax-free child­care scheme, which meant some were up to £1,000 out of pocket.

Iona, a child­min­der, tweeted: “Take par­ents’ money but don’t pay providers, leav­ing us over­drawn! Told noth­ing you can do, just hold tight a cou­ple more days! Gov­ern­ment go­ing to pay par­ents’ late fees? And my bank charges?”

The prob­lems re­late to a high­pro­file scheme in­tro­duced last year where par­ents of un­der-12s can open an on­line ac­count and get up to £2,000 a year for each child to help with child­care costs (see right).

The de­lays of a week or more re­port­edly re­sulted in some child­min­ders go­ing into the red, and could also po­ten­tially mean some par­ents are hit with late pay­ment fees from their child­care provider.

Re­ports emerged on so­cial me­dia that the pay­ments sys­tem crashed or suf­fered a mal­func­tion dur­ing the week be­gin­ning 29 Oc­to­ber – re­sult­ing in many providers not be­ing paid.

On Mon­day, free­lance jour­nal­ist Felic­ity Han­nah tweeted: “The taxfree child­care sys­tem ‘went down’ last week and pay­ments have not been made. My child­min­der has been left with­out her money and I didn’t even re­ceive a no­ti­fi­ca­tion. Helpline says it’s be­ing flooded with calls re­gard­ing this is­sue.”

Mean­while, child­min­der Tracey says she had been left in the dark about when the prob­lems would be sorted out, adding: “I’m owed over £1,000 from three par­ents which, as you can imag­ine, has left me mas­sively in the red.”

Par­ent Kerry says that her child­min­der re­ceived a mes­sage about is­sues with pay­ments. She had paid her child­min­der on 31 Oc­to­ber, but the money had only just landed.

On Tues­day, HM Rev­enue & Cus­toms said it had “iden­ti­fied an is­sue which has re­sulted in de­lays to some tax-free child­care pay­ments”. It added: “We apol­o­gise for the in­con­ve­nience this has caused to par­ents and providers.” It went on to say that the af­fected pay­ments have now been pro­cessed, and providers should have re­ceived their money on 7 Novem­ber.

How­ever, Neil Leitch, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of ed­u­ca­tional char­ity the Pre-school Learn­ing Al­liance, says there are lots of unan­swered ques­tions, such as how many providers and par­ents were af­fected, what fi­nan­cial im­pact has this had, and will HMRC guar­an­tee providers who lost out will be com­pen­sated?

He adds: “The tax-free child­care scheme has strug­gled with tech­ni­cal is­sues since it was rolled out, of­ten mean­ing many par­ents and providers have had to spend in­or­di­nate amounts of time on the phone to the helpline to do the sim­plest of tasks.”

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