The government has delayed fully rolling out the tax-free childcare system until March 2018.
Ministers made the announcement after parents encountered technical difficulties following the launch of the government’s Childcare Choices website in April 2017.
More than 275,000 parents have opened a childcare account since the website was launched and, of these, over 216,000 parents received an eligibility code for 30 hours’ free childcare in September.
But ministers recognise that not all parents experienced the same level of service when using the website, with some encountering delayed decisions over their eligibility for the scheme.
Eligible parents originally had until the end of the year to join the scheme, which sees the government put in 20p for every 80p parents pay in childcare – up to the value of £2,000 a year.
The staggered service will initially be open to parents whose youngest child is under 6 or who has their 6th birthday on 24 November 2017.
Mel Stride, financial secretary to the Treasury, said:
“While the majority of parents used the childcare service without significant problems, some parents experienced technical issues.
“Over the coming months, we will gradually open the childcare service to parents of older children.
“This means we can manage the volume of applications going through the service, so parents continue to receive a better experience and prompt eligibility responses when they apply – almost all parents receive a response within 5 working days, and most get their decision instantly.”
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