back to article UK taxmen slammed for tech glitches rampant on child benefits website

The UK government's new website intended to provide financial support for parents has been slammed for experiencing ongoing "technical" problems and outages, leaving parents unable to apply for tax-free support. Treasury Committee chair Nicky Morgan has called for answers from HMRC over the performance of the HMRC-run …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    If you're going to go "digital by default" you really do need to show that you've been running the service well for some time and preferably through a few software enhancements. Is it too difficult to realise that if you're providing an important service you can't just dump an unproven load on a server and say "right, everyone use that."?

  2. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Predictable

    It's government. What do you expect?

    1. Refugee from Windows

      Re: Predictable

      Plan to fail, if this worked 100% then they'd be facilitating paying out for child care. If it didn't work properly, was difficult to use, or threw you off just before you hit the submit button that's not a problem as it saves money. Why go to the effort of fixing it?

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Predictable

      Let me guess, outsourced to Crapita?

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: Predictable

        Let me guess, outsourced to Crapita?

        I am slightly surprised that the article does not identify which of the Usual Suspects is at fault this time.

        Enquiring Minds Would Like To Know and all that...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Predictable

          It is, in fact, in the article.

          "the performance of the HMRC-run Childcare Service website."

          Tax-free childcare is one of the first major projects to be delivered by Revenue & Customs Digital Technology Services ltd, the "arms length" private body owned by HMRC that, in theory, delivers the projects they've taken back from the Aspire contract (Capgemini, Fujitsu, Accenture et al).

          In practice it's stuffed full to the gills of junior ex-Capgemini staff and a smattering of contractors padding out the senior roles and has a serious lack of delivery experience as an organisation. It's a legal fiction designed to allow HMRC to pay technology staff technology wages without the public sector pensions exposure. In practice the pay offers they made to existing staff were derisory, with most choosing to jump ship or transfer rather than be TUPEd.

          Shortly after the treasury added insult to injury by ensuring those staff who had taken the offer were then effectively redesignated civil servants and put under the 1% pay cap.

          Put simply, none of the good people work there. And, because it's still really HMRC there's no mechanism to say No or push back on stupid requirements or designs, nor any mechanism to levy financial penalties in case of failure.

          Daft idea all round, frankly.

    3. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Predictable

      "It's government. What do you expect?"

      Quite - have you seen what they pay for IT roles? Circa half the going rate in London at least.

      That probably also explains why they need so many contractors to cope with any type of change...

  3. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Cost overruns don't pay for themselves, you know

    She said:“It is 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."

    I expect that's the plan.

  4. deathchurch

    Don't have kids if you can afford them without any help from others, it really is that simple...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You're right. But people aren't machines and we pay our taxes for this rubbish system.

      Whatever the policy is and whoever it affects there is no excuse for wasting my money (tax) on this. But no doubt it was designed and built by people who do everything they can to avoid tax and national insurance through IR35 and other scams. Maybe you're one of these.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "But no doubt it was designed and built by people who do everything they can to avoid tax and national insurance through IR35 and other scams."

        Do I detect someone who doesn't have the confidence in their ability to succeed as a freelance themselves but still wants to criticise those who do whilst drawing a nice reliable salary?

        Well, don't worry if that's you, the freelancers will look after you.

        You see, your employers have a problem. They have busy spells with lots of requirements and periods when they don't and they can't afford to staff for peak demand with permies and then pay them for nothing when work is slack. They have to match such fluctuations with those due to permies leaving, going off sick, going on holiday and taking parental leave. They may also require specialist skills at short notice that their permies don't have.

        Fortunately they have the fall-back of freelancers who are prepared to operate as a business to take the risks of short term engagements and get taxed as a business and so smooth everything out. The freelancers keep your employers in the game so that they can afford to keep employing those permies who just want a risk free life and yet don't see why anyone taking the risks should be treated differently. The alternative, of course, is that your employers could just get shut of you and outsource their entire IT to the lowest bidder.

        In the context of the current topic HMRC's problem might well be that their attitude has lost them the freelancers they were relying on to build the system. It's another case of having their cake (not carrying the costs and risks of having enough IT employees and relying on freelancers instead) whilst trying to eat it (attempting to tax the freelancers as if they were the employees they don't want to pay).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I am a freelancer that believes we must all pay taxes and national insurance in equal share. It costs me more but I have a clear conscience.

          If freelancers are so independent why do so many complain when business rules start to apply? If you want to play with the big boys you must play by their rules and take the rough with the smooth.

          The government is a business, if you don't like their policies work somewhere else. The government has overpaid for poor quality from freelancers for years as demonstrated by this mess.

          What's your point?

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "I am a freelancer that believes we must all pay taxes and national insurance in equal share. It costs me more but I have a clear conscience.

            If freelancers are so independent why do so many complain when business rules start to apply?"

            So was I before I retired (pace blitheringeejit). If you were replying to me (your not quoting anything makes it difficult to work out who you were replying to - threading hereabouts isn't that clear) all I can say was that I was replying to the previous A/C who seems to think that applying business rahter than employment rules to businesses is a scam.

            Indeed, re-reading that OP the poster seemed to think that IR35 was a scam perpetrated by freelancers. Very odd.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "I am a freelancer that believes we must all pay taxes and national insurance in equal share. It costs me more but I have a clear conscience."

            In other words you are caught by IR35. No one sane pays more taxes than they have to...

        2. Tom Paine Silver badge

          What a well-argued and comprehensive series of justifications for dodging your tax. Well done you. It's almost your patriotic duty, isn't it?

      2. d3vy Silver badge

        "But no doubt it was designed and built by people who do everything they can to avoid tax and national insurance through IR35 and other scams. Maybe you're one of these"

        Ir35 is a tax avoidance scheme?

        Hahaha.

        You don't know what you're talking about do you?

      3. TheVogon Silver badge

        "who do everything they can to avoid tax and national insurance through IR35 and other scams"

        The vast majority are genuine contractors who pay less tax because they carry far more risk. IR35 is a rule to stop that by the way, not a reduction method.

        However yes, there are a few using it as a scam that really are disguised employees. For instance many highly paid BBC employees until recently....

    2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      @deathchurch - So you're not planning to retire, ever? Sure, your pension looks adequate now, but with fewer working-age people around, prices for nursing care, transportation, food... hell, everything that requires people, is going to skyrocket. If you want a stable society that continues for your lifetime, you'd better put some investment in the basic infrastructure to support it: young people.

      1. Blitheringeejit
        WTF?

        Err...

        I'm a freelancer - what's "retire"?

    3. d3vy Silver badge

      "Don't have kids if you can afford them without any help from others, it really is that simple..."

      And if you can afford them but your circumstances change I'll lend you a wood chipper so you can dispose of them.

      1. Tom Paine Silver badge

        Many other, arguably more humane, suggestions for disposing of unwanted biological litter were trialled, tested and proven by the forward looking Scarfolk Council back in the 70s.

        https://scarfolk.blogspot.co.uk/

        ^ great time sink for anyone old enough to remember municipal design aesthetics of the 70s...

    4. Tom Paine Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      The problem isn't the kids

      ...kids come free. It's clothing, feeding, and bringing them up that costs the money. As someone who grew up in the 70s and 80s I thank my lucky stars I've avoided breeding, more by luck than judgement; the costs are way, way higher than I would have assumed. For instance, my GF has to pay over £300 PER TERM for the school bus, which was free in my day. And the volume of trips, clubs, deliberately over-priced monopoly uniform suppliers, etc , means the costs are far higher than I, for one, would have anticipated, say, 15-20 years ago.

      Also bear in mind that the costs are a very moveable feast. Aforesaid GF is stuck living near her elderly parents who refuse to move though one has pretty advanced dementia and the others's getting increasingly wobbly. Unfortunately, back in the mid 60s they had picked a place to live that's now a wretched hive of scum and villainy - bankers, traders, brokers, property developers, all sorts of Range Rover-driving riff-raff. Consequently even though the kids are at state schools. many of their peers have tremendous financial privileges, and it's pretty crap for them to always be the kids who are pitied or excluded for not having a fancy phone, Netflix, TVs in their bedrooms and all the rest. These are not things I would ever have anticipated finding myself paying for, 20 years ago. (And they're not even my kids!)

      Anyway my point is that how much it takes to "afford" kids is as long as a piece of string.

      Icon because although I didn't reproduce, that hasn't helped me avoid catching a bad case of children.

      1. TheVogon Silver badge

        Re: The problem isn't the kids

        "For instance, my GF has to pay over £300 PER TERM for the school bus"

        Maybe an older GF would solve that problem?

    5. RedCardinal

      And what happens if you could afford them when they were born (nice job etc) and subsequently lost your job or became ill and couldn't work any more? Or if you're in a low paid job? Are you suggesting that only rich people can have children?

      So no it really isn't that simple except for dicks like you...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's still in Beta

    I assume this means they're using Agile methods. . It's a pity they are playing with people's lives and livelihoods.

    No wonder those dependent on the state are educationally behind their peers. See BBC for details. The parents won't have enough cash to feed the kids if this continues. Who said IT doesn't matter.

  6. Haku

    The future will be a paperless office they said.

    But you don't need electricity or any knowledge of computers to use a pen & paper.

    Upgrading your pen won't render your paper useless.

    Your pen & paper can't get infected by ransomware.

    Downsides? Reading people''s handwriting and other numerous things you can only do with digitial information (ease of copy/backup/instant distribution to other people etc.)

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The future will be a paperless office they said.

      Additional downside: HMRC would have to employ lots of people to push those bits of paper around. They don't want that; they don't even want enough people to do a proper job of setting up a paperless system.

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