Affordable childcare plan could be damaged ‘by slow uptake of online accounts’

Ministers warned over lack of engagement with Government’s public services portal

Minister for Children Dr Katherine Zappone with Jessica Shaw and Niamh Finglas from Louth after the Minister launched four new childcare reports on Thursday. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Children Dr Katherine Zappone with Jessica Shaw and Niamh Finglas from Louth after the Minister launched four new childcare reports on Thursday. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

A slow uptake in people using the Government’s online portal for accessing public services risks damaging key initiatives such as the affordable childcare scheme, the Cabinet has been warned.

Ministers have been told that only 200,000 people have a verified MyGovID account, which is the portal designed to access public services online.

This compares to 2.86 million people who hold a public services card.

This, the Cabinet has been told, presents a significant risk to parents accessing the online version of the affordable childcare scheme when it launches next year.

A memo says this could lead to “delays, frustration and criticism” focusing on the affordable childcare scheme.

At present, universal subsidies are available to all children, with targeted, higher payments for lower-earning families. The payments are processed through childcare providers but it is intended, from October 2019, that parents will register for the subsidies themselves through a dedicated website.

Transition period

There will be a transition period of two months where both the existing registration and the new scheme will be operational.

A memo to this week’s Cabinet meeting from Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, however, warned of the challenges ahead due to the poor participation levels in MyGovID.

The online childcare scheme had “complete dependence on MyGovID as the sole online authentication method for applicants”.

While there will be a manual application process, “the scheme is being designed as a largely online, automated and user-friendly process, and people will only be able to apply online with a verified MyGovID account”.

“MyGovID population coverage rates are currently low (2.86 million people have a public services card but only circa 200,000 have a verified MyGovID account), although the uptake rate is accelerating,” the memo adds.

“The consequence of this is that, unless the numbers rise very significantly, many people may find themselves effectively locked out of the online version of the affordable childcare scheme when it launches.”

Mobile phones

Even if applicants do have a public services card, some people will have to attend at local Intreo offices to register their mobile phones to access a MyGovID account.

“If they do not complete the verification process ahead of time, it could significantly lengthen the application process and is likely to result in delays, frustration and criticism centring on the affordable childcare scheme.

“It could also create a sudden surge in demand for the public services card and MyGovID service.”

The memo adds that significant information campaigns will be needed in the first half of next year to drive take-up for the MyGovID service and ensure the online affordable childcare scheme works as intended.

Concerns

In the past, privacy campaigners have expressed concerns about the public services card and the MyGovID service card, such as fears they were establishing a national identity database.

However, the Government says the card was introduced to facilitate ease of access to public services, that it helps providers to identify their customers to the highest level of assurance, and that it helps prevent fraud.

The MyGovID system also aimed to easy access to public services and clamp down on fraud.