A lack of internet access could prevent thousands of parents across the UK from taking advantage of the government's new childcare tax break, according to a report.
The admission came in a letter to MPs from exchequer secretary Priti Patel, leaked to the Independent on Sunday, which estimated that around nine per cent of eligible parents do not have access to the internet, meaning they cannot complete the online-only application process for this benefit.
To be introduced next year, the new childcare tax break is one of the coalition's flagship policies, but nearly 200,000 families could be set to miss out due to the online requirement.
Ms Patel's letter said: "HM Revenue and Customs is committed to helping people use its services online and will make assisted digital options available for those currently not able to access the internet."
However, the government has come under criticism for establishing this barrier to access, with Catherine McKinnell, a shadow Treasury minister, saying: "It's outrageous that nearly one in ten parents who don't have access to the internet could lose out. Ministers need to fix this."
This latest development underlines the fact that broadband is increasingly becoming an essential commodity in 21st century Britain, as those without a sufficiently speedy connection are starting to miss out on key products and services.
A recent survey carried out by Direct Line Home Insurance has revealed the web is now seen as the essential day-to-day comfort most Brits could not live without, with one in eight people claiming they would struggle to go an hour without access to the net or their mobile phone.
Meanwhile, an industry coalition called Broadband 100 recently voiced the opinion that broadband access should now be considered a human right. However, not everyone is able to access high-speed services due to the remote location of their rural homes - a group for whom satellite broadband can offer a valuable potential solution.