LEGISLATION NEEDED TO PROTECT LOW AND MIDDLE INCOME FAMILIES
The SNP have called for new legislation to ensure that the UK government’s tax credit shambles – where thousands of families faced hardship after their vital tax credit payments were cut off without warning or good cause by HMRC contractor Concentrix – can never happen again.
Concentrix was employed by HMRC to cut error and fraud in the tax credit system but the contract was scrapped when the company faced a number of criticisms over its practices, especially relating to the number of families who were stripped completely of their payments when no error had been made.
According to a recent Work and Pensions Committee report, out of the 59,000 cases where Concentrix tried to reduce or stop payments, 36,000 appealed and an overwhelming 87% of those had their complaints upheld.
And while it is welcome that the UK government has since pledged to review the remaining 23,000 cases where payments were stopped, the SNP are calling on the Tory government to legislate to ensure that the shambles is never allowed to happen again.
Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:
“While it is welcome that all remaining cases where payments were stopped or frozen altogether will now be investigated it is appalling that it has taken so long for the UK Government to admit its failings when it comes to Concentrix. Especially when so many low income families rely on these payments to get through the month.
“The practices used by Concentrix are certainly questionable but the real blame lies with this UK Government who came up with a model which indiscriminately targeted low income families – a way of working which placed the burden of their failing austerity agenda firmly on the shoulders of those most disadvantaged in our society.
“My office was contacted by dozens of individuals and families struggling having had their funds stopped in error, causing them significant hardship. I am pleased that we were able to quickly resolve these issues for everyone who got in touch, but there will be many others who didn’t contact me may still be struggling.
“The Treasury needs to urgently reconsider the ongoing policy of downsizing HMRC; it is clear that these offices and resources are needed to properly notify claimants, provide support for queries and ensure that vulnerable individuals are not stripped of critical support.
“The evidence heard by the Work and Pensions Committee laid bare the real hardship families endured as a result of this utter shambles and the UK government must apologise fully for the agony it has caused, and more importantly, take steps with legislation to ensure that this cannot happen again.
“I would encourage anyone who is still having problems with their Tax Credits to contact my office on 0141 952 2988 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will do everything I can to assist.”