Tax Credits - these claims are no joke

The government is keen to cut the benefits bill, but employing a company that insists the dead are cohabiting with tax credits claimants in order to deprive working people of money they rely on to feed their kids is, to say the least, an unreasonable solution.

It might sound laughable, but to many local people that have contacted me in recent weeks about their tax credits claims which have been referred to Concentrix, the company contracted to do investigations on behalf of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, this is no joke.

Concentrix appears to have cut tax credits from hundreds of people because they believe someone else who previously lived at their address is still living there. The problem is that most commonly, the person has never even met the alleged resident, and in at least one case reported nationally, the alleged resident is in fact deceased.

I’ve personally received a great many complaints from local people who have been wrongly accused of living with a partner or who have not received a letter requesting evidence of their circumstances and have had their tax credits stopped as a result. Although I’ve been supporting those people, tax credits are not paid until the lengthy appeals process is completed, leaving people out of pocket for weeks or months.

The problem is widespread. My Labour colleague Louise Haigh MP was told in response to her parliamentary questions that there were nearly 6,000 mistaken reductions to claims in the ten months from October to August.

Sadly, the relentless pursuit of parents who are trying their best to work hard and raise a family is not the only example of companies employed by the government that again and again have put private profit before the legitimate needs of ordinary working people.

Atos and their assessments for fitness for work is another high profile example of the poor performance and the devastating impact of a private company operating in the public sector. Another I have witnessed first-hand as a former employee of the NHS, is the impact of the privatisation of frontline NHS services, which proved to be damaging for patients, staff and the taxpayer alike.

The government say they are seeking value for money – what frequently transpires is a costly shambles for the taxpayer, an immense amount of stress and hardship for patients, vulnerable disabled people and families, often pushing them into poverty and resulting in services that appear to be accountable to no-one including the UK government.

Please be assured that I will not be letting the government off the hook on this issue. If any local people are experiencing difficulties with Concentrix, or there’s any other matter I may be of assistance with, please let me have the details and I will be happy to help. You can contact my constituency office on 01924 565450 or email paula@paulasherriff.org.uk.

(Originally published in The Press, Friday 30 September 2016)