Victims of Concentrix tax credits shambles receive almost £87,000 in compensation

Tax credit claimants who had payments wrongly stopped by fraud-busting firm Concentrix have received almost £87,000 in compensation from HM Revenue and Customs, a report has revealed.

Some 35,000 people whose tax credits were cut off or changed by US operator Concentrix later had their cases overturned on appeal, a report published today by the National Audit Office (NAO) spending watchdog has found – almost a third of the 108,000 total.

Many of those left out of pocket when payments ended then struggled to reach Concentrix to discuss the problem, the report added.

By mid-December last year, HMRC had paid out £86,815 in compensation payments to claimants mishandled by Concentrix, including almost £68,000 for worry and distress caused.

The tax credit administration shambles emerged last August when large numbers of claimants told how their payments were being adjusted or stopped by Concentrix – in many cases because it mistakenly suspected them of living with a partner. In one particularly bizarre case, a woman was reportedly left reliant on food banks after the firm accused her of cohabiting with 19th century philanthropist Joseph Rowntree.

What was Concentrix hired to do?

In November 2014, Concentrix was hired by HMRC to reduce fraud and error in the tax credit system as part of a three-year deal. But the deal was brought to an early end just two years later as a result of the problems.

During the two-year life of the contract, Concentrix saved the Government less than a fifth of the £1 billion in savings originally estimated. The contractor was already failing to meet half its targets less than a year into the deal, the NAO said.

In light of the problems, HMRC has now vowed not to outsource tax credit investigations again and will instead keep them in-house.

What does the report say?

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HMRC wanted new contract with tax credits firm despite being ‘well aware’ of its blunders, MPs say

The tax authority is condemned for being a willing accomplice with Concentrix, as the contractor wrongly swiped payments from thousands of vulnerable people.

Tax chiefs sought a fresh contract with a US firm despite being “well aware” that its blunders were plunging tax credit claimants into poverty, a report reveals.

HM Revenue and Customs is condemned for being a willing accomplice with Concentrix, as the contractor wrongly swiped payments from thousands of vulnerable people.

Concentrix was hired by HMRC to root out fraud and error in the tax credit system and stop payments to claimants who were not entitled to them.

But a staggering 90 per cent of people who appealed against losing their tax credits won their cases – a figure described as “extraordinary” by the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee.

Its report accuses both Concentrix and HMRC of setting ‘strike rates’ to stop tax credits, causing people to suffer “humiliating hardship and debt” and sending many to food banks.

The firm was “incentivised” to claw back as much as it could for the Treasury – with a cut to a claimant’s benefits being described as a “strike”.

However, the MPs also expose HMRC for negotiating a new contract until just four days before the scandal forced it to pull the plug on Concentrix – and for giving misleading evidence.

Frank Field, the committee’s Labour chairman, condemned the pain caused by a “cut first, think later” strategy.

He said: “The damage caused to families’ living standards by this ‘strike rate’ is still being felt by my constituents needing to rely on food banks while their claims are reinstated.

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Tax credit error costs families with disabled children £4,400 a year

(I hope someone takes the DWP to court over this – Argotina)

‘Gap in data feed’ led to thousands of families missing up to £20,000 – but payments will only be backdated to April

Thousands of families with disabled children have lost out on up to £4,400 a year in tax credits after an administrative blunder by the authorities.

The error in processing their claims meant an estimated 28,000 families whose children qualified for disability living allowance (DLA) during 2011-14 missed out on an additional tax credit premium of between £60 and £84 a week.

The government revealed in the autumn statement this week that it had set aside £360m over six years to ensure these families receive child disability tax credits in future. However, the payments will be backdated only to April, meaning individual families may have lost out on entitlements totalling up to £20,000 over the past five years.

The non-payment of the tax credit premiums appears to have been a result of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failing to inform HMRC about families’ eligibility for the award over a three-year period.

The charity Contact a Family called for a compensation fund to be set up to help the families, saying it was not their fault that they lost out on what collectively amounted to tens of millions of pounds in entitlements.

“One thing is certain: this isn’t the fault of families. When you tick a box on a government form indicating you are in receipt of tax credits you reasonably expect it’s there for a reason – and there’s a process in place that allows government departments to share this information,” said the charity’s head of policy and public affairs, Una Summerson.

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Disabled single mum fights back tears as she tells MPs of her treatment by tax credits firm Concentrix

Sarah Broome was told to ask for her benefits back in a hand-written letter – despite the fact she has one hand and suffers chronic pain

A disabled single mum fought back tears today as she told MPs of her treatment at the hands of shamed tax credits firm Concentrix.

Sarah Broome, 30, was told to ask for her benefits back in a hand-written letter – despite the fact she has one hand and suffers chronic pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.

The mum-of-two told MPs her tax credits were stopped in August after she was “financially connected” to a person she had never heard of.

She spent 19 hours and 57 minutes on the phone to the US outsourcing firm in six weeks – including one day when she was blocked by an engaged tone 70 times.

Eventually she got through to an advisor but was told she could not send a letter using a dictation service.

Ms Broome told MPs: “I said ‘I can’t write because my hand shakes. How do you expect me to write this letter by hand?’

“They told me ‘well, you are just going to have to get someone else to write it for you’. They were the exact words.

“I cried all day after that phone call and it’s been very emotional. My one-year-old and my four-year-old have seen me cry.”

She added: “This has consumed my life and my family’s life.”

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Concentrix and the Tax Credit scandal

This is from my facebook feed this morning.
“I have a concern regarding sorting out getting swept up in a Concentrix fishing expedition that has currently stopped my Tax Credits, before I get moved to Universal Credit.

Basically I am being asked to provide a mountain of paperwork to prove I am single (I have been for over 10 years!). I finally managed to get them to tell me who it was they believed was my partner – turns out I have to prove I’m not with my ex-husband, divorced 7 years ago, he’s remarried and has two kids. Apparently my decree absolut isn’t good enough proof!

I don’t even know where he lives or how to contact him but find myself in the position of possibly needing to buy a copy of my ex-husband’s current marriage certificate to stop this farce. Based on how many people I know who were sent out questionaires & who are also being made to jump through ridiculous hoops to be believed, I’m convinced this is a pure fishing expedition designed to make us all give up & go away.

How laughable – like anyone who didn’t really need this money would put themselves through this system in the first place. Utter ***tards.”

Tax agency accused mother of living with 19th-century quaker

The woman, who lives in a property provided by the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, received a letter accusing her of being in a relationship with Joseph Rowntree

A single mother had to go to a food bank and feared that she would lose her home after Concentrix, the agency that checks tax credits, claimed that she was cohabiting with Joseph Rowntree, the 19th-century Quaker philanthropist.

The woman, who lives in a property provided by the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, now a housing association, received a letter accusing her of being in a relationship with Rowntree. Rowntree died in 1925. She then found that her other benefits had been affected. Officials told her that she had to go through a lengthy appeal process.

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US firm hired by HMRC ‘wrongly cutting tax credits from the poor’

MPs have been deluged with protests from low-income families that an American company hired by HM Revenue and Customs to root out tax credit cheats are wrongly cutting their payments.

Ministers face demands to tear up the contract with Concentrix, and MPs will press for an emergency debate in the Commons this week.

Frank Field, the chairman of the work and pensions select committee, said: “Decent people’s lives have been turned upside down as a result of Concentrix stopping their claim.”

The company, which is part of a multi-billion pound business services group, secured its contract when HMRC outsourced fraud and error detection.Critics have alleged that staff are under pressure to open large numbers of new tax credit investigations every day and cut corners in double-checking claims. They allege that families facing sanctions have to gather large numbers of documents to correct mistakes, and MPs trying to intervene on their behalf find it difficult to contact the company.

In one case passed to i , a Dundee woman was told she had incorrectly claimed as a single mother as she had a partner. Concentrix had investigated the wrong address. Before the mistake was rectified she lost her home.

In another, a claimant from Merseyside lost her credits while in hospital giving birth. She was told she did not live alone, even though the person cites lived elsewhere.

Mr Field said the cases he had encountered raised the “troubling prospect of large numbers of low-paid families being left penniless for weeks and weeks and weeks as a result of Concentrix’s actions”. He told i : “It has become a recruiting sergeant for food banks.”

He called for an inquiry into the company’s performance by the Treasury, which oversees HMRC, and the Department for Work and Pensions.