MP steps in to tax credit row

Carrick’s MP said this week that benefits claimants had their tax credits stopped by private US firm Concentrix and were accused of having relationships with family members.

Local MP Corri Wilson said she had spoken to single parents in Carrick who were accused of being married to their children and one woman who was supposed to be having a relationship with her father.

The SNP MP has welcomed the decision by the UK Government not to renew its contract with US firm Concentrix following revelations this week that the company were indiscriminately stopping people’s tax credits and accusing them of fraud with no basis in reality.

HMRC employs US firm Concentrix to identify cases of benefit fraud on a results-only basis, which appears, said Ms Wilson, to have led to the company sending random ‘phishing’ letters to low income families on tax credits accusing them of committing fraud and then cutting off benefits without warning.

The revelations came as a flurry of local residents approached Ms Wilson for help after their tax credits were stopped. Constituents were left with nowhere else to turn after calls to the company went unanswered.

Corri Wilson MP said: “It is welcome that the Tax Credit fraud and over-payment contract will not be renewed with Concentrix. With millions of low and middle income families in receipt of tax credits, these indiscriminate accusations were causing real distress and hardship.

“I have had constituents contacting me over the past few weeks in dire need because Concentrix had concocted some spurious reason to stop their money.

“I have spoken to single parents who have been accused of being married to one of their children, and one woman who was supposed to be having a relationship with her father. Many people weren’t even given an explanation, with some spending hours on hold to the company, only to be cut off.

“The Concentrix contract was designed to save £1 billion in fraud and overpayment, but when you privatise the welfare state you inevitably find that the bottom line is more important than people’s lives and, in this case, more important than the truth.”

Treasury minister Jane Ellison said: “Concentrix have not been providing the high levels of customer service that the public expect and which are required in their contract. HMRC has therefore given notice that this contract will not be renewed beyond its end date in 2017.”