Concentrix To Be Scrapped: Why your tax credit situation could improve in the near future
We deal with people every day who say that they are being unfairly investigated for benefit fraud. It’s a sad reality of the tax credit system that many errors are made, and people are often wrongly accused of lying about their circumstances and financial positions. It has been claimed in recent months that the blame for a large proportion of these errors lies at the feet of a company called Concentrix.
If you’re unfamiliar with this name then you’ve come to the right place, because it’s our job as legal professionals to make sure you stay up to date with everything that could affect your living situation. Put simply, Concentrix are a multi-billion-pound American business that are currently contracted by HM Revenue and Customs to investigate alleged benefit fraud. The point which has always been hugely controversial about their contract, is that they are paid on a results basis, or rather, when they cut the tax credit bill. This means that the company actually profits from stopping payments to those on benefits.
This of course begs the question as to what methods they use to stop people’s benefits, and whether there is a fair investigation. Many MPs have recently argued that it is not the case, and as of this month, the HMRC has stated that they will not be renewing their contract with them. If this all sounds like news to you, then read on to find out exactly who’s lives Concentrix have been affecting.
Why have Contentrix been in the media?
Aside from the controversy surrounding their contractual terms, the main reason this name has been hitting the headlines is due to their supposedly brutal tactics in order to ‘hit their targets’ for those prosecuted for benefit fraud. Many thousands of people have claimed that they have had their benefits randomly cut off with no explanation, only to find that it is some bizarre error.
In the case of single mother Michelle Crutchley, for example, her weekly payments of £117 were stopped after Concentrix claimed that another woman was sharing her house. Ms Crutchley had never even heard of the woman, and was worried that she would not be able to feed her nine-year-old son and three-year-old daughter, or pay her rent. She told the press: “I called the HMRC Tax Credits helpline and they advised me my claim was closed. I asked why, and they replied ‘We wrote to you some time ago and asked you for information and you didn’t reply’. This was news to me – I did not receive such a letter.”
In a second call to the HMRC, Ms Crutchley was told to complete a “mandatory reconsideration appeal”, involving a stack of paperwork including bank statements, tenancy agreements, utility bills and so on. She continued: “I started to cry down the phone. I didn’t understand what was going on – I’ve done nothing wrong.”
In another case, Concentrix accused a man of being married to his sister; David Waywell wrote an entire article about the company seemingly assumed they were married due to both having the same last name, and halted his Working Tax Credit claim as a result of the “discovery”. Then there’s the story of Graham Holden, a single parent from Perthshire, who relied on his weekly £86 as a top-up to his wages. His benefits were suddenly cut because of false accusations that he was living with his partner, but it was then discovered that the woman was simply the previous tenant of his house.
What’s been done to help people?
Concerns about Concentric grew to such a climax within Scottish Parliament that MPs were noting how thousands of their constituents on low incomes were being unfairly hounded by the company, and even accused them of cheating the benefits system before cutting their tax credits completely without warning. This of course caused a huge amount of anxiety and hardship amongst those households; given that a reversal of the decision requires a lot of paperwork and legal understanding, not to mention the time involved when these families had nothing to live off, it pushed many to the poverty line.
One such SNP MP, Chris Law, recently spoke out in the Commons: “Every single day in my constituency, I have low-income workers getting in touch after their tax credit support is wrongly, and without warning, stopped by Concentrix – an American company contracted by HMRC, paid on a payment by results model. In short, commission. At this point, 12% of all enquiries in my office are about this very issue. Will you commit to an urgent debate on this matter before more people experience this harsh and brutal situation?”
With all this in mind, it is not surprising that the Government responded accordingly, and according to recent reports, although the firm still has an active contract until May 2017, the Government announced that they will not be renewing the contract.
In a statement to the press, Jon Thompson, Chief Executive of the HMRC, stated: “While it’s right that we ensure that tax credits customers only receive the money to which they’re entitled, it is vital that those customers have a high level of service. That’s why we have decided not to extend our contract with Concentrix and HMRC is redeploying 150 staff so that customers can get through to advisers and resolve any issues about their claim.”
What can I do?
This move proves that the Government is well aware of the problems claimants have been experiencing. If any of the above stories sound similar to your own, or if you think you’ve been treated unfairly, then the best thing you can do is to seek legal advice.
In the case of Michelle Crutchley, she was crying down the phone out of frustration and worry at the thought of not being able to pay her bills and feed her children. In such circumstances as these, people are understandably very emotional and can easily be goaded by these companies via telephone. By having a professional representative do the talking for you, it relieves the stress and upset so that you can focus on your family.
No matter what your concern with benefits, whether you’re being investigated for fraud or you think there’s been an error with your payments, it’s vital that you seek legal guidance as soon as possible. The Hylton-Potts team are always on hand to give you professional, jargon-free advice, so don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can give us a call on 020 7381 8111, or email us via [email protected].
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