Government Comes Under Fire Again Following Concentrix Fiasco

A few weeks ago, we brought you the news that the government contract with Concentrix was bring scrapped. To refresh your memory, Concentrix are the multi-billion-pound American business, currently contracted by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), to investigate alleged benefit fraud.

Having received hundreds of complaints about the company from members of the public, regarding everything from their brutal investigation tactics to their questionable methods of “discovering” fraud, the HMRC decided not to renew their contract. However, thanks to a new report released by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the HMRC and Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have once again been the target of criticism.

What’s the report?

According to the report, published at the beginning of this month, both the DWP and HMRC need far clearer plans in place if they’re going to reduce fraud and error in benefit and tax credit systems. Plus, the PAC also attacked the nationwide roll-out of Universal Credit, which it seems has again been subject to delays, meaning that it won’t be fully rolled out until March 2022.

There are many people who would rejoice at this news, as we wrote some time ago about the negative effects that Universal Credit can have on households across the UK. Some families will be worse off as a result, which is why we urge everyone to apply for their benefits now to ensure they receive the maximum amount that they are entitled to until Universal Credits are introduced to their region.

However, the PAC were quick to highlight the negative impact upon government services that such delays would have. For example, there would be additional operational costs, extra pressure placed upon staff, and of course stress placed upon claimants having to use new systems that have not been properly trialled.

Meg Hillier, Chair of the PAC, commented: “Introducing Universal Credit and tackling fraud and error are significant challenges for the government, with serious implications for the lives of many people. HMRC must do more to safeguard the interests of claimants as part of its strategy to address fraud and error, and we will expect to see effective measures in place as a matter of urgency.”

By getting rid of Concentrix, the DWP and HMRC have made significant steps forward in tackling benefit fraud and system error, as this will help to reduce the number of people having to go back and forth trying to rectify mistakes. However, the report clearly shows the importance of the government’s need to make progress. In fact, the PAC remarked that neither the DWP nor HMRC had set meaningful targets to tackle fraud and error, interpreted as “a lack of confidence in and commitment to their own efforts to improve”.

What are the key points?

We’ve put together a brief summary for you of the key points from the PAC report, so you can better understand the challenges facing the government amongst all the jargon and media hype.

Put simply, the PAC considered two areas: the implementation of Universal Credit and efforts to reduce fraud and error in the benefits and tax credits systems. You can check out the full report here, but the main findings were as follows:

  • The Government’s response to the recommendations made in reports from 2015 were weak, and the PAC “were not convinced that either department was doing enough to address [our] concerns”
  • The departments need clearer plans to reduce fraud and error in areas such as cohabitation and claimants pretending to live in the UK who live abroad
  • The DWP stated further delays to the roll-out of Universal Credit, expected to be completed in March 2022; there are concerns that staff are using underdeveloped systems, that they would be pressured, that there would be high additional operational costs, and that there will be problems for claimants who pay their rent in four-weekly periods
  • Fraud and error in the payment of benefits and tax credits remains a significant problem for both the HMRC and the DWP, yet there has been no real change in the level of fraud and error since the last reports in 2015.

Commenting on these findings, Meg Hillier, Chair of the PAC, added: “Reviews like this are a vital tool in holding Government to account for progress on such complex projects. They also serve to focus the attention of officials on delivering results for service users. The recent meltdown in performance of HMRC’s contractor Concentrix highlights just how important it is to keep progress in the spotlight.

“When we took new evidence from HMRC on 26 October, the department’s Chief Executive and Permanent Secretary admitted there had been a ‘fundamental failure of basic customer service’ from Concentrix and HMRC had to step in to sort out the mess. It is completely unacceptable that benefits claimants should be left in the position of being unable to pay for their daily needs.”

Where does it all leave me?

Of course, the government defended its current record with regard to fraud and error, pointing out that the Universal Credit system had been rolled out successfully in several regions. A spokesperson said: “The reality is, fraud and error in the benefits system is at a record low, reflecting the work we are doing to improve detection, prevention and recovery, in order to protect taxpayers’ money.”

Mistakes still happen though. Over the past few years, we’ve helped many hundreds of people who were unjustly caught up in the Concentrix system. Some were falsely accused of fraud under the most bizarre of circumstances, so no matter how strange your situation might seem, we can help.

A hidden ticked box or crossed word somewhere in the system could be causing you a world of pain, but it’s important to get in touch with us as soon as possible so we can get in touch with the right people and assess your claim. You can call us on 020 7381 8111, or email us at [email protected].

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