Mhairi Black MP: Concentrix tax credits ‘shambles’ must never happen again

Thousands of families faced financial hardship after their vital tax credit payments were wrongly stopped.

SNP MP Mhairi Black has called for new legislation to ensure that the UK government’s tax credit shambles – where thousands of families faced hardship after their vital tax credit payments were cut off without warning or good cause by HMRC contractor Concentrix – can never happen again.

Concentrix was employed by HMRC to cut error and fraud in the tax credit system but the contract was scrapped when the company faced a number of criticisms over its practices, especially relating to the number of families who were stripped completely of their payments when no error had been made.

According to a recent Work and Pensions Committee report, out of the 59,000 cases where Concentrix tried to reduce or stop payments, 36,000 appealed and an overwhelming 87% of those had their complaints upheld.

And while it is welcome that the UK government has since pledged to review the remaining 23,000 cases where payments were stopped, Mhairi Black MP is calling on the Tory government to legislate to ensure that the shambles is never allowed to happen again.

Mhairi Black MP said: “While it is welcome that all remaining cases where payments were stopped or frozen altogether will now be investigated it is appalling that it has taken so long for the UK government to admit its failings when it comes to Concentrix.

“Especially when so many low-income families rely on these payments to get through the month.

“The practices used by Concentrix are certainly questionable but the real blame lies with this Tory government who came up with a model which indiscriminately targeted low-income families – a way of working which placed the burden of their failing austerity agenda firmly on the shoulders of those most disadvantaged in our society.

She added: “Ultimately, the blame lies with the Tories and they must show that they have learned their lesson by legislating to ensure that this kind of scandal is never repeated.

“The Treasury needs to urgently reconsider the ongoing policy of downsizing HMRC as it is clear that these offices and resources are needed to properly notify claimants, provide support for queries and ensure that vulnerable individuals are not stripped of support.

“The evidence heard by the Work and Pensions Committee laid bare the real hardship families endured as a result of this utter shambles and the UK government must apologise fully for the agony it has caused.”

This is an official press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP).