People in Sheffield have had their tax credits stopped without valid reason as a city MP continues to spearhead a campaign to hold those responsible to account.
Sheffield Heeley MP, Louise Haigh has hailed a 'victory' after the HMRC said it would not be renewing the Concentrix contract - a U.S firm who have issued tax credits on behalf of the HMRC for the last two years.
The payment-by-results contract was contracted out by the Government for £75m in 2014 on a three year contract and has since then been beset by difficulties. It is expected to have pursued up to 2 million cases throughout the contract.
People across the country have contacted the Sheffield MP after she issued a ‘call for evidence’ and she has received stories from hundreds of people including arbitrary cancellation of payments without proof, phantom letters which recipients never receive and accusations that they are in relationships with people they have never heard of or who are dead.
Some contacting Ms Haigh , many single parents, said they are having to 'skip meals' or 'keep their kids back from school because they cannot afford the uniform' because their tax credits have been wrongly cancelled.
Ms Haigh has tabled a wave of Parliamentary Questions on the operation of the 'shadowy company' and said she was 'delighted' the HMRC has pulled the plug on the firm.
It's been revealed Concentrix has breached their performance standards on no fewer than 120 instances since just October 2015. The contract had been running since May 2014.
And in the Commons last week, Ms Haigh called for an 'urgent debate' so MPs can call on the Government to urgently review the contract. Responding, the Government Minister said Concentrix’s performance had been “clearly unacceptable”.
Speaking before the HMRC decision to drop the firm, Ms Haigh said: “Concentrix are operating with callous indifference to the thousands of people they are plunging into hardship including many here in Sheffield.”
“This is a failing contract and a firm clearly not fit to conduct checks of this kind. And it is people trying to do their best – working hard, raising a family – who through no fault of their own are finding themselves at the sharp end of what appears to be a ruthless ‘guilty until proven innocent’ policy for the millions on tax credits who this firm is pursuing.”
“Arbitrary cancellation of payments without proof, phantom letters which recipients never receive, accusations that they are in relationships with people they have never heard of. Single parents having to skip meals or keep their kids back from school because they cannot afford the uniform because their tax credits have been wrongly cancelled. These aren’t one-off, exceptional cases – they are indicative of a company on a payment-by-results contract doing everything they can to rake in profit on the backs of hard working single parents and families.”
“This is a big test for the government – they have traded on welfare as a dirty word and now they see the despicable consequences of their political attacks – single parents and families who have done nothing wrong being ruthlessly pursued by a US firm. They must urgently review this failing contract and pledge not to extend it in May and instead bring it back in-house."