Concentrix tax credit cases to be reviewed, government says

Concentrix tax credit cases to be reviewed, government says

Nicola McKenzie

Image caption

Nicola McKenzie lost tax credits after Concentrix said she was married to a dead 74-year-old man.

Thousands more families who were wrongly stripped of their tax credits by the US contractor Concentrix are to have their cases reviewed.

A committee of MPs that produced a scathing report on Concentrix said on Monday that HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) had accepted its recommendations.

Concentrix was sacked by HMRC last year after many low income and vulnerable people were left without credits.

The Work and Pensions Committee said up to 23,000 new cases will be looked at.

Concentrix was used by HMRC to help cut fraud and correct errors in the tax credit system, but faced a barrage of criticism.

In a report to MPs, the government disclosed that of 36,000 claimants who lodged an appeal against a ruling by Concentrix, 87% were upheld and have had their benefits reinstated.

But now the remaining 23,000 claimants who did not appeal will have their cases reviewed as well, the government has told the Work and Pensions Committee (PWC)

The MPs said the appeals process was “complex” and “daunting”, and there was “no doubt” that some claimants who did not appeal had rightful benefits stopped.

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In a statement to the committee, the government said: “HMRC will review those cases to establish that decisions made by Concentrix were properly made and communicated to claimants.

“Where absolutely necessary, we will re-contact the claimant to request further information relating to their claim. Current plans indicate that this activity could be completed by March 2017 but the scope of this work will be confirmed once an analysis of the total cost has been produced.”

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Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee (PWC), welcomed the government’s agreement to accept their recommendations.

In its report, the committee said that right from the outset claimants found the system was “stacked against them”.

The “merest hint” that a claim contained more than a “zero risk” of fraud or error was enough to trigger a compliance check, with those who did not – or could not – reply being treated as guilty until proven innocent.

HMRC apology

Mr Field said: “HMRC was right to fire its contractor, but many of the processes used by Concentrix were the same as those used by HMRC itself.

“For many claimants, particularly those who were unwell, lacked self-confidence or had caring responsibilities, the document-heavy process of challenging a wrong decision by Concentrix was surely prohibitively daunting”

Mr Field added: “The real answer is of course to root out fraud and error at entry to the system rather than stopping benefits in payment as first resort.”

A HMRC spokesman said: “It is important to make checks on tax credits payments to ensure the right people are receiving them under the law, and this work will now be done by HMRC.

“We will not be entering into external contracts for this in future. We apologise to all those who did not receive the standard of service that they should have.”

Source: BBC News – Northern Ireland

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