The Committee called to look into the conduct of Concentrix, the external contractor appointed by HMRC to carry out a review of 1.5 million tax credit claimant cases, has heard that claimants experienced ‘appalling customer service’ and were ‘humiliated’ during the review process.
The HMRC announced in September that Concentrix would not be having its contract renewed, whilst senior political figures urged government to carry out a review into the contractor’s failings. The Work and Pensions Select Committee has since heard evidence from four tax credit claimants, as well as senior representatives from both Concentrix and HMRC.
Claimant Sarah Broome, called upon to testify, said: “I consider myself to be a vulnerable person, and during the period I reached breakdown point, until I found Concentrix Mums, and found that I was not alone.” Claimant Marie Crowley added, “My housing benefit was stopped. I took a payday loan, and now HMRC is refusing to give me my lump sum, so I can’t pay off debts that I have accrued due to somebody else’s error.” The Committee has since called the evidence it has heard ‘extraordinary’.
Particular concerns have been raised over the rate of successful appeals made against Concentrix following decisions to take away claimants’ tax credits. During questioning, the committee heard that, of 14,000 tax credit claims stopped by Concentrix then reconsidered under mandatory obligation, between 90-95% of these tax credit payments were restored.
Maria Eagle MP (Lab, Garston and Halewood) revealed that mistakes in her constituency had been particularly acute: “In every single one of the Concentrix cases taken up and resolved by my office, the payment has been put back in place. In other words, [Concentrix] have been 100% wrong.”
Following evidence heard in the first session, the Committee is now looking to investigate how the performance of Concentrix was monitored by HMRC, and how Concentrix has failed to meet requirements for adequate provision of staff numbers and training. Further to this, the Committee plans to establish how HMRC intends to compensate wronged claimants.
Rebecca Long Bailey MP (Lab, Salford and Eccles) commented, “This House welcomes the announcement that the services performed by Concentrix will be brought back in-house to HMRC next year; and calls on the Government to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the performance of Concentrix under its contract with HMRC.”
Frank Field, Committee chair, remarked: “If Britain’s vulnerable human underbelly is to be protected from future misery, it is important that the Select Committee begins the public process of learning what exactly has been happening during Concentrix’s stewardship. Once we have done so, we will then be inviting the Government to act on this information, so that tax credit claimants in future will not be left penniless, through no fault of their own.”
The inquiry continues.