The Work and Pensions Committee issued a comment on the "extraordinary" evidence it heard, from four single parents who had wrongly had their tax credits stopped, senior staff from Concentrix, including senior Vice President Philip Cassidy, and HMRC, including Chief Executive and Permanent Secretary Jon Thompson.
Claimant humiliation and appalling customer service
The Committee heard:
- The humiliation of claimants who were forced to borrow money from friends and family in order to feed their children as they were left without benefits, to which they were ultimately found to be entitled, for up to seven weeks
- Appalling customer service which saw claimants calling up to 70 times to get through as just 1% of calls were answered by Concentrix at the height of the crisis. One claimant finally waited 90 minutes to speak to a Concentrix adviser on an 0845 number, at great personal expense
- Appeal success rates of 73% according to HMRC or 90-95% according to Concentrix; either way a terrible indictment of the original decision-making process
- Refunds to claimants taking place over a series of months. In one case, a single mother lost housing benefit because a refund of wrongly withdrawn tax credits took her over an income threshold. Others will have taken on debts in the meantime
- Repeated buck-passing between Concentrix and HMRC, who signed the contract, as to who was responsible
- HMRC Permanent Secretary Jon Thompson was unable to explain what had gone wrong and why
Committee to seek clarifications from Concentrix and HMRC
The Committee has agreed to write to both Concentrix and HMRC demanding urgent information regarding:
- How the performance of Concentrix was monitored by HMRC
- Levels of staffing at Concentrix, in particular during August 2016, and the training provided to staff
- Steps HMRC will take to compensate claimants, ensure they are not further disadvantaged, and review decisions taken by Concentrix
- Assurance that Concentrix will not be compensated for HMRC taking much of their responsibilities back in-house
The Committee also plans to issue a report into the scandal.
Frank Field MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said:
"The Committee was astonished by the extraordinary evidence we heard. From Concentrix we saw a company desperately out of their depth and unable to deliver on the contract awarded to them by HMRC. From senior HMRC officials we saw a palpable disregard for the human implications of this gross failure of public service. From the tax credit claimants we saw dignity in the face of appalling and traumatic experiences.
We have no doubt that many people similarly affected have been unable to come forward. I welcome HMRC’s swift action on the Concentrix contract, but that does not excuse them for ever having allowed this to happen."