A Guest Post by Lynn.
I have hosted a guest post before on the realities faced by individuals who are dealing with our broken and inefficient benefits system. There are so many stories in the press. Many, highlighting the poverty and distress that the cuts, austerity and mistakes have caused. There are some pretty horrifying statistics out there. Including people taking their own lives through the stress and fear that these departments cause. Once again, I have witnessed first hand the catastrophic affects these decisions, made in an office somewhere, usually based on a series of ticks on a list, are continuing to have on people I care about.
Here's my friend Lynn, appealing, once again, to somebody who probably drives a big car and doesn't have to check his bank balance before he goes shopping for food, to ask if she can please have some money to buy food for herself and her son. The effects of these decisions, often wrong, or badly managed, are so far reaching, myself and my husband are living in constant fear for Lynn's health. It's a daily battle to support someone who has been driven to the brink on a daily basis by a department who just have no idea the effect they have, by changing their minds, taking their time and just general playing with the lives of people who do not deserve it.
Dear Mr Thompson,
It is regrettable that I am having to write to you with a matter of complaint. I am one of thousands currently affected by Concentrix and HMRC’s ‘Compliance Checks’. I was chosen because you needed more information concerning a period of 4 months during 2014/15 tax year; that I was classed as Self-Employed as I was working toward opening my own business with the New Enterprise Allowance Scheme (via the Job Center). My business idea did not get off the ground due to funding & subsequently I procured full time employment so closed down my idea before it began! I also had to provide the same tax year of payslips - I managed to find 31 of the 45 (the amount of weeks I was in employment).
All of this was posted off via recorded delivery to Concentrix so I knew when it was received. I, like many others, knew little of this company. I had done nothing wrong and do not have any problem being ‘checked’ as I have nothing to hide, so I presumed everything would be OK and it would all be sorted and reinstated in a couple of weeks. All of this time my money was stopped without warning. So my bills have been bouncing.
That was 6 weeks ago...
- Week 3 It became impossible and I had to start selling my belongings (not that I have much).
- Week 4 I sold my son’s Christmas presents from last year.
- Week 5 The food bank delivered.
- Week 6 I had to ask a friend for £5 for electricity as I had 41p.
Do you know what it is like to have 41p Mr Thompson? Not 41p and your savings or income, just 41p. My son needed new school clothes, he went back with a blazer too small & no equipment. Did your children return to school in new clothes?
I CANNOT go back to work whilst my Tax Credits are being ‘held’, as I would not cover my rent or CT on minimum wage and I cannot afford basics, such as petrol to get there. So you are forcing me to stay on welfare which is the VERY last place I want to be.
I have been vindicated, I have no case to answer - not surprising as I had done NOTHING wrong. I have spoken to Concentrix daily. This involves a minimum of 1 hour on hold each time and that is IF you can get to a ‘hold’ position. Normally, the process begins with between 3 to 5 hours of engaged tone.
I was told last Friday that my case had been sent back to HMRC. All was fine and to ring on Monday to make sure it had been sent back. I rang on Monday, and was told that all had been sent back over to HMRC. So, I rang HMRC - Yes all fine, claim reinstated. You should have your money in 48 hrs (approximately).
Tuesday came, I received a letter from HMRC to say I was not eligible for Tax Credits and I owe £2412 in overpayments. You can only imagine what a letter like that does to someone who is living day to day on small handouts from friends and foodbank donations. It strikes fear into my very soul, I can't even begin to describe it. They say, during moments of intense fear, that your life flashes before your eyes. Seeing that letter brought with it instant visions of bailiffs, final demands, homelessness. These are the realities that I'm fighting off every single day anyway, and you want to take more from me?! There is also the issue that so far this year I have only received £1838 in payments anyway, so it doesn't exactly add up.
I immediately telephone HMRC again, not knowing what I am going to say to them. How am I going to stop them taking that money, if they say that I owe it? However, according to the operative, my claim is FINE and the letter is incorrect. She checks something an her system and informs me Concentrix have sent back the claim but have forgotten to include the permissions to pay me. So, I ring Concentrix, again, who tell me they couldn’t rebuild my claim on the system, it has to be done by our team for HMRC (Are they not ALL HMRC ?). It has to be done manually and can take some time. Should I ring next week? You can try, but there are no time guidelines for that process, so it can take sometime, weeks even. There is a backlog!
WEEKS MORE, for doing NOTHING wrong. WEEKS MORE of not knowing how I will cope. If benefit genocide is the Government intention they are almost there.
As told in Parliament yesterday Concentrix have have breached their performance standards 120 times in 11 months, this is NOT ACCEPTABLE! Their contract must NOT be renewed in May!
I am not a criminal, I have claimed nothing I am not entitled to and yet I am being punished by your third party company’s complete inability to handle the job they are employed to do.
Mr Thompson I urge you to look into this company and stop penalising people unless they have actually committed an offence!
(I will be charging you for my phone calls)