The Concentrix Fix: Families to have cases reviewed following benefits scandal
If you’re a regular follower of our blog posts, you’ll know that we always try to keep you up to speed with the latest legal news. Recently, the story that’s been dominating the world of benefits and tax credit law is a positive one, and it’s all about the bid to appease families who were affected by the scandal with Concentrix last year.
Over the years, we’ve had hundreds of clients describe to us their own horrific tales regarding Concentrix, and the treatment they received from the organisation when their benefits were unexpectedly cut.
Known for being abrasive and brutal in their tactics to hit benefit-cuts targets, they caused a huge amount of controversy last year, when thousands of people came forward with their own stories of the unacceptable and unprofessional behaviour shown by Concentrix employees.
Now, it seems like things could be looking up for families who were stripped of their tax credits last year, so we’d like to use today’s blog post to talk you through these developments…
A brief re-cap on Concentrix
For anyone reading this article who’s unsure of the issues mentioned above, let’s quickly look at the story behind the company. An American business contracted by the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to investigate benefit fraud, Concentrix were brought in to help cut the tax credit bill by removing the benefits of those who were trying to cheat the system. While this seems like a company with good intentions, their methods quickly gained a huge amount of negative press attention.
They were paid on a results basis, meaning that the more benefits were cut, the more profit they made. However, it became apparent after a while that not only were they coming up with the most bizarre reasons to stop someone’s benefits, but they regularly used brutal tactics to push forward with their results.
From single-mothers suddenly unable to feed their children, as the cut-offs were usually with immediate effect, to people getting into rent arrears and other debts, many households were left emotionally distraught.
The complaints they had received held up against the facts too, after an MP report at the time found that out of 36,000 claimants who lodged a Concentrix appeal, 87% saw their claim upheld. Thankfully, the government took note of the thousands of cases put forward to them, and the decision to pull the plug on the Concentrix contract was taken last year.
While this was a significant win, for those families who didn’t get to appeal the decision, the consequences have been damaging to say the least – until now.
What’s the news?
Following the MP report last year, it’s now been indicated that the remaining 23,000 claimants whose benefits had been cut by Concentrix, but did not appeal, will have their cases reviewed. Not only that, but the UK government has also stated that it will no longer outsource tax credit fraud investigation to private companies, who could have a separate, financially-incentivised agenda, as opposed to one built on serving the public interest.
These smart moves follow the cutting report by the Work and Pensions Select Committee, which was published back in December. They berated the HMRC and Concentrix for their work which had resulted in “a gross failure of customer service” and a “sorry episode for the welfare state”, according to reports.
They highlighted the “flimsy pretexts” which claimants had been labelled benefit fraudsters for; many families were left without financial support for months on end, meaning hundreds of people were forced to borrow from family and friends, turn to food banks and charities, or worse still, resort to pay-day loans and money lenders.
Commenting on these new promises made by the government, Frank Field, Chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee, said that he was pleased ministers had taken their recommendations on board. He continued: “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.”
Interestingly, the HMRC have also pledged to make several key improvements to proceedings, in a bid to eliminate error amongst the organisation. HMRC Chief Executive Jon Thompson, wrote a letter to the Committee, stating that there will be:
- a review and revision of all paper trails from claimants’ cases
- a prompt system put in place when customers need to respond to HMRC enquiries
- an easier process of engagement with the HMRC put in place
- a rapid reinstatement of payments after investigations are completed
Mr Thompson continued in his letter: “One of the key learning points I reported to the Committee in October was that critical performance issues were not escalated to the right levels quickly.
“To ensure this does not happen again, the 2017 HRR process will be governed through a ‘Gold Command’ structure alongside the broader Renewals programme, to monitor performance closely and ensure issues are escalated in real time.
“I believe we have listened to the comments of our customers and stakeholders and addressed the core issues, whilst continuing to fulfil our responsibilities to reduce error and fraud in the welfare system.”
What does it mean for me?
So far, things seem to be far more promising for those who have been affected by the Concentrix scandal since they were first contracted in 2014. Although we are yet to see whether any of these promises will come to fruition, the signs all point to a happy conclusion for hundreds of families who were left distressed and in dire straits following the unfair decisions made about their cases.
We handle dozens of enquiries every day relating to people’s benefits, from letters arriving on doorsteps regarding Interviews Under Caution, or a long string of frustrating phone conversations where claimants still can’t figure out what circumstances they’re in – we understand the complexities of tax credit law, which is why we’re here to help you.
We believe that everyone should be told where they stand in a straightforward, jargon-free manner, so if you’re unsure of your own situation or you’re one of the people who didn’t get a chance to appeal their Concentrix decision, get in touch with one of our consultants now. Our dedicated team is always on hand to give you advice, and you can call us on 020 7381 8111, or email us at email@example.com.
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