No more Tax Credit
suspensions until Concentrix delays cleared, campaigners urge
HM Revenue and Customs should ensure
that Concentrix do not suspend or stop any more Tax Credit payments until the
problems which are preventing Tax Credit claimants from raising queries by phone
or post have been resolved, campaigners for those on low incomes have said.
The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) report that they have experienced a
significant spike in the last 2 weeks in contact from Tax Credit claimants who
are unable to get through to the main Concentrix helpline number, although they
have seen; and made representations to HMRC about; problems with poor service
levels going right back to the start of the contract with Concentrix taking
effect in November 2014.
The Group has produced a Question and Answer guide on its website to help Tax
Credit claimants who have received a letter from, or are struggling to contact,
Anthony Thomas, the Group's Chairman, said:- "We hope our question and
answer document will help those who have had their payments stopped to get them
reinstated where that is appropriate, and those who are experiencing hardship
because they cannot get through to Concentrix to find ways of resolving the
difficult situation in which they find themselves."
In an article posted on LITRG's website, the Group says:- "While HMRC's
helplines have been steadily improving since the middle of 2015/16, call waiting
times to Concentrix, the company HMRC have engaged to check Tax Credit claims,
have dramatically worsened. Yesterday's announcement that HMRC will not renew
Concentrix's contract when it expires in May 2017, and meanwhile will redeploy
150 HMRC staff to man the helplines, should go some way to alleviating the
hardship caused by Concentrix's poor performance to date. In November 2014, HMRC
contracted with SYNNEX Concentrix in order to increase their capacity to carry
out checks on Tax Credit claims. The purpose of these checks is to ensure the
accuracy of claims; for example that claims are made in the right capacity
(joint or single); and to correct those that are found to be wrong. Since then,
Concentrix have carried out around 667,000 checks on behalf of HMRC. Since the
beginning of the contract we have raised a number of concerns with HMRC about
the quality of decision making and service offered by Concentrix. However, in
the last two weeks, we have experienced a significant spike in contact from Tax
Credit claimants who are unable to get through to the main Concentrix helpline
number. Some people are faced with an engaged tone, whilst others report being
on hold for up to an hour before eventually giving up. Even the most patient
person would find this hugely frustrating, but many of the claimants who have
contacted us are facing hardship because their Tax Credit payments have been
stopped. Some are unaware of why the payments have stopped, but are advised only
by the main HMRC Tax Credits helpline to contact Concentrix. Others say they
have sent to Concentrix information that the company requested, but Concentrix
have stopped their payments with no prior warning and no letters of explanation.
The action now taken by HMRC should ensure that the helplines are better
equipped to cope with the increased demand. In the interim, HMRC should ensure
that Concentrix do not suspend or stop Tax Credit payments until both the postal
delays and the telephone line issues are brought up to an acceptable standard.
In the longer term, there should be a published review of the Concentrix
contract both in terms of value for money for the taxpayer as well as the
performance of Concentrix and the impact on claimants. This will be essential if
HMRC decide to continue with a payment by results model of working with private
companies in future. No doubt this could be an issue for consideration by the
Public Accounts Committee in due course."
Police Chiefs pay tribute to
equality advisor and trans advocate Penny Bassi
MERSEYSIDE'S Police Chiefs has
paid tribute to the Chair of Merseyside's Independent Advisory Group Penelope
Bassi,61 who was found dead, in Holyhead Marina, on 5 September 2016.
Merseyside's Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy and Chief Constable Andy Cooke QPM
told how many would miss Penny's 'warmth, humour and invaluable
contribution.' Penny was a member of the Merseyside Independent Advisory
Group (MIAG) for more than 10 years and had chaired it for the last two years.
The MIAG was set up in 1999 to provide an independent voice on local community
issues and particularly represent the interest of minority communities. Penny
was committed to preventing other people from experiencing the hate crime she
had suffered for many years and helped to write policy guidelines on how Police
Officers should deal with transgender people. As Chair of the MIAG, she provided
independent advice on issues around equality and diversity, informed hate crime
initiatives and sat on high level strategic Policing meetings around major and
Jane said:- "I was very sorry to learn of Penny's death. Penny was a
dedicated and committed volunteer and a powerful advocate for trans people. She
gave much of her time to raising awareness of and tackling hate crime and
preventing others from suffering the same abuse she had experienced. For many
years, Penny fought for inclusion and acceptance and championed the struggle for LGBTI
rights. Her warmth, humour and energetic contribution to equality and justice on
Merseyside will be sorely missed. I am sure I speak for many people when I offer
my heartfelt sympathy to all those who knew and loved Penny at this sad time."
Chief Constable Andy Cooke QPM, said:- "Penny had extensive knowledge of
the issues facing the Trans community, particularly in relation to hate crime.
This has also given her an insight into the LGB community. In her professional
life she worked with both the Trans community and disabled people and had
excellent knowledge of the challenges facing disabled people. Penny used every
opportunity available to her to promote diversity across all strands and more
importantly the good work of the Force. Penny will be greatly missed by the many
members of the Force, MIAG and our partner agencies who have had the pleasure to
have worked with here and her loss will be felt by many. Penny was a true
ambassador for Merseyside Police and I am pleased to say that she achieved what
she joined MIAG to do and that was to make a difference."
Penny, who was a founder member of transwirral and worked as a disability expert
in employment matters for them and for Breakthrough UK, also detailed her
experiences as a transwoman on a hate crime awareness video produced by
Merseyside Police which is screened at many Hospital, waiting rooms and GPs
surgeries across the region. She also sat on the Crown Prosecution Services
(CPS) Local Involvement and Scrutiny panel which reviews closed cases in order
to recommend improvements where necessary.
In February 2015, Penny also supported the launch of the Commissioner's Love Not
Hate campaign, which worked to raise awareness of independent hate crime
reporting centres across Merseyside. There are no suspicious circumstances
around her death and the matter has been referred to the North West Wales