Borders MP Calum Kerr has joined the chorus of disapproval over the tactics employed by the private firm contracted by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to carry out checks on claimants for tax credits.
Mr Kerr claims he has been approached by several of his Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk constituents complaining of having payments stopped abruptly in recent weeks by US-based business services company Concentrix.
“They are all extremely distressed and are predominantly single parents with young children who are accused by the company of failing to provide proof there is no partner living with them,” said Mr Kerr.
“In order to vindicate themselves, these parents must provide a whole year’s evidence, including bank statements, to Concentrix.
“I consider this onerous, overly intrusive and an abuse of power.
“As a result, my constituents have been left with absolutely no money at little or no notice.
“How can this be considered in any way a fit and proper way to treat vulnerable families who rely on tax credits to pay their essential bills and buy food?”
Mr Kerr has also expressed his concerns in a letter to Edward Troup, executive chairman of HMRC.
“It is simply not acceptable to subject people to such punitive measures and draconian tactics,” writes Mr Kerr.
“They are not criminals. They are ordinary citizens who have the right to expect to be treated decently and fairly.
“I urge you to bring an end to this unfair practice and ensure no family suffers the cruelty of the withdrawal of such crucial support.”
While a reply is awaited, Mr Kerr, along with the rest of the SNP group of MPs at Westminster, this week signed an early day motion calling for an adjournment debate in the House of Commons.
The motion condemns Concentrix for “profiting from stopping payments to those most in need” and calls on the UK Government to investigate the firm’s conduct “before more people experience the appalling consequences of this brutal and disrespectful approach”.
Responding to a national campaign against its tactics, a Concentrix spokesperson said: “We recognise that the re-evaluation of individual tax credits claims can be difficult for all concerned.
“We adopt a rigorous process at every stage to ensure we manage this process responsibly and in full accordance with the protocols and guidance set by HMRC.”
A spokesperson for HMRC said: “Payments to Concentrix are made on the quality and accuracy of their work.
“They will not be paid if the decisions they make about claimants’ awards are wrong.”