In May 2014, Concentrix was awarded a £75 million contract from Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to deliver £1bn in tax credit savings by finding and fixing fraudulent claims or claims made in error. They were responsible for examining and investigating tens of thousands of tax credit claims over an initial three-year period.
After three months of crippling IT failures, it became very clear that Concentrix was mishandling the contract. Claimants were receiving letters asking if an undeclared partner was living at their address based on questionable or outright incorrect information and had their claims suspended as a result. This pushed many claimants into extreme poverty, many of whom were already among the most vulnerable in society.
Two and a half years later, HMRC has been forced to abandon a contract that it was very close to renewing despite the concerns repeatedly raised by claimants, the PCS civil service union and many media reports.
Attacks on working poor encouraged
With less than one month’s training, Concentrix employees were expected to appraise and evaluate two or three times as many claims as their HMRC equivalents. Some staff were asked to suspend claims even though Concentrix’s own records showed that they never contacted the claimant. This was the Tory austerity agenda at its most brutal – a private company being incentivised to deny the working poor crucial benefits.
HMRC have announced that they are hiring new staff and redeploying existing staff to clean up the initial fallout of ending this contract, which expires in May 2017. Many claimants and activists in the labour movement will be glad to see the back of Concentrix, but hundreds of jobs are now on the line. The labour movement needs to demand these jobs are brought ‘in-house’ into the HMRC in order to provide a living, secure wage for the staff, and a fit-for-purpose service for claimants.