Sinn Féin has met with the DHSS in Derry to discuss the crisis created by bureaucratic decisions to summarily withhold tax credit entitlements. And have also met with Concentrix to raise concerns over its handling of benefit assessments and payments.
Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney said;
“We held these meetings following a number of concerns raised with us about the financial distress being caused to claimants over the way in which the Tax Credit issue has been handled by both HMRC and Concentrix.
At the meeting with the DHSS in Derry we raised queries around how the DHSS might be able to ease the hardship faced by people due to cuts in their Tax Credits.
We asked the DHSS to take into consideration the financial difficulty being created with people’s payments being delayed and stopped.And highlighted the difficulties caused when people are getting money paid into their account on a regular basis , have budgeted it out, and all of a sudden it stops.
The DHSS, who have no role in Tax Credits, have advised us that they would discuss the matter with the view of being considerate in terms of discretion that they can apply to those who present themselves to them.They also pointed out that people may qualify for aid in the shape of a crisis loan even if they are not on benefits.
One of the outcomes of our meeting with Concentrix’s on Monday was the establishment of a direct line with our constituency office to look at cases raised with us were people are in serious difficulties.
Sinn Féin believes that the assessment process for payments should not be outsourced into the hands of the private sector.
We have sought a meeting with HMRC to discuss this unacceptable situation and we will challenge them on what progress can be made on the outstanding cases to speed them up.
Anyone currently waiting in the system should be given a payment while they are waiting for the outcome of their investigation.