A MOTHER caught up in the Concentrix row broke down last night as she revealed how the tax credits scandal left her having to explain to her son why the tooth fairy hadn’t come.

Annemarie Anderson’s funding was cut off when Concentrix, the US firm paid £75 million to cut tax credit fraud and overpayment, wrongly claimed that she was in a relationship with a previous tenant at her Alloa home.

She initially thought there was a problem at the bank when the money failed to land in her account, and when she learned her payments had been stopped she paid £55 for a year’s worth of bank statements to prove she had not committed fraud.

The documents were received on August 30 and passed to HMRC on September 20, with the mother-of-one advised her case would not be looked in to until October 4.

Meanwhile, she has been forced to turn to a food bank and had to face questions from seven-year-old son Nathan, who is on the autistic spectrum and has other additional support needs, about why the tooth fairy had not come to collect three of his baby teeth.

Annemarie said: “I told him that she was waiting to see if any more would fall out.

“He’s seen that mum’s sad and quite down and he keeps asking what’s wrong. He wants to know why we can’t go to the ice cream van and do other things.”

A Concentrix whistleblower this week told how call centre staff were receiving calls from suicidal clients explaining how they had nothing to feed their children.

The company said staff do “challenging” work and HMRC said payments are only stopped when there is “strong evidence” to support this action, with “potential discrepancies” flagged for further investigation.

The Government has announced it will not renew the company’s two-year contract when it expires in May next year and Jane Ellison, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said cases should be corrected within “no more than four working days”, telling the House of Commons “it certainly should not be weeks”.

Now Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP, who represents Annemarie, has written to Ellison to ask what is going wrong.

She wrote: “After the reassurances given by yourself from the dispatch box on 14th September that a speedy resolution of approximately four days would be provided by HMRC for constituents who have had their tax credit payments incorrectly stopped as a result of allegations made by Concentrix, I am sure you will agree these standards are not being met in this instance.

“I would urge you to take decisive action to resolve my constituent’s situation and ask you to act now to ensure that a fast resolution is found for Ms Anderson.

“My constituent been left financially stricken by the accusations made by Concentrix.

“I find it incredulous that HMRC are powerless to help an innocent constituent who has done nothing wrong whatsoever and now cannot have her tax credits reinstated through further unacceptable failings from HMRC’s third party contractor.

“I would be grateful if you can clarify exactly when my constituent can expect to have her tax credit payments reinstated. I would also be interested to learn what action you will take to ensure that this situation is not allowed to continue and that innocent people will not suffer extended undue financial hardship through a secondary failing on the part of Concentrix.”

The Treasury said it was too soon for Ellison to respond to the letter, which was sent yesterday.

A HMRC spokesperson said: “We want to reassure customers who have had their tax credits stopped that we will prioritise their cases, and make sure that they are processed as quickly as possible. While it’s right that we ensure that tax credits customers only receive the money to which they’re entitled, it is vital that those customers have a high level of service.

“That’s why we have decided not to extend our contract with Concentrix and HMRC is redeploying 150 staff so that customers can get through to advisers and resolve any issues about their claim.”

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh: This shambles requires urgent action

TWO weeks after The National became the first Scottish newspaper to cover the emerging crisis in the tax credits system, the situation facing many of the victims remains very bleak.

Since then, the chief secretary to the Treasury was forced to answer urgent questions on the issue before the House of Commons a week later, when she owned up to the administrative shambles that was unfolding before them. She also promised urgent action to restore these vital payments to families on low incomes.

But over the past fortnight, I’ve heard from even more victims with increasingly desperate stories of how this failure has had a massive impact on their lives. Families who have played by the rules and have done nothing wrong continue to be denied the payments they rely on to pay their bills and put food on the table at home.

Rather than having payments restored within four working days – a promise made by the minister at the dispatch box in the House of Commons – constituents of mine have been told in the past few days that further failures in the system will mean that it will be weeks before their claim can be processed and their payments restarted.

Those who have suffered at the hands of Concentrix and HMRC not only have had to deal with the direct impact of these mistakes, but have had their misery compounded by other secondary complications.

For example, I’ve heard from two families who, because their payments have been unfairly stopped without warning, have had to choose between buying food or paying their bank £5 a time to have copies of their financial statements printed. They need this done in order to either prove their innocence to Concentrix, or apply for crisis support from the Scottish Welfare Fund. Others have had their childcare provision withdrawn or have been evicted from their rented accommodation as they’ve fallen behind with payments. Three weeks ago, a Treasury minister stated in a parliamentary answer that there were only 120 instances in the past 11 months where Concentrix hads not fully met the performance standards set out in their contract.

But by this week, whistleblowers from Concentrix have told the BBC that staff have handled ‘hundreds’ of calls from distraught victims, some of whom have been pushed to the brink of suicide by the pressure placed on them by others’ mistakes. It’s now the single biggest issue of concern in my constituency mailbox, and I know from speaking to other MPs that the the number of cases coming to light across Scotland and the rest of the UK is still growing.

The UK Government has tried to put a sticking plaster over serious structural faults in the tax credits system, and it’s increasingly clear to all what a failure its efforts so far have been.

We need to see concerted action now from ministers to right these wrongs and get help to those who have borne the financial and social cost of these mistakes. HMRC must increase the number of staff who are working to reduce the backlog of cases now. There are clearly not enough people in post to cope with the number of issues to be resolved.

We must to reduce the turnaround times that families are required to wait to get the funds that they are owed. Once mistakes have been rectified, and all the money has been repaid, we need to look at what compensation is required for all those affected. Some have had to put their hand in their own pocket to pay to disprove the allegations made against them. Others have incurred bank charges or late fees for unpaid bills because they were not paid what they were entitled to.

Parliament must also examine how the Treasury has allowed this situation to happen under their watch. Why was this vital service outsourced to a private company, and why have they been allowed to get it so wrong? Was the contract signed by the government and Concentrix fit for purpose, and if so, why was the oversight of it so obviously poor? Why were ministers defending the actions of Concentrix one week, then announcing that their contract wouldn’t be renewed the next?

We need to know exactly what went wrong inside Concentrix to allow them to make so many vital, life-changing mistakes, so we can ensure that this never, ever, happens again. Each and every family driven to despair by these costly errors deserves no less.