Concentrix and Me
It was June when I first got the letter. I remember opening and being like, What the actual f… I hadn’t looked at front of the envelope at first. The letter was from Concentrix regarding my tax credits. Not one to keep up to date with things like this, I was initially unaware of who they actually were. A company contracted to save HMRC money by weeding out fraudulent claimants. Then I actually noticed the top of the letter.
It was sent to my address. But it wasn’t addressed to me. There was someone else’s name where my name should have been. The warning bells went off and I remember ringing my mum and sister in a fit of rage. Indignant at the insinuation I was a so called fraudulent claimant. Sure I was a bit lax in updating my details, namely I still hadn’t done my annual review, but informing me they had information that I had an undeclared adult living with me sent me over the top.
Having not opened the letter until 10 mins after their offices closed I ended up stewing on this all night until 8am arrived and I could voice my issues to an actual person. Why did they send me the letter and more importantly who was this person the letter was addressed to? Having spent the small hours of the morning convincing myself it was a mistake the person who answered my call realised the mistake was in fact theirs. Sure they had printed the wrong name on the letter but I was told I was being investigated as they had proof 2 other people lived at this address with me. I live in a small 2 bedroom house. Surely if they had information on these people living with me, they would also have information on the address too!
No, they didn’t it seemed and after lulling me into a false sense of hope and optimism I ended the call awaiting my ‘real’ letter to prove that I am indeed a single parent. In that instant I could feel it all slipping away. The fabric of my life, of me started unravelling. I was being put under the microscope and being unfairly dissected.
It soon turned into a modern day witch trial where truth is irrelevant and you are going to be burned at the stake without having a fair trial or even a chance to clear your name. You are what they say you are despite evidence to the contrary. I sent in the requested paperwork required but August saw my payments unfairly stopped. No letter has still been received to this day. No warning, no explanation, nothing. A big fat zero. Concentrix, as I soon learned, played by their own rules. Unwilling to divulge their questionable ‘sources’ they forced me into a situation no one in 2016 should have to live in.
For the first time in my life I was forced into poverty. Sure I worked. But 16 hours on minimum wage doesn’t stretch that far. Housing benefit and council tax benefit were the next to stop. I had to find money for bills. For food, gas electric. There were opportunities on the blog to earn extra money but that too disappeared on basic living expenses. Not that enough came in to make a difference. Frantic phones followed to my utility companies begging for help. The electric in my meter was nearly gone and I didn’t have any money to pay day. They had no choice but to load credit on my card until the next payday. This at least gave me some respite.
Emptying our cupboards of the just in case food as there was nothing left. This was our just in case. More calls to Concentrix left me more more frustrated. The stories changed, use a food bank they told me. So I sent Olivia to stay with family as at least there I knew she would be warm and fed. What kind of mother can’t afford to have her own daughter live at home? But it was the demands for back payment that broke me. They wanted over a years worth of payments back asap. Not content with plunging me into poverty, they now wanted to cripple me with a debt I would be paying back for years. The onslaught was still coming thick and fast. There was no let up.
The stark reality of living under the black cloud of Concentrix was soul destroying. Counting out your wages each week. Counting how many meals the food in your cupboards would give you before you had to buy more. Apologising to you daughter because you knew she had outgrown certain items of clothing, yet your money didn’t quite stretch far enough that week to buy new ones. Skipping dinners in work because you had money to buy anything to eat and nothing at home to bring in until you got paid the next day.
Out In The Open.
Then it hit the news. For months I had struggled in silence. Hid my shame at my failure and kept frustrations locked up behind closed doors. But I wasn’t alone. It wasn’t just Concentrix and me. I could hold my head high knowing that I didn’t do this. I hadn’t failed. They had failed me. And thousands more like me. The stress, the tears, the heartbreak of telling your daughter no she cant have sweets from the shop because you have no money. Wasn’t my fault. It was theirs. Concentrix had failed on a massive scale and now it was exposed.
Faced with a task of proving my innocence hit me like a brick wall. How do you prove something like this. Sure they had my tenancy agreement and bank statements for the past 12 months. I sent household bills over too. Everything in my name as you would expect being the only adult living here. Exasperated and exhausted this was one challenge too far. Is there a way of clearing my name and would they believe me if I tried. The answer, in the face previous issues seemed to be a resounding no.
Luckily I didn’t have to. My case has since been sent back to HMRC who are dealing with in due course as they are with the thousands of other people who have unfairly victimised by this shambles of an exercise. And despite 3 different people telling me 3 different things their is finally light at the end of the tunnel. My case still hasn’t been finalised, nor my payments reinstated. But my most recent letter from HMRC gave me what is hopefully going to be the final date for this mess to be over.
More phone calls to HMRC managed to secure me a token hardship payment. Whilst not even covering the amount of one missing payment, never mind 10 I am missing so far, it enabled my to make sure I had enough gas, electric and food in to help see me through for a few weeks if I’m careful. I will still continue to sit in the dark as long as I can to conserve electric and keep the heating off as much as possible to make the gas last as long as I can. Meals will be stretched and nothing wasted. The belt tightening isn’t over just yet.
With less than 10 days to go I wake up everyday hoping today will be the day. The day I am hoping for good news, the day I finally wake up from this nightmare.