SINGLE mums have been targeted by the government in a failed crackdown on tax credit fraud that used “flimsy evidence” to justify stopping benefits, Labour MPs charged yesterday.
MPs accused the Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) of ordering US-based firm Concentrix to hone in on single parents, particularly women, during the time of its controversial contract with the company.
Benefits were wrongly stopped after single mums were falsely accused of living with a partner or letting rooms to lodgers without informing the government.
In many cases, the MPs said, this led to their constituents accumulating debt and children no longer receiving free school lunches.
Stretford and Urmston MP Kate Green argued: “It’s clear that the deliberate intention of the contract was to target single parents on the basis of assumptions that they were living with a partner and not reporting it.
“It returns to attitudes of single women bringing up children that somehow they must not be respectable and they need to be investigated.”
Slough MP Fiona Mactaggart said flimsy evidence fed to the company by HMRC and the Treasury had been used as the grounds for stopping benefit payments.
Treasury Minister Peter Kirby admitted that HMRC had provided information on alleged cohabiting.
Single-parent charity Gingerbread, which had called for the end of the Concentrix contract, told the Star that parents whose tax credits for childcare costs had been stopped had been unable to work.
Ms Mactaggart added: “Constituents feel harassed, scared and pinned up as targets by the way that this has occurred. It’s not acceptable in a civilised society to treat mothers in this manner.”
No new cases will be passed to Concentrix before its contract ends in May next year and HMRC staff will be drafted in to deal with thousands of unresolved cases.
Shadow Treasury minister Peter Dowd said there was a “clear lack of oversight” by Tory ministers.
He added: “This government is happy to outsource important aspects of people’s lives to private corporations to make a profit.
“Labour forced a U-turn on proposed cuts to tax credits last year and will not stand by now while the Tories attempt to make savings via the backdoor, once again, by targeting working people.”