High Peak families are at crisis point after delays to their Child Tax Credit benefits payments has forced them to turn to food banks for help.
In just one week, the number of emergency food parcels given out has more than doubled as families try and bridge the gap while waiting for payments to come through.
High Peak Foodbank normally has a three-week supply of UHT milk, but have ran out as it struggles to keep up with demand.
Paul Bohan, area co-ordinator for foodbanks, said: “I have never seen anything like this before. We are in crisis point as there are so many families needing our help because of a mix-up with paperwork.
“In a normal week we make up 18 parcels, but in the last week we have handed out more than 40 as people can’t cope.”
Child Tax Credits are paid to parents who earn below a certain threshold or are on benefits themselves for their children. They are re-assessed every year in April and parents had until the end of July to send in their re-assessment.
Up until Tuesday, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) out-sourced this work to an American company, Concentrix, which checked people’s tax credit entitlement. However some High Peak families have not received any money to live off since the reassessment.
Paul explained: “The credits are paid monthly so any disruption which happened during the reassessment period is now being felt by families. One client told us the reason her tax credits had stopped was because she couldn’t prove she had children. She had two at primary school and had been receiving Child Tax Credits for them for seven years.”
Payments can stop if it is believed someone is living at the claimant’s property who has not been disclosed. This can cause confusion if a previous tenant is still linked with a claimant’s home on any records.
Paul said: “The foodbank prevents people falling into poverty through our welfare advice service, our work and skills programme. But these cannot help the people who have problems with tax credits, many are already in work.
“All we can do is provide food for their children until the problem is sorted out.”
HMRC’s chief executive, Jon Thompson, 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.”