I feel sorry for Concentrix – sometimes it's necessary to be so tough on benefits that you investigate the paranormal

Yes, one woman's benefits were stopped because a dead man who once lived in her house was assumed to be her partner, but that's just what happens when you're enthusiastic about putting the government's words into practice

Mark Steel
Thursday 15 September 2016 12:52
The government has ended its deal with Concentrix
The government has ended its deal with Concentrix

I feel sorry for this company called Concentrix, which lost the contract for cutting the tax credit bill. They cut off claimants such as Nicola McKenzie, who claimed to be a single parent but they said she was living with a man who turned out to have lived at the address years ago and was now dead.

When she explained this, Concentrix insisted, “You still need to get him to contact us.” This seems reasonable, and it’s why, so often at psychic nights, the medium will say, “I’m getting a message from Sid – he says, ‘Tell Concentrix I’m on the other side and my national insurance details will be sent to them by Tuesday morning. I don’t have access to e-mail but if they can close the curtains and find a Ouija board I’ll pop them across, along with three bank statements and a death note signed by two angels.’”

Concentrix has been criticised for its methods, but we should be sensitive to the growing number of people who suffer from a condition known as Deceased/Living Confusion Syndrome. The board of Concentrix must see a plaque on the outside of a house, saying “Composer George Handel lived here 1685-1759”, and knock on the door, asking, “Can I speak to George please?”

They’ll be told, “I’m afraid he died in 1759,” and reply, “I’d like him to write a tune for a friend’s birthday.”

This will go on for some time – “Look, you fruitbat, he’s dead”, “Don’t try hiding him mate, there’s a plaque on the wall says he’s here. Also he owes my mate three and fourpence ha’penny”, “He’s been dead for 250 sodding years”, “In that case you need to get him to contact us.”

In any case, with the welfare bill growing as high as it has done, we have to tighten the rules a bit, and we can’t allow people to claim they’re living alone just because another person at that address moved out several years ago, then died.

Because someone may not be physically there, but their spirit remains – and they’re in trouble as well, for failing to turn up at an interview for a haunting job at a castle in Dorset.

Really it’s a terrible shame that Concentrix lost the contract as the people working there could have come up with more helpful paranormal reasons for cutting benefits, such as “We discovered a fairy in the loft, sprinkling gold dust into the boiler that at current prices could be exchanged for £9.40 a week, taking Mrs Armitage across the tax credit threshold.” Or, “Sometimes Mr Phillips passes through a split in the universe under his sink and goes back to the eleventh century, where his £18.50 tax credit is worth a great deal more, enabling him to buy items not regarded as essential such as a drawbridge.”

Concentrix also appears to have cut tax credits from hundreds of people because someone else once lived at their address and they’re still alive. In these cases the claimants are definitely guilty of fraud, because we all receive money from everyone who ever lived at our address. I don’t know how I’d cope without the regular payments from Mr Ickleston who lived in my house between 1969 and 1974, before he moved to Cornwall after a bad experience with some dodgy acid.

Zara from Exeter had her benefits cut because she was living with Emily, though she’d never met Emily, and Zara was forced to the food bank to feed her kids. This shows the importance of regularly checking to see if anyone you’ve never met is living in your house. Just as you should check the cat regularly for fleas, once a week you should search the house to see if Emily is living in a corner and secretly contributing towards the gas bill.

Many people complained the messages they received from Concentrix were so incoherent, and demanded so many bank details, that they thought they were part of a phishing scam. But it’s refreshing that a company employed by the government should send messages such as “Hi you need money dollars much quick? Then help us out pleese. I work HMRC and stuck in Ivory Coast i hav large big house send account number bank adress drive licensse and detales anyone who lived near you who dead NOW! I make you RicH!!?!”

So the government has cancelled their contract, admitting “some customers have not received the level of service required”. It’s a charming touch to see people as “customers” because they enjoyed the “service” of having their benefits stopped. Hopefully some of these customers posted a nice review online, such as “I was fed up of feeding my children, day in, day out, the same dull routine. Now thanks to the excellent service from Concentrix, who claimed I was co-habiting with a peasant from the fifteenth century, there’s not a scrap in the house! Now we have all day to enjoy sitting outside a station asking people to put coins in a polystyrene cup! Thoroughly recommended from this satisfied customer!”

Concentrix was paid £75m a year for cutting people’s tax credits, and now the government is apparently shocked by their behaviour, and you can see why. For six years Tory MPs have insisted every three minutes that the economy was crippled by debt because of lazy arses on welfare so we must be TOUGH and cut benefits NOW. And somehow Concentrix interpreted that as meaning they were supposed to be tough on benefits.

It’s like hiring a hitman, then sacking him for carrying an offensive weapon.

So maybe, now they’re set to lose their contract, Concentrix should concentrate on making detective shows instead, in which each week they turn up to a murder scene and say, “It’s obvious who the killer is – it’s the dead bloke on the floor with the chalk round him.”

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