Single dad forced to use foodbank he set up

Graham Holden
Graham Holden
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A Kinross man who founded a foodbank in the area claims he has been forced to use the facility himself due to a blunder by the taxman.

Single parent Graham Holden (44) says his weekly benefits of £86 –which he relies on to feed himself and his 16-year-old son – were suddenly cut off amid accusations that he had a partner living with him.

But he says the woman suspected of living under his roof was actually the previous tenant of his council property and he’s never even met her.

Graham works full-time for Perth and Kinross District Council at its recycling centre in Kinross, earning £900 a month, which he says is swallowed up by rent and bills.

The extra £86 a week was made up of working tax credit and child tax credit, as his son is still at school.

In March, he received a letter out of the blue from Concentrix, part of a multi-billion pound American organisation contracted by HMRC to investigate alleged benefit fraud.

The Belfast-based firm has been widely criticised and in an investigation by the Independent newspaper last year, it was accused of embarking on a vast ‘fishing expedition’, with staff under pressure to open between 30-40 new tax credit fraud investigations every day, with no time to follow them up to find out if they were justified.

“The letter asked me to send personal documents like bank statements and fuel bills, which I sent off along with a letter from my lawyer confirming I had custody of my son,” said Graham, founder of the Kinross-shire foodbank Broke Not Broken.

“I heard nothing more until I went to top up my gas and electricity at the local shop and found my bank account was empty.

“They had stopped my benefits without any warning. I was horrified.

“I had to go to the Scottish Welfare Fund and get a crisis grant.

“I spent eight hours trying to get through to HMRC without success and eventually phoned Concentrix.

“The person I spoke to was very nice, but said the situation was out of his hands and that he was just carrying out instructions from HMRC.

“I was so desperate I had to get vouchers to go to my own foodbank. I just can’t believe this is happening to me – and the sad thing is I know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people going through the same thing.”

Now Graham has set up a meeting with his MP, Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, who says she has had dozens of similar complaints. Some people have ignored the letters, thinking them a hoax, while others have become upset.

We contacted the media relations department at Concentrix on Tuesday to ask for a comment, but none was forthcoming.