Single dad forced to use foodbank he set up

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.
Graham HoldenGraham Holden
Graham Holden

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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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.