Jo expressed her anger following the release of figures which indicate that East Dunbartonshire families may be losing more than ever because of mistakes in benefits payments.
The National Audit Office released figures last week showing that the number of benefit overpayments has increased over the past year.
Jo led a debate in Parliament in February on the failures of the tax credits system. In it she highlighted the cases of several East Dunbartonshire families who have suffered financial hardship due to government demands to repay benefits which were overpaid. Jo urged the Tax Credit Office to take responsibility for its mistakes and simplify the system, rather than make families pay for government incompetence.
These latest figures show that over 1 million incorrect benefit payments were made in financial year 2007/8, totaling £558 million. While the figures did show that the government recovered more of the overpaid benefits than the previous year, this will come as no consolation to many families who had already spent the money they were then asked to repay.
Commenting, Jo said:
“This is an issue I have been campaigning about for some time now and it is clear that the government is failing to solve the problem. It is bad enough at the best of times that the tax credits system is putting extra financial strain on families, but in the current economic climate it is simply unacceptable.
“Not only do these overpayments lead to increased personal debt on the part of the individuals concerned, but they also add to the already substantial national debt – by over a quarter of a billion pounds last year.
“The stories I hear from my constituents are absolutely shocking. They are already struggling to manage their household budget and see it thrown into chaos through benefit overpayments and the subsequent debt recovery.”
“The system must be simplified and I sincerely hope that the government will take seriously the recommendations made by the National Audit Office.”
- Read the National Audit Office’s report ‘The Department for Work and Pensions: Management of Benefit Overpayment Debt’