FAMILIES have been left struggling after failing to receive Child Tax Credit payments because the system does not recognise Scottish school holidays, an SNP MSP has claimed.
Edinburgh Pentlands MSP Gordon Macdonald said he had been contacted by parents whose payments were stopped on August 31 in line with the start of English school terms – even though they had phoned HM Revenue & Customs two weeks earlier, when Scottish schools returned, to confirm their 16-year-old children were still in education.
Child Tax Credit payments are reassessed when a child reaches 16 but can continue if the child is still in school or training.
Mr Macdonald said HMRC had confirmed they were recalculating all Child Tax Credits in line with the return of schools in England and payments had been delayed due to system overloads.
And he said families, some on very low income, were facing delayed payments of up to £175 per week.
He said it was “nonsensical” for the UK government to assess Scottish families according to English school term times.
And he has written to the UK Government, calling for urgent change so that the date of recalculations for Child Tax Credits, in Scotland corresponds with Scottish school term times.
Mr Macdonald said: “This is yet another example of the Tories’ mismanagement and their lack of consideration for Scotland. The UK government’s unwillingness to recognise Scottish school term times is leading to an overloaded department and is, ultimately, leaving families short of money and struggling to manage – through no fault of their own.
“There is simply no need for this to be happening. Schools in Scotland return in mid-August and that is when Child Tax Credit payments should be recalculated. It would alleviate the workload that HMRC are now facing and, most importantly, reduce the negative impact on families in Scotland.
“Tory austerity measures are already driving Scottish families into poverty and these families are facing further hardship simply because of the incompetence of the UK government in not taking Scottish school holidays dates into account.”
An HMRC spokesperson said: “Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit customers must let HMRC know by 31 August if any of their children are 16 and continuing in education, approved training. If they don’t their benefits may be stopped.
“As long as you let us know of your child’s circumstances, you will not lose out on any entitlement and any arrears will be paid. There is currently no processing backlog for Child Tax Credits and they will be awarded shortly if not already.”