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Margaret Ritchie has power to scrap Tax Credit debt

23 December, 2007

Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson has said that the Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie has the power to stop the misery of thousands of people who are unable to afford repayments to the Tax Credit system.

She called of Margaret Ritchie to give single parents a Christmas present by wiping out any debt accumulated by the discredited Tax Credit system.

Ms. Anderson said:

"There needs to be a moratorium on tax credit repayments for low-income families because many many vulnerable families are being plunged into even greater financial hardship and distress because of the disarray within the Tax Credit system.

"The Social Security Agency has the discretion to waive these repayments when they would cause undue hardship or when the overpayment was not the fault of the recipient.

"Margaret Ritchie has it within her power to instruct the Social Security Agency to immediately begin using it's discretion to waive the repayments and stop demanding money from the most vulnerable people in our society.

"In the vast majority of these cases, the overpayment has resulted because of a mistake by the Social Security Agency, yet rather than waving the repayments, they are pursuing them with an almost religious zeal.

"Through no fault of their own, these families have been given overpayments because of the inefficient way the Tax Credit system is calculated. They are then faced with massive repayment demands which are causing incredible stress and which are literally taking food out of children's mouths.

"That is completely unacceptable and flies in the face of the Assembly's stated aim of eradicating child poverty by 2020.

"Given that context, I am calling Margaret Ritchie to use the power she has to alleviate this misery for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. In the New Year I will be also urging the Assembly to review the entire Tax Credit system and to declare a moratorium on these repayments as a tangible step towards eradicating child poverty." ENDS

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