A flawed crackdown on tax credit fraud has revealed the Government's shameful attitude towards single mothers, Labour MPs have said.
The former shadow ministers attacked the Treasury and HMRC for deliberately targeting single parents, particularly mothers, with its controversial Concentrix contract.
Last month, the Government said Concentrix's contract to reduce fraud and error in the tax credits system would be terminated after claimants wrongly had their benefits scrapped.
In a Westminster Hall debate about the contract, Labour's former shadow work and pensions minister Kate Green, said: "It's clear that the deliberate intention of the contract was to target single parents on the basis of assumptions that they were living with a partner and not reporting it.
"It returns to attitudes of single women bringing up children that somehow they must not be respectable and they need to be investigated."
Labour's former shadow equalities minister Fiona Mactaggart, who led the debate, added: "This was a gendered contract.
"Constituents feel harassed, scared and pinned up as targets by the way that this has occurred. It's not acceptable in a civilised society to treat mothers in this manner."
She accused HMRC and the Treasury of providing "totally flimsy evidence" for the private company to investigate, insisting they should shoulder the blame for policy failures.
"The way we have treated the mums and dads who are bringing up the next generation on low pay has been shameful," she said.
"I think the responsibility fundamentally lies with the Treasury and the HMRC."
Ms Mactaggart added: "In effect, what they did was run a campaign against parents who were doing that terribly difficult job on their own of bringing up children and I think we should be ashamed of ourselves for targeting this group.
"I think we've been blaming Concentrix for using flimsy evidence when actually the source of that flimsy evidence is HMRC."
Victims of scams and fraud
Victims of scams and fraud
Susan Tollefsen, Britain's oldest first time mother, was scammed out of £160,000 by a fraudster she met on an online dating site. A man claiming to be an Italian gold and diamond dealer told her he was in the middle of a land deal but couldn't access cash. Tollefsen felt sorry for him and started wiring him money, eventually selling her jewellery, her flat and borrowing £32,000 from friends to give him. Read the full story here.
In March 2015 an American woman who was only identified as 'Sarah' went on the popular US television programme the Dr Phil Show to reveal she had sent $1.4 million to a man that she had never met. Although she was certain she wasn't being scammed, her cousin made her go on the programme because she was convinced it was a scam. Find out more about the story here.
Maggie Surridge employed Lee Slocombe to lay a £350 deck in her garden in March 2015. However Slocombe used a combination of lies to scam Surridge out of thousands of pounds. He told Surridge that the front and back walls were dangerous and needed rebuilding and also conned her into building a porch, all for the cost of £8,500. Read the full story here.
It's not just individuals who can be the victims of scams, big corporations can also fall foul of these fraudulent practices. In 2015 Claire Dunleavy repeatedly used a 7p 'reduced' sticker to get significant amounts of money off her shopping at an Asda store in Burslem, ending up with her paying just £15.66 for a shop that should have cost £69.02. Read the full story here.
Sylvia Kneller, 76, was conned out of £200,000 over the space of 56 years thanks to scam mail. The pensioner became addicted to responding to the fraudsters, convinced that she would one day win a fortune. Ms Kneller would receive letters claiming she had won large sums of money but she needed to send processing fees to claim her prize. Learn about the full story here.
Leslie Jubb, 103, became Britain's oldest scam victim in August last year when he was conned out of £60,000 after being sent an endless stream of catalogues promising prizes in return for purchasing overpriced goods. The extent of this con was discovered when Mr Jubb temporarily moved into a care home and his family discovered what he had lost. Find out more about this story here.
Stephen Cox won more than £100,000 on the National Lottery in 2003 but has been left with nothing after falling victim to two conmen. The 63-year-old was pressured into handing over £60,000 to the men who told him his roof needed fixing. They walked him into banks and building societies persuading him to part with £80,000 of cash while doing no work in return. See the full story here.
Last year the Metropolitan Police released CCTV footage of a woman who had £250 stolen at a cash machine in Dagenham. The scam involved two men distracting the woman at the machine, pressing the button for £250 then taking the money and running away. Read about the full story here.
Rebecca Ferguson shot to fame as a runner up on the X-Factor in 2010 but fell victim to a scam artist last year when someone she had believed to be a friend conned her out of £43,000. Rachel Taylor befriended the singer in 2012 and claimed to be a qualified accountant, so Ferguson allowed her to look after her finances. Instead of doing this Taylor stole £43,000 from the Liverpudlian singer. Read more here.
When Rebecca Lewis discovered her fiance had started a relationship with a woman he met online she packed her bags to leave. But that didn't stop her checking out the mystery woman, Rebecca quickly realised Paul Rusher's new love was actually part of a romance scam. She told Paul just before he sent the scammers £2,000 which was supposed to bring his new girlfriend to England. Find the full story here.