Daniel Thomas,Business reporter

Victoria Arthur Victoria Arthur and family Victoria Arthur

Victoria Arthur and two of her children

When Victoria Arthur’s Child Benefit was not paid on Monday, her immediate concern was that she would not be able to afford nappies and milk for her four month-old daughter.

Like many, the mum-of-three from Romford relies on the £238 she gets each month to pay for essentials for her kids.

But a payment processing error at HMRC has meant that around 500,000 claimants did not receive their money as planned, sparking panic for many families.

Unable to reach the tax agency and with nothing in her bank account, Victoria was forced to call the council to get a food bank voucher which she spent on formula, food and cereal.

“I couldn’t believe it when I woke up on Monday,” she told the BBC.

“There wasn’t a penny [of Child Benefit] in my account and no explanation, no automated text message.

“I tried calling HMRC but they weren’t accepting calls. It was so stressful. We were left in the dark.”

The tax agency has apologised and said the missed sum will be paid on Wednesday.

It also said anyone who incurred a loss as a result of the glitch can apply for redress through its complaints system.

But there has been an outpouring of anger on social media. Some parents have said they were left unable to afford food or pay bills because of the error.

HMRC has also been criticised over its communications after telling worried parents not to call its helplines on Monday and to check social media for updates instead.

‘I was worrying about it all day’

John Pain John Pain and familyJohn Pain

Single parent John Pain said he was unable to get answers from HMRC

John Pain, a single parent of three children – two of whom have special needs – only realised that his Child Benefit had not been paid when he got a notification from his bank saying that a direct debit had not gone through.

Initially, he was confused.

Then he panicked.

The 32-year-old relies on Child Benefit to pay for his daughter’s ballet classes, food bills and days out with the kids.

“The last year as money’s got tighter, I am using it more and more to pay certain bills too,” John told the BBC.

John was also unable to get answers from HMRC directly, much to his frustration.

“I had to find out what had happened on Facebook and they didn’t say ‘we are going to sort this out in the next couple of days’, it was just ‘keep checking social media’. So I was worrying about it all day.”

Luckily he was given breathing space to pay the direct debit he missed on Monday, although he was fined for a late bill payment and will have to claim it back though HMRC’s complaints process.

People can claim Child Benefit if they are responsible for bringing up a child under 16, or under 20 if they are in approved education or training.

Only one parent gets the payment per child, and there is no limit to how many children you can claim for.

The benefit – which is usually paid every four weeks – is vital for many families on low incomes. Parents can claim £25.60 a week for one child and £16.95 for each subsequent child.

‘Shocked’

Megan Dragon, 26, said she was “shocked” when her benefit did not arrive because it is usually “really reliable”.

The mum-of-four from Northamptonshire, who does not work, said the money was “crucial” as her husband’s income alone was “not enough to cover us”.

“We need it for fuel, food, our mortgage,” Megan told the BBC.

The family almost missed a mortgage payment on Monday because of the delay but managed to get a three-day extension from their lender.

Megan also struggled to work out why the benefit had not turned up, only finding out after stumbling on a thread on the networking site, Mumsnet.

“I was disappointed and annoyed with HMRC as it seemed that people had warned them about this on Friday evening and Saturday morning and they’d ignored it. It was probably avoidable.”

She said the family was now “back on track”.

“We are in a really fortunate position, but others aren’t so lucky.”

With additional reporting from Bernadette McCague



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