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peterdelamothe
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Double-barrelled surname costs disabled mother £190 a week
By Benedict Brogan, Political Correspondent
(Filed: 14/04/2003)

A disabled mother of three has been barred from receiving tax credits worth £190 a week because she is among hundreds of claimants whose double-barrel surnames are not recognised by Government computers.

Sue Evan-Jones has fought for more than three months to persuade the Inland Revenue that her surname has two parts after she was told the system was confused by hyphens.

Her case will be seized on as a fresh example of what critics say is Gordon Brown’s war against the middle classes, who this month will begin to feel the effect of a succession of council and income tax rises.

Mrs Evan-Jones lives in Yate, Glos, with her husband David, a computer engineer with Avon and Somerset Constabulary, and her sons Luc, 15, and Marc, 12, who are autistic.

Last November she filled in detailed forms to apply for the Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which replaced the Working Families Tax Credit this month.

The new scheme has been dogged by problems as claimants struggle to navigate the complexity of the paperwork. Despite a £12 million campaign to promote the system, up to two million of the five million families eligible have failed to submit an application.

Mrs Evan-Jones became concerned when the revenue told her that it had no record of the existence of her children even though she and her sons are registered as disabled and already in receipt of tax credits.

When she called the helpline she discovered that the Government’s computers had registered her and her family as Jones. She was told that the systems were unable to recognise a hyphen.

Since then she has telephoned the helpline twice a week to try to have the problem cleared, but has still not been approved for credits worth about £190 a week.

“This is causing us huge problems. My husband is now paying more in National Insurance contributions, so we need this help even more than before to make ends meet,” she said.

Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman who is also her MP, last night urged the Government to prioritise those applicants already in receipt of tax credits who faced a sudden drop in income if their new claims were not processed quickly enough.

“This is a taster of what is to come. It’s a scheme that looked good on a drawing board in the Treasury but implementing it on the ground is another matter,” he said.

“If it weren’t so serious it would be laughable. Saying computers don’t recognise hyphens is just one of the fantastical excuses I have heard that the Revenue are putting out. It’s clear to me that they can’t cope with the claims they have had.”

Last night Mrs Evan-Jones blamed the system’s refusal to acknowledge her double-barrel name on the poor education of Inland Revenue workers, who she said were ignorant of the rules of punctuation.

“I had never thought that a hyphen would cause so much trouble. I told them I could change my name but they said that would cause far more trouble,” she said.