The woman in question, who wishes to remain anonymous, received six letters from Customer and Local Services erroneously chasing unpaid social security contributions, claiming that she had earned more than £249,600 each year between 2013 and 2018. In one of those years she was still at school.
When she raised the issue with the department she claims she was asked whether she was behind with her tax payments too, before eventually being told that the mistakes were due to a computer error caused by the 2% contribution rate drop planned for next month.
Customer and Local Services director-general Ian Burns said that ‘less than 50’ erroneous letters had been sent out and staff not checking computer-generated letters properly was the cause.
The government has been dogged with IT-related communication issues recently, including tax returns being sent to children and letters on proposed tax reforms being sent to Islanders who have died.
The woman said: ‘I instantly thought it was a scam, as I obviously didn’t earn that much and was also still at school in 2013. But as it had my correct social security reference, I called Social Security to double-check. They started asking me questions about my ITIS and if I had underpaid my tax, which I know I haven’t, before putting me through to someone in Social Security.
‘They then informed me that they’ve had errors with their systems preparing for the reduction in social security from October and letters were sent out to Islanders in error.’
She added: ‘My main concern is if people get this letter it could make them panic. I thought it was so ridiculous and was concerned that someone might have had my social security number.
‘Generally you don’t need social security until you retire, which is 40 years away for me, so you really want to know that they are getting things right.’
Mr Burns said that the fault was due to ‘human error’ and offered an apology to those affected.
‘First of all I would like to say that I’m really disappointed to see that this happened to a member of the public,’ he said. ‘We were delivering about 4,000 of these letters and just under 50 were actually incorrect. We have spoken to customers about this and apologise for this. We are very sorry.’
He added that investment in IT systems was a priority for his department and that some of the technology currently in use had not been updated since 2006.