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Saturday 15 March 2014

Benefits cheat ordered to repay more than £5,350 and do 200 hours’ unpaid community work


A woman who fraudulently claimed more than £5,300 in benefits has been ordered by magistrates to repay the money and do 200 hours’ of unpaid community work.

Dawn Birch, 40, of Albert Cottages, Crewe Road, Sandbach, pleaded guilty at South and East Cheshire Magistrates’ Court to four charges of making false representations in relation to her claims for jobseekers allowance, housing benefit, Council Tax benefit and discretionary housing payments, and to two charges of failing to promptly report a change in circumstance in relation to her claims for housing benefit and Council Tax benefit.

Magistrates sitting at Crewe heard (on Wednesday March 5) that Birch claimed housing and Council Tax benefits in November 2011 on the basis that she and her partner were out of work. However, investigators from Cheshire East Council’s benefit fraud team found that Birch’s partner had started work in May 2011, and that they had also moved out of their property in September 2011.

Birch failed to report these changes and continued to receive both housing and Council Tax benefit until January 2012. She also submitted a false claim for discretionary housing payment in June 2011.

Birch made a claim for further financial help with her housing costs from the limited fund run by the Council to provide support to those in exceptional hardship on the basis that she and her partner had a low income – but failed to advise her partner was in fact in paid work.

Birch then made further claims to housing benefit, Council Tax benefit and jobseekers’ allowance in February 2012, but investigators found, in May 2012, that her partner had started work again in April 2012. 

She had also submitted a further false claim for discretionary housing payment two weeks after he actually started work in April 2012 based on out-of-work benefits. Birch also made false statements to the Council and the Department for Work and Pensions in relation to the date that her partner started work.

Magistrates imposed a Community Order requiring Birch to do 200 hours’ unpaid work. Birch was further ordered to pay costs of £250, a victim surcharge of £60 and a compensation order was granted for collection of the overpaid benefit.

The prosecution was brought by Cheshire East Council’s benefit fraud investigation team and legal team.

Councillor Peter Raynes, Cheshire East Council Cabinet member in charge of finance, said: “This prosecution is yet another example of this Council taking firm action to protect our local communities from those who criminally abuse the benefits system at the expense of honest taxpayers.

“It also reinforces the clear message from this authority that Cheshire East is an enforcing Council and that benefit fraud will simply not be tolerated.

“We have shown once again that we will catch up with these offenders and that we are fully committed to ensuring these selfish and anti-social fraudsters are brought to justice.”

If you think someone is committing benefit fraud, you can ring the confidential freephone fraud hotline on 0800 389 2787. You don’t have to give your name and your call will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Alternatively, you can report suspected fraud via the Council’

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