A 32-year-old woman from Nantwich has been ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work after fraudulently claiming benefits.
Elaine Dawson, of Cronkinson Oak, appeared before South and East Cheshire Magistrates Court for sentencing on Wednesday (August 19). She had earlier entered guilty pleas to two charges of failing to report a change in her circumstances in relation to her claims for Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Council Tax Support.
Magistrates sitting at Crewe had heard that Dawson claimed the above benefits since November 2012 on the basis that she was on a low income and needed financial support to help pay her rent and Council Tax.
Her claim continued on this basis until Cheshire East Council discovered that Dawson’s hours had increased. A subsequent investigation into her claim found that Dawson’s earnings had increased significantly from January 2013.
In failing to report the increase in her earnings, Dawson received £4,099.10 in benefits from Cheshire East Council over a period of two years that she was not entitlement to.
Magistrates ordered Dawson to complete a 12-month community order with a requirement to complete 100 hours unpaid work and imposed costs of £300 and a victim surcharge of £60.
Additionally, she will have to repay in full all the benefits she fraudulently received.
Councillor Les Gilbert, Cabinet member in charge of communities, said: “The benefits system exists to help people who really need it – it is unacceptable for others to attempt to fraudulently take advantage of it.
“If people think the can claim benefits they are not entitled to and get away with it, they are making a big mistake and our zero-tolerance approach will result in prosecutions like this.
“They risk being prosecuted and ending up with a criminal conviction for a serious offence of dishonesty.”
So far this year, the Council’s benefit investigations team has identified more than £770,000 in fraudulently claimed Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Jobseekers’ Allowance, Income Support and Employment Support Allowance paid by Cheshire East Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.
During this year, 43 people have been prosecuted, 31 issued with administrative penalties or fines and 35 more cautioned for benefits offences and Blue Badge misuse.
If people believe someone is committing benefit fraud, they can call the confidential free phone fraud hotline on 0800 389 2787. Callers do not have to give their name and the call will be treated in the strictest confidence.
Alternatively, suspected fraud can be reported on the Council’s website at www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/benefits.