Published: August 7, 2013
Burnham-On-Sea woman receives jail term after admitting benefit fraud

A 24 year-old Burnham-On-Sea resident has received an eight week jail term after admitting benefit fraud.

The woman, who lives near Marine Drive, appeared at Taunton Magistrates Court and has been the subject of an investigation by Sedgemoor District Council's legal services team.

They innvestigated her employment history after she claimed to be receiving no income at all whilst claiming Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.

During this time, she had also made applications for additional discretionary housing payments on the grounds of financial hardship.

The prosecuting solicitor told the court that such discretionary payments are reserved for those in desperate need and councils are only permitted a limited amount of funds for this purpose each year.

"Investigators found that the lady had in fact worked for five employers since 2009 and failed to declare all of her earnings over this period of time," said a council spokeswoman.

"One employer paid her an average take home pay of £1,000 per month for nearly two years. When interviewed, the lady admitted failing to declare the earnings to the council whilst claiming Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit on the grounds of no income."

An overpayment of £9,589.17 was raised as a result of her actions. She appeared before magistrates and the Chairman of the Bench stated that the case had been identified as a serious offence involving a significant amount of public money over a lengthy period of time.

Taking into account her guilty plea and admission, she was sentenced to eight weeks' imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, plus 150 hours unpaid work, 10 days attendance on an Educational Training and Employment Programme and Probation Service supervision for 12 months.

In addition to the sentences passed by the courts, Sedgemoor District Council says it actively pursues the recovery of all overpaid benefits from offenders.

Spokeswoman Claire Faun told Burnham-On-Sea.com: "Sedgemoor District Council has a zero-tolerance for benefit fraud. The Council works with a whole host of different sources to continue to fight benefit fraud, which costs £1.5 billion nationally. Since April, nine cases of benefit fraud, amounting to overpayments of more than £46,000, have been taken to court."

"Information comes in to the council in various ways; including calls from the general public, data matching exercises, council staff, the Police and the Department for Work and Pensions."

Members of the public who have concerns regarding benefit fraudsters within the area can provide information by calling the Fraud Hotline on 0845 408 2540.



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