Droitwich woman to repay thousands of pounds worth of falsely claimed benefits

First published in News

A DROITWICH woman has been made to repay more than £8,000 in overpaid benefits by Worcester magistrates, after pleading guilty to four charges of dishonestly and knowingly giving false information to the Department for Work and Pensions, and failing to report changes in her circumstances to Wychavon District Council.

In a joint prosecution by Wychavon’s Benefits Fraud Team and the Department for Work and Pensions, it was revealed that Sarah Louise Cook of Nunnery Avenue in Droitwich claimed benefits for herself and her husband, declaring that she was sick and unable to work, and her husband was unemployed and not working.

However anonymous information received by the Wychavon Benefit Fraud hotline revealed that Cook’s husband was working.

An investigation found that he had been receiving wages since February 6, 2011, something which Cook had failed to declare, even denying knowledge of her husband being at work when she was interviewed by investigating officers.

The investigation revealed that she had been overpaid £1,996.91 in Housing Benefit, £5888.11 in Council Tax Benefit, £1637.01 in Job Seekers Allowance, and £4,366.41 in Employment and Support Allowance.

In total, Cook falsely claimed £8,588.44 in overpaid benefits.

The case was brought before District Judge French at Worcester Magistrates Court on Thursday, May 1.

Cook was fined a nominal £10, with costs of £200 and a victim surcharge of £60, making a total of £270 to be paid back at £5 per week. She also has to repay in full her benefit fraud debts.

Nick Jefferies, partnership director on behalf of the South Worcestershire Partnership, said: “We consider benefit fraud to be a serious matter. People have a duty to notify us and report any change in circumstances when it comes to matters that might affect benefit payments, just as we have a duty to protect public funds.”

Anyone claiming Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support, can check whether they are still entitled to receive them by calling 0300 4560560.

To confidentially report a case of benefit fraud to Wychavon District Council, people can ring 01386 565280 or write to fraud@southworcestershirerevenues.gov.uk.

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