A DROITWICH woman has pleaded guilty to benefit fraud.

Wychavon District Council secured the prosecution with the help of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

At Worcester Magistrates Court on April 5, Melanie Austin, 38, formerly Mrs Melanie Loveridge, of Ploughman’s Court, Droitwich, pleaded guilty to a charge of benefit fraud relating to the claiming of housing benefit, council tax benefit and income support for the property she rents.

As a result of the joint prosecution, it was found that from June 2010, Austin had failed to declare that she was living together with her partner at the same address. When she was interviewed about this matter in March 2011, Austin initially denied that she had been previously living together with her partner, but that he had only moved in around two weeks prior to that.

The investigation found that in total there had been overpayments of £1,557.03 in income support and a total of £3,395.40 in housing benefit and council tax benefit.

At court Austin was sentenced to pay a fine of £500 and also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £15. The Prosecutors for the DWP were awarded costs of £100.

Austin will also have to fully repay all the benefits to which she was not entitled.

Nick Jefferies, head of shared services at Wychavon District Council, said: “Miss Austin failed to give prompt notification of changes in her circumstances, which she had a duty to report. The council has a duty to protect public funds and considers benefit fraud to be a serious matter.”

If you are claiming housing or council tax benefits and are unsure as to whether or not you are still entitled to receive them, contact Wychavon District Council on 01905 822744 for advice or visit wychavon.gov.uk/benefits.