More benefit claimants prosecuted
Shropshire Council’s public protection service is reminding housing benefit and council tax support claimants of their statutory duty to correctly declare information that might affect their entitlement to these benefits.
The advice follows successful prosecutions on 11 September 2013 where Shropshire Council brought cases against two benefit claimants.
Sarah Bevan, 37, from Bishop’s Castle, claimed housing benefit, but failed to give prompt notification to Shropshire Council of her marriage in 2010 and an increase in her working hours. This meant that between 10 September 2010 and 12 July 2012 she benefited from £6,895 to which she was not entitled. She entered guilty pleas to both Social Security Administration Act 1992 offences, and was sentenced by the Magistrates Court to a Conditional Discharge for a period of 2½ years and ordered to pay £150 costs to Shropshire Council.
David Newbold, 26, from Ludlow, claimed housing benefit and council tax benefit, but failed to disclose to Shropshire Council that he was in paid work. Between February 2012 and February 2013 he retained credits of over £4,225 to which he was not entitled. He pleaded guilty to charges brought under the Theft Act 1968 and the Fraud Act 2006. He was sentenced by the Magistrates Court to a two-year Conditional Discharge, and was ordered to pay £150 costs to Shropshire Council.
In addition to their sentences, the claimants will also be liable to pay back the benefits that they were not entitled to.
Public protection investigation officers are reminding benefit claimants that they must declare the correct information at the time of their application, and notify any subsequent changes in circumstances at the time they occur, to avoid breaches of benefit legislation.
Frances Darling, service manager for safer and stronger communities within public protection, said:
“It is the responsibility of people claiming housing benefit and council tax benefit to declare any income or capital to the council, plus any changes to their circumstances. Where people fail to do this, the council will investigate the matter and will require the money to be repaid. In addition, we will not hesitate to prosecute where this is appropriate.”
Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member responsible for public protection, added:
“Claimants need to be aware that benefit fraud will not be tolerated in Shropshire. We have a duty to protect the public purse and to ensure that those members of our community who genuinely need financial assistance through the benefit system have the help and support they need. Claimants who obtain benefits that they are not entitled to undermine the efficiency and effectiveness of the welfare benefit system. I strongly urge all claimants to provide the benefits team with accurate claim information at all times and to promptly provide any changes to their circumstances that may affect their entitlement to benefits.”
Shropshire Council encourages individuals and businesses to contact its public protection service on 0345 678 9000 if they have any suspicions that offences may be being committed. Information can be given anonymously and will always be treated in line with the council’s information governance policies.
Benefits advice can be obtained from the council’s Benefits Options Team on 01743 258922 or general advice can be found on our website here.