Prosecution serves as a reminder to benefit claimants
Shropshire Council’s public protection service is reminding housing benefit and council tax support claimants of their statutory duty to promptly notify the council’s benefit service of changes in circumstances that might affect their entitlement to these benefits.
The advice follows a successful prosecution on 25 September 2013 where Shropshire Council brought a case under the Social Security Administration Act 1992 against a 40-year-old benefit claimant, Kevin Byron, from Wentnor, near Bishop’s Castle.
Mr Byron claimed housing benefit and help with his council tax, but failed to disclose to Shropshire Council that his partner was living with him at his property. This meant that between 1 November 2009 and 2 June 2013 he benefited from over £13,750 to which he was not entitled.
Mr Byron pleaded guilty to the offences and, with reference to his childcare commitments, the Magistrates’ Court sentenced him to a forty-hour Community Punishment Order and ordered him to pay £100 towards Shropshire Council’s costs. Mr Byron will also be liable to pay back the monies that he was 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:
“From this case, there was approaching £14,000 that had been claimed when in fact the claimant was not entitled to this money; it is simply not acceptable for anyone to do this. It is the responsibility of people claiming housing benefit and council tax support to declare any income or capital to the council, plus any other 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 benefit service 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.