Prosecutions serve 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 successful prosecutions on 13 September 2013 where Shropshire Council brought cases under the Social Security Administration Act 1992 against two benefit claimants.
Colin Baker, 54, from Bomere Heath near Shrewsbury, claimed housing benefit and council tax benefit, but failed to give prompt notification to Shropshire Council that there had been changes to his income. This meant that between 8 April 2011 and 26 July 2012 he benefited from over £2,850 to which he was not entitled.
Amanda Parr, 45, from Westbury near Shrewsbury, claimed housing benefit and council tax benefit, but failed to give prompt notification to Shropshire Council that her earned income had increased. This meant that between 29 April 2010 and 15 July 2012 she received benefit of over £5,750 to which she was not entitled.
In both cases the claimants pleaded guilty to the offences, and were separately sentenced to a 12-month Conditional Discharge, and ordered by the Magistrates Court to pay £150 as a contribution towards Shropshire Council’s costs.
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:
“From these two cases, over £8,500 has been claimed by people who were not entitled to that 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 earnings 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, with general advice on our website here.