Prosecutions serve as a reminder to benefit claimants
Shropshire Council’s public protection service is reminding housing benefit and council tax benefit claimants of their statutory duty to promptly notify the council’s benefits service of changes in circumstances that might affect their entitlement to these benefits.
The advice follows successful prosecutions on 23 August 2013 where Shropshire Council brought cases under the Social Security Administration Act 1992 against four benefit claimants. The claimants had claimed either housing benefit, council tax benefit or both, and had all failed to give prompt notification to Shropshire Council that their earnings had increased.
- Diane Edmunds, 57, from Market Drayton, received benefit of over £3,000 between 24 December 2008 and 3 July 2012 to which she was not entitled. She pleaded guilty to the offence and was sentenced to a 12-month Conditional Discharge.
- Shelley McLoughlin, 25, from Shrewsbury, received benefit of over £3,100 between 8 April 2010 and 25 July 2012 to which she was not entitled. She pleaded guilty to the offence and was sentenced to a 12-month Conditional Discharge.
- Maria Spence, 51, from Shrewsbury, received benefit of over £4,400 between 19 February 2010 and 24 July 2012 to which she was not entitled. She pleaded guilty to the offence and was sentenced to an 18-month Conditional Discharge.
- Adam Hawtin, 33, from Shrewsbury, received benefit of over £1,600 between 18 February 2010 and 23 August 2012 to which he was not entitled. He pleaded guilty to the offence and was sentenced to a 12-month Conditional Discharge.
In addition to their sentences, the claimants will also be liable to pay back all 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 four cases, nearly £12,000 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 benefit to declare any income or earnings to the council, plus any other changes to their circumstances. These cases demonstrate that 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 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.