28/04/2014 - Permalink

Prosecution serves as a reminder to benefit claimants

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People who claim housing benefit and council tax support are being reminded 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 April 2014 where Shropshire Council brought a case under the Social Security Administration Act 1992 against a 33-year-old benefit claimant, Ahmet Et from Shrewsbury.

Mr Et claimed housing benefit and council tax benefit but dishonestly failed to declare his  status as a self-employed taxi driver to Shropshire Council.  This meant that between 11 August 2011 and 20 October 2013 he benefited from over £10,800 to which he was not entitled.

Mr Et pleaded guilty to the offences and received an eight week custodial sentence (suspended for twelve months). In addition, the District Judge ordered him to pay £630 costs to Shropshire Council. Mr Et 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 these cases, whilst around £10,800 related to the specific offence period between 11 August 2011 and 20 October 2013, there was in fact in the region of £11,200 that had been claimed when 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.”

Councillor Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member responsible for public protection, added:

“I hope this sends a clear message to others that fraudsters will be caught and punished.

“This is not a victimless crime as fraudulently claimed benefits takes money out of the pockets of every hard working taxpayer as well as the people who genuinely need support to make ends meet.

“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 9004 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 the website by clicking here.