Burnley mum in £28,000 benefits scam

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A YOUNG mum carried on claiming benefits in a £28,000 scam after her partner, who had a job, moved in, a court heard.

Katie Hyatt’s partner was working at Asda and surveillance carried out by the Department for Work and Pensions observed him leaving the family home and taking a child to school.

The defendant was dishonest for more than three years, but her claim had not been fraudulent from the outset, Burnley Crown Court was told.

Hyatt (23) was overpaid £28,112, but would have been entitled to working tax credits and so the total loss to the public purse was £16,337.

The defendant, of Peart Street, Burnley, admitted three counts of falling to promptly notify a change of circumstances.

She was given a two-year community order with supervision by a judge, who said although the fraud went on for a significant period of time, it was not professionally planned.

Hyatt had no previous convictions.

Mr Frank Nance (prosecuting for the DWP) said the defendant claimed income support from August 2005, on the basis she was a single parent. From at least April 2007 she had been living with her partner, who had a job, but she did not tell the authorities.

Hyatt received £11,907 in income support, £13,513 in housing benefit and £2,691 in council tax benefits, but she would have been entitled to £11,775 in tax credits if she had been honest.

Mr Nance said Hyatt’s partner’s bosses had the defendant’s address as an emergency contact address, her partner’s wages were paid into Hyatt’s bank account and the partner made loan applications, giving that address. The defendant was interviewed, but did not own up.

Mr Mark Stuart (defending) said she was paying back the housing benefit at £40 a month. The defendant, who was pregnant, was in a terrible financial position and would undoubtedly benefit from supervision.

The couple had been taking out loans, could not repay them and had been living a “rob Peter to pay Paul existence.”

Sentencing, Recorder Charles Garside QC, told the defendant she could have been going to prison, but her family needed her, she had pleaded guilty and was of previous good character.

The judge added: “I take the view that your appearance in this court is going to be a punishment for someone like you.”