Colne mum on zero hours contract overpaid in benefits

Burnley Magistrates' Court
Burnley Magistrates' Court

A Colne mum who claimed she was unfit to work claimed almost £3,500 benefits she wasn't entitled to when she got a job, a court heard.

Sarah Kelly, who received employment and support allowance and housing benefit, was working at Pretty Little Thing in Burnley, through a recruitment agency, but didn't let on to the authorities.

Burnley magistrates were told Kelly, who suffers from anxiety and depression, said she wanted to be able to buy Christmas presents for her children. The 32-year-old is still on benefits and deductions are being made to repay the money she shouldn't have had.

The defendant, of Colne Lane, admitted two counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances, to the Department for Work and Pensions and Pendle Borough Council, between September and December, 2015.

She was given a six week curfew, between 7pm and 7am and must pay £85 costs and an £85 victim surcharge. Kelly had no previous convictions.

Mrs Alex Mann (prosecuting) said Kelly got benefits for herself and her partner legitimately on the basis she was unfit for work and had no other income.

Mrs Mann said the defendant was overpaid just over £2,500 in employment and support allowance and just under £1,000 in housing benefit - a total of £3, 473.

Mr Keith Rennison (defending) said it was coming up to Christmas and she wanted to see if she could get herself back in the workplace.

He added: "This was a zero hours contract. She was never certain from one day to the next whether she would be working, what hours she would be working and what she would be paid."

Mr Rennison said Kelly was worried her benefits might be stopped and so didn't tell the authorities as she didn't want to be in a position where she was trying to get them reinstated over Christmas. She found working difficult and it exacerbated her anxiety.

The solicitor added: "She just wanted to provide something for her children over Christmas. Regrettably, she buried her head in the sand and hoped that everything would be OK. The loss of her good character is a significant punishment in itself."