Jail for mum-of-four who claimed almost £50,000 benefits?

Burnley Crown Court.
Burnley Crown Court.

A single mother received almost £50,000 in benefits while she had more than £43,000 in the bank, in a four year fraud, a court heard.

Burnley magistrates were told how Sophia Hussain (41) told the authorities she had no income other than child benefits, but inquiries revealed she had the cash in a Santander savings account while she was receiving four types of financial support from the public purse.

Hussain, a mother-of-four, claimed she had put the money aside for her eldest child who has learning difficulties.

The defendant could now be facing jail, after admitting four counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances - two counts relating to the Department for Work and Pensions and two to Pendle Council - by not declaring she had savings in excess of the permitted limit.

Hussain, of Halifax Road, Nelson, was committed on unconditional bail to be sentenced at Burnley Crown Court on February 22nd.

Prosecutor Tracy Yates told the hearing the total overpayment to the defendant was £48,747,18.

Hussain claimed income support between May 2010 and July 2011, income-based employment support allowance she wasn’t entitled to between July 2nd, 2011 and November 14th, 2014, housing benefit between May 17th, 2010 and November 16th, 2014 and council tax benefit between May 17th, 2010 and March 31st, 2013.

Miss Yates said the defendant at first received income support on the basis she was a lone parent receiving child benefit and had no other income.

The prosecutor said: “She also received other support on that basis, that she was a lone parent with no other income.”

Miss Yates said in 2014, it was discovered Hussain had a Santander account, with a balance of over £43,000, which she had not declared.

Ben Leech (for Hussain) asked for a pre-sentence report. He said the defendant was the primary carer for her four children. Her eldest son was 21.

Mr Leech said: “He was diagnosed very early in life with severe learning difficulties, ADHD, a number of problems which led him to receive disability living allowance.

“I’m told that much of the money put aside and put into a savings account she was able to save and put aside for the benefit of her son.”

Mr Leech said it was £26,000 that Hussain had in the bank and not £43,000, throughout the relevant period. He told the hearing: “It’s still £10,000 in excess of the £16,000 cut-off figure.”

The solicitor said Hussain had been a single mother throughout the period, suffers with depression and has a potential diagnosis of bi-polar.

Mr Leech said Hussain was paying back the money at £120 a month, adding: “She has not been receiving any benefits since November 2014, which has eaten into and taken her savings and she has now been prevented from reclaiming benefits.

“She has found herself in significant debt because of these proceedings.”