Fraud case: Teen carer overpaid almost £11,000

Burnley Magistrates Court.
Burnley Magistrates Court.
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A benefits fraudster claimed almost £11,000 for caring for her disabled grandma, but was being paid a wage for doing it, a court heard.

Burnley Magistrates were told how Sopna Begum was receiving carer’s allowance to look after the elderly relative.

But, she was also receiving cash from a scheme to assist disabled people, under which her grandma was the employer and she was the employee. Begum, who was 16 when she became her grandma’s carer, claimed she hadn’t understood the scheme and what she did was a “genuine misunderstanding”.

The court heard Begum, now 21 and married with a child, is still living with her grandmother and looking after her. The defendant, who is on benefits, is paying back the money. Her ambition is to become a forensic psychologist.

Begum, of Merton Street, Burnley, admitted dishonestly making a false statement to obtain a benefit, by failing to declare at the town’s Jobcentre that she was receiving wages for looking after her grandmother.

The defendant, who had no previous convictions, was given a 12 month community order, with 24 hours at an attendance centre and must pay £85 costs.

Prosecutor Tracy Yates told the court Begum was paid £10,620.95 she wasn’t entitled to, between June 2011 and November 2014. She claimed carer’s allowance, signing a form indicating she had no income from employment.

Miss Yates said the defendant was interviewed in December last year and agreed she was being paid a wage for looking after her grandmother. The prosecutor told the hearing the defendant said she didn’t declare it as she thought she was self-employed.

Miss Yates continued: “She could not agree she was dishonest about not declaring, despite agreeing false information is dishonest.” The prosecutor added: “This was a fraud from the outset.”

Monira Hussain (defending) said she had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and fully co-operated with investigations by relevant officials.

Miss Hussain said the social services told Begum of a scheme where she would be able to receive money to look after a relative and it was set up through the Cheshire Centre for Independent Living. “She believed the money was coming from the government. She now understands this was an external scheme where disabled persons are assisted.”

Miss Hussain said under the scheme the relative was the employer and the person caring for them was the employee. She continued: “Clearly, there was certainly naivety, but I would submit it wasn’t deliberate, fraudulent activity.”