Mum claimed benefits she wasn't entitled to

A mother-of-two claimed handouts of more than £30,000 she wasn't entitled to after she didn't reveal her partner was working, a court heard.
Burnley Magistrates' CourtBurnley Magistrates' Court
Burnley Magistrates' Court

Rachel Coates was claiming benefits as a couple, on the understanding that both her and her partner Christopher Wright were unemployed. She was getting housing benefit from Pendle Council and employment and support allowance through the Department for Work and Pensions.

Miss Parveen Akhtar (prosecuting) told Burnley magistrates: "Evidence is available to show he had been working and receiving income and that had not been declared to either department."

Coates got an overpayment of £30, 224.17.

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The defendant, of Ethersall Road, Nelson, admitted two counts of failing to promptly notify a change in circumstances to Pendle Council and the DWP, between July 2013 and February 2016.

The 38-year-old received 16 weeks in prison, suspended for a year and must pay £85 costs and a £115 victim surcharge. The defendant, who is now repaying the money in £20 instalments, had no previous convictions.

Mr David Leach (defending) told the court the claim was genuine at first. Coates and her partner were not working and he was a student.

Mr Wright obtained part-time work and there was the opportunity of overtime, but it never went above 16 hours. At some point, the defendant wrote to the DWP, explaining the position, but the "real mischief" was that she didn't follow it up when she didn't get a reply.

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She should have made further enquiries, to see if they had got the letter and then drafted another letter. He added: "She would have known you have to send the letter to both parties."

Mr Leach said Coates would have been entitled to tax credits at a higher rate if she had declared her partner was working.

He continued: "She would still have been entitled to benefits, but did not follow the correct rules and procedure."

The solicitor said the defendant had suffered irreversible damage to her liver after taking painkillers for chronic back problems.