Page last updated on 09/8/2011
Benefit Fraud Trial
A LAUGHARNE woman has been convicted of benefit fraud after a trial.
Mary Elizabeth Susan Halstead stood trial at Carmarthen Magistrates Court after pleading not guilty to an offence of failing to promptly notify Carmarthenshire County Council of a change in her circumstances, namely that her Jobseekers Allowance had ceased, contrary to Section 112 Social Security Administration Act 1992.
The court was told that 55-year-old Halstead had been awarded housing and council tax benefit at a council tenancy in Orchard Park, Laugharne, as a single person on the basis that she was unemployed and in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance.
A data matching exercise identified that she had stopped receiving Jobseekers Allowance February 22, 2010. As a result, she had been overpaid £715.26 rent rebate (from March 1, 2010, to June 6, 2010) and £215.55 council tax benefit (March 1, 2010, to July 25, 2010). She failed to attend for interview and the case was sent to court.
Halstead pleaded not guilty to the offence. She claimed an officer in the DWP had told her the DWP would advise the council she was no longer claiming jobseekers allowance. Halstead named the DWP officer concerned.
However, it emerged that the DWP officer was not interviewing members of the public until January 2011, almost a year after the time Halstead claimed to have spoken to her. The officer confirmed that even if she had have seen her, she would have advised her that it is the customer’s duty to inform the council of any change in her circumstances.
Halstead was found guilty of the offence and sentenced to a 12 month community order and ordered to undertake 100 hours of unpaid work in the community. She was also ordered to pay £250 prosecution costs. Carmarthenshire County Council will pursue recovery of the overpaid benefit.
Council executive board member for resources Cllr Wyn Evans said: “The Council is anxious that as many people as possible claim the housing and council tax benefit that they are rightfully entitled to.
“However, we are also determined to crack down on fraudulent claims that are a drain on the public purse, taking money that could otherwise be used for funding essential services. This offence is taking money from every council tax payer.”
Members of the public can report any suspicions of benefit fraud in the county via the Carmarthenshire County Council Fraud Hotline 0800 – 801116 or via the council website.