£12,000 benefit cheat mum was ‘thoroughly dishonest’

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A MOTHER-of-two claimed £12,000 benefits as a lone parent even though her partner had moved in and was earning over £20,000, a court heard.

Wendy Cooper claimed she had not wanted to commit to another relationship and thought they would split up. Cooper, whose teenage daughter has cystic fibrosis, did not tell the authorities of her new domestic set-up, but was rumbled after the Department for Work and Pensions carried out surveillance, Burnley Crown Court heard.

The defendant (38), of Rowland Avenue, Nelson, admitted three counts of failing to promptly notify the DWP of a change in circumstances and three of making a false representation. The offences, involving income support, council tax and housing benefits, took place between January, 2009 and August last year. She was given eight weeks in jail, suspended for a year, with 12 months supervision.

Mr David Birrell, prosecuting for the DWP, said Cooper claimed benefits on the basis she was a lone parent and was not in work, but her partner was employed by the county council and was paid more than £20,000.

Surveillance showed the pair were living together and each was contributing. The defendant knowingly made fraudulent claims three times, although it was not a fraud from the outset. She had no previous convictions.

Mr John Woodward, for Cooper, said her now ex-partner had been anxious to move in, and said she tell the DWP, but she felt frightened of committing to another relationship. Her partner found it difficult to cope with her daughter’s illness.

Mr Woodward continued: “He would come and stay more often than was perhaps envisaged at a time when she was obliged to tell the authorities. At the back of her mind she always thought he would leave or they would not get on and they would split up.”

The barrister, who said Cooper had been assessed as being at low risk of offending, had now split up with her partner.

Sentencing, Judge Ian Leeming told Cooper: “Offences such as these must be appropriately punished. The vast majority of people who receive benefits receive them honestly. You have acted, I am sad to say, thoroughly dishonestly.”