Rugby woman falsely claimed more than £4,000 in benefits

editorial image

A Rugby woman who fraudulently claimed more than £4,100 in benefits has been ordered to carry out 90 hours unpaid work.

Rachel Watkins, of Cambridge Street, pleaded guilty at Nuneaton Magistrates Court on Monday to failing to notify Rugby Borough Council of a change in her circumstances.

The court heard Miss Watkins applied to the council for housing benefit and council tax benefit in August 2011, when she was working part-time and her partner was waiting to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance.

On three occasions the 28-year-old notified the council of a change in her circumstances and in July 2013 she contacted the council again, confirming both she and her partner were earning more money due to working increased hours.

Watkins said her hours had increased in January 2013, while her partner’s increased in March. When she produced wage slips, council officers discovered the couple’s income had increased significantly since January - resulting in a benefit overpayment of more than £4,100.

When interviewed under caution by a benefit fraud officer at the Town Hall, Watkins admitted she should have informed the council of the change in her circumstances straight away.

In total, Watkins fraudulently claimed £3,803.78 in housing benefit and £335.75 in council tax benefit - a total of £4,141.53.

In mitigation, the court was told the offence only came to light when she contacted the council and she had started to repay the fraudulently claimed benefit.

Magistrates sentenced Watkins to a community order with a requirement to carry out 90 hours of unpaid work.

She was also ordered to pay £340 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.

Speaking after the hearing, Cllr Leigh Hunt, Rugby Borough Council portfolio holder for sustainable communities, said: “It’s vital claimants contact the council as soon as their circumstances change.

“We have a duty to investigate all cases of benefit fraud and prosecute individuals who cheat the system.

“I’d urge anyone with concerns over how their circumstances affect their benefit claim to contact the council at the first opportunity.”

Residents can contact the council’s benefits team on (01788) 533433.

To report suspected cases of benefit fraud, call the council in the strictest confidence on (01788) 533460 or email benefits.unit@rugby.gov.uk