Mum repaying £7.5k benefits
A MOTHER-OF-FOUR who was overpaid more than £7,500 in benefits has been handed a community order.
Zara Martin, aged 24, legitimately claimed benefits in 2004 on the basis she was a lone parent.
But her claims became illegal when she failed to tell the authorities her partner had moved in with her, North Staffordshire magistrates heard yesterday.
Prosecutor Trevor Vernon, representing Stoke-on-Trent City Council and the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP), said Martin informed the authorities she moved to Grosvenor Road, Meir, in 2010. But she also stated on the form she had no partner living with her.
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And in March 2011, when she moved to Star and Garter Road, Longton, she again failed to declare her partner was living with her.
However, the authorities received a tip-off that Martin's partner, Dean Hulme, had moved in with her.
Mr Vernon said: "An investigation followed which showed Mr Hulme had made loan applications, giving Grosvenor Road as his new address, and he told his employers he had moved in and gave Miss Martin's address.
"And a vehicle he was given to use was seen to be parked outside the Grosvenor Road address."
Martin, now of Lennox Road, Normacot, pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to give prompt notification of a change of circumstances in relation to her claim for benefits between May 24, 2010 and October 1, 2011.
It was accepted there was no element of dishonesty, the court heard.
In total Martin was overpaid £7,743.72. This was made up of £4,687.97 income support, £2,566.11 housing benefit and £489.64 council tax.
She is now repaying the money from her current benefits.
Hamish Noble, mitigating, said Martin had three children when the offences were committed.
Her then partner, Mr Hulme, moved in with her in May 2010 and gained a job in July of that year which lasted for four months.
"She understands this change of circumstances should have been notified to the DWP and the council," said Mr Noble.
He said Martin, who has no previous convictions, is no longer with Mr Hulme and now has a fourth child with her new partner.
"She apologises for her wrongdoing," said Mr Noble.
He said the claims were legitimate from the outset and added: "For the last 18 months or so these matters have been hanging over her head."
Magistrates said the overpayment being more than £5,000 and over a 16-month period were aggravating features.
They sentenced Martin to a 12-month community order with 12 months supervision to include six benefit fraud workbook sessions and help for her debt management. She must also complete 40 hours unpaid work and she was ordered to pay £100 costs.