A benefits cheat who pocketed more than £20,000 despite having more than twice that amount in savings has been given a community order.
Jayne Short, aged 48, of Matlock Drive, Cannock, claimed a total of £20,284.69 in housing benefits and council tax support when her own bank balance exceeded £45,000, a court heard.
Mother-of-two Short pleaded guilty to five charges of dishonestly making a false statement to obtain a benefit at Cannock Magistrates Court yesterday. The charges related to false statements made between March 17, 2009 and March 24, 2009, when the defendant filled out benefit claim forms. Short claimed the total sum between 2009 and 2012.
Mr Giles Rowden, prosecuting, acknowledged Short had since repaid the full amount but said these were fraudulent claims.
Mr Paris Theodorou, defending, said Short had been unaware that what she had been doing was illegal and claimed she had not been motivated by greed. He added that she had been suspended from receiving benefits in April 2012.
Mr Theodorou said: “At the time she made the claims she had recently separated from her partner, having been the victim of abuse.
“She was going through a very difficult time in her life at that stage and she wasn’t thinking straight at the time. She was saving money for the future of her two children, so the reason for keeping the money is an admirable one.
“She did not plan for this to happen and at no stage was she motivated by greed.”
The court also heard that Short had suffered from anxiety and depression following her break-up, at one point being diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.
She had been saving the money from her own income as well as by setting aside some of her benefits, not knowing it was illegal to claim while having the amount she had accumulated, the court was told.
Short was given a community order for nine months with requirements that she receives supervision, and also that she must complete a benefit fraud workbook. Magistrates said they had taken into account her early guilty plea and the fact that she had no previous convictions.