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A benefit cheat came to know she would have received more benefits if she had claimed legally (1 February 2013)

Date: 01/02/2013
Duncan Lewis, Legal News Solicitors, A benefit cheat came to know she would have received more benefits if she had claimed legally

A woman who committed benefit fraud was in for a surprise when she was told by a court that what she had been claiming was far too little than what she would have received in legitimate benefits.
Joanne Gibbons, 23, was let off despite claiming wrongly £3,140 in income support while she held two jobs.
After being caught the single mother of one had her benefits assessed and the civil servants discovered that she was entitled to almost twice as much in legitimate benefits.
They said Gibbons was due around £130 a week in family tax credits and child benefit – £64 more than the £66 a week she was illegally receiving in income support.
Gibbons, a shop assistant, admitted benefit fraud but was handed only a community order after magistrates were told she would have saved the Government money if she had continued to claim dishonestly.
Benefit fraud lawyer defending said that the case was extraordinary and perhaps an indictment of the benefits system.
The government had in this case saved money and the mitigation was itself most ridiculous that she had to represent to any court she added.
The prosecution earlier had told the hearing that Gibbons of Macclesfield had begun claiming £66 a week in income support legally in May 2010 and carried on with taking cash even after she had found job at a women’s clothing shop and as an office worker at a local hospital in February 2011.
Miss Marchuk added if she had notified the Department of Work and Pensions, no benefit would have been payable during that period.
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said the case highlighted the complex nature of the welfare system. It was ridiculous that somebody who was making fraudulent claims would have actually received more in benefits if they were honest.
He added that the present system showed how there was no incentive for people to go back to work.
The court heard last week that she wrongly claimed for 11 months until January last year. During this time she was actually entitled to £130 a week in child benefit and working families tax credits.
Gibbons was caught on a tip off and had co-operated with the DWP the court was told.
She was ordered to complete 80 hours unpaid work under the terms of a 12-month community order and pay £100 costs. Magistrate Susan Armstrong said Gibbons had intentionally claimed for a sustained period of time.
Though Gibbons with a young child and the time span of her fraud involving small sum was never likely to receive a prison term the coalition policy of giving more powers to investigators has helped convictions to increase by 40 per cent in the last two years alone.
Officials can now access bank records and credit reference checks.

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