A childminder from Hampshire has pleaded guilty to claiming more than £34,000 in benefits fraudulently – by not declaring that she held £48,000 in saving accounts. Benefits claimants are not allowed to have more than £16,000 in savings.
The Daily Mail reports that 54-year-old Helen Batchelor was caught out when benefit officers processing her claim were notified by a government system that she had accrued a large amount of interest on her accounts. They discovered she had around £48,000 in savings spread across 17 different accounts.
Batchelor worked as a child minder for Hampshire County Council, but had claimed more than £34,000 in housing benefit and council tax benefit over a six-year period, after failing to advise Fareham Borough Council in Hampshire of her savings.
The court heard told that Batchelor had asked for a £20 council tax refund in 2008 – and had also complained to her local authority about the bedroom tax in 2013.
She had ignored information requested of her in November 2013 – but had submitted a prepared statement in April 2014, when she was interviewed by benefit officers.
The statement she submitted read that she had four undeclared bank accounts with a total balance of around £10,000 – below the £16,000 a year threshold for savings.
However, an investigation revealed further accounts with savings in them.
At Fareham Magistrates’ Court, Batchelor admitted five counts of dishonestly making a false statement to obtain a benefit from July 2007 until February 2013.
The prosecution told the court:
“Audacious is a word that I have used to describe these acts.”
Her defence lawyer said:
“In short, she expresses that she had concerns about her long-term financial security and she had accumulated savings – and has separated them from her bank account.”
The court heard that Batchelor repaid at total of £34,016.64 in full within a month – and that she had never spent the money to support an “ostentatious lifestyle”.
Batchelor will be sentenced at Portsmouth Crown Court at a later date.
After the hearing, Fareham Borough Council Leader Sean Woodward said:
“It is absolutely scandalous – beyond audacious. She committed a series of outrageous acts out of pure greed.
“We have zero tolerance of benefit cheats, because it is the public's money they are stealing – and in this case, it was clearly not a mistake, as it was a prolonged and intricate fraud.”
Duncan Lewis Benefit Fraud Solicitors
Duncan Lewis can advise at any stage of a charge involving benefit fraud, including before charges are brought and during interview under caution with the DWP or other prosecuting authority.
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For expert legal advice on benefit fraud charges, call Duncan Lewis benefit fraud solicitors on 020 7923 4020.