Woman overclaimed council tax and housing benefits by £5,000

NKDC offices, Sleaford.
NKDC offices, Sleaford.

Benefit claimants are being reminded to let their local council know of changes in their circumstances after a Leadenham woman who fraudulently claimed more than £5,000 appeared at Lincoln Magistrates’ Court.

Marie Duncan, 40, of Main Street, Fenton, pleaded guilty to failing to notify North Kesteven District Council of changes in her circumstances, meaning she was overpaid by nearly £5,000 in Council Tax and Housing Benefits between March 2013 and June 2014.

Duncan lived in Leadenham at the time of the offence but has since moved to Fenton in West Lindsey. She had got a new job after a period of unemployment and the overpayment was discovered when a benefits data match showed she was earning; thus triggering an investigation.

At the hearing on Wednesday April 15, the court heard Duncan had not made any arrangements to pay the money owed and was also struggling with other debts.

She was ordered to pay a fine of £280, the councils’ legal costs of £150, a victims surcharge of £28 and a Compensation Order to repay the £4,929.27 she had fraudulently claimed.

Commenting on the case afterwards, Martin Walmsley, Head of the Shared Revenues and Benefits Service, said: “There is no excuse not to let your local council know when your circumstances have changed.

“Every claimant signs a declaration on benefits claims forms agreeing to give prompt notification in writing of any change in circumstances that may affect their benefit entitlement.

“This includes a warning that not doing so could result in court action and, as these cases demonstrate, we are committed to tackling benefit fraud. We would urge anyone claiming benefits to let us know as soon as possible of any changes. If they are unsure whether they need to tell us something, please just ask.”

Changes in circumstances could include those below, although the list is not exhaustive:

○ If you move home

○ If someone moves in or out

○ If your income changes

○ If your rent changes

○If you qualify for another benefit

○ If you stop getting Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance

○If anyone living in your home has a change of circumstance

For North Kesteven residents, you can report changes online at www.n-kesteven.gov.uk/benefits, email NKBenefits@lincoln.gov.uk, call 01529 414155, or drop into the North Kesteven offices in Sleaford or North Hykeham.