21st Oct, 2020

Stratford grandma claimed £56,000 in benefits after 'defrauding the public purse'

A GRANDMA from Stratford received £56,000 in benefits after using different names to claim carer income on top of pension credit and housing benefit.

Now Jean Rowlands, who was also planning to use a false National Insurance number as part of her deception, has been jailed for eight months.

Rowlands of Payton Street, Stratford, had pleaded guilty to four charges of fraudulently failing to disclose information to the Department for Work and Pensions and Stratford District Council (SDC)

The 72-year-old had been receiving pension credit from August 2009 and housing benefit from January 2011. But from the 21st of August 2012 she began receiving income from employment as a carer for her grandson, and did not declare it.

As a result Rowlands, who was getting £1,800 a month as a carer, as well as her state pension, received just over £56,000 in benefits to which she was not entitled.

Of that, around £26,000 had been paid in pension credit between 2013 and 2018, and £28,000 in housing benefit, from SDC, between the same dates. During that period Rowland had also received a smaller figure in housing benefit from Warwick District Council.

Prosecutor Llana Davis said: “The aggravating features are the significant period of time, the multiple transactions, and that she used multiple surnames when working as a carer.

“They were names she had legitimately used in the past of Morris and Larkins, but she did so to hide her working as a carer from the benefit agencies, and she also invented a National Insurance number and a false date of birth.”

Colin Charvill, defending, said Rowlands’ daughter had a severe health condition, and both she and her son, who suffers from autism, required care. Payments of £1,800 a month were made to her daughter, and that was then paid to Rowlands who then spent the £1,800 on her grandson, including for his rent.

Mr Charvill added Rowlands, who had been working legitimately as a carer, had been repaying the money ‘at a modest amount of £60 a month.’

He said prison was ‘not going to be easy’ for Rowlands, who was using a crutch following an accident last Christmas, and argued for a suspended sentence.

Jailing Rowlands, Recorder Falk told her: “You are now 72, and you were a lady of no previous convictions, but I have to deal with you for defrauding the public purse out of just over £56,000. It was a sustained fraud over a long period.

“I accept it was not fraudulent from the outset, but within three years you were getting another income from the state of some £1800 to care for your grandson.

“You never declared that at all, and it only stopped because the authorities intervened in 2018.

“Benefit fraud is stealing money from the taxpayer, at a time when the country was on its knees financially and instituting austerity measures.

“I accept your grandson needed a level of care, but I do find there was an element of financial gain, and I do not accept you were confused by the forms. The entries in your diary show otherwise.

“The only question is whether I can suspend the sentence. But this was a sustained fraud on the public over a period of six years. In my opinion, with regret, this can only be met by immediate custody.”

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