Hazel - alleged benefit fraud - failure to notify a change of circumstances

Hazel - alleged benefit fraud - failure to notify a change of circumstances

Hazel was a single mother with four children in 1999. She claimed, and received, Income Support.

In April 2002 Mike, the father of her youngest child, moved in with her. Mike had a full time job in a local factory on a modest wage. Hazel was unsure how long Mike might stay with her and the children. She did not inform the Benefits Agency that Mike had moved in and she continued to receive Income Support.

When the Income Support came up for review Hazel signed a form saying that there had been no change in her circumstances.

In 2006 Mike applied for a new credit card and asked for an additional card on the same account to be issued to Hazel. On the credit card application form Mike gave the same address for himself and for Hazel.

Over a year later the Department of Work and Pensions contacted Hazel saying that they had information that she was claiming Income Support to which she was not entitled because she was living with a partner who was in full time employment.

Hazel was interviewed under caution and subsequently charged with failure to notify a change in circumstances contrary to section 111A(1A) Social Security Administration Act 1992. The prosecution calculated that Income Support of £32,000 had been overpaid to Hazel and the matter was sent for trial in the Crown Court.

We were instructed to check the prosecution's figure of Income Support overpaid and, in the light of the available information about Hazel's circumstances and Mike's income, calculate what Hazel and Mike's entitlement to Tax Credits (and formerly Working Families Tax Credit) would have been, on the true facts, over the period since April 2002.

We concluded that the prosecution's figure of Income Support overpaid was correct, but that Hazel and Mike would have been entitled, on the true facts, to Tax Credits (and Working Families Tax Credit) of £26,000 over the period since April 2002. Hazel pleaded guilty to the offence, but our figures were presented to the court as part of her mitigation. Hazel received a suspended sentence.