A mum-of-three overclaimed nearly £20,000 of benefits she was not entitled to, a court has been told.
Gemma Littlechild, of Robin Hey, Moss Side, Leyland, spent her 34th birthday in the dock at Preston Magistrates’ Court after admitting two charges of dishonestly failing to notify the DWP and South Ribble Council about her change of circumstances.
She must do 100 hours unpaid work and pay an £85 surcharge and £85 costs.
Prosecuting, Peter Bardsley told the bench she had failed to tell the authorities she was living with her partner Keith Jones between October 2013 and December 2015.
At the time she was claiming both income support and housing benefit.
He said: “She didn’t reveal the change. She said she was living as a lone parent with three dependant children that led then to an overpayment of £19,355.13.
“In interview she made some admissions, including that they had been to Cyprus on holiday. She said she never wanted to stop her claim as she couldn’t live without the money. “In her words she said: ‘What happens if he then buggers off?’
The court heard she had no previous convictions and that the authorities were now reclaiming the money on a weekly basis.
Defending, Andrew Nottingham said: “ What a way to spend your 34th birthday when you have never been in court before. This case means she loses her good character after 34 years of not putting a foot wrong.
“She has - and I know this - not taken this matter lightly. It’s been hanging over her for many, many months.
“ She has had a relationship with the father of her four-year-old for a period of time and this claim was made when things were totally legitimate - it wasn’t fraudulent from the outset.
“He was coming and going. Even when he was there he didn’t always pay his own way.
“ Every year she would sign as what her status was. She, like a number of other ladies, was faced with the dilemma if she was going to get any money from him this week.
“If she had done that she may well have been entitled to some benefits but felt she couldn’t risk it. She’s frank - she just had to have certainty in case he left.”