A cleaner who claimed more than £24,000 of benefits she was not entitled to has been given a suspended jail term.
Gillian Bilsborough, of Collins Road, Bamber Bridge, near Preston, told a probation office her literacy problems had affected her filling in forms, but later accepted acting dishonestly by failing to declare she had a job.
The 61-year-old widow has since declared herself bankrupt, Preston’s Magistrates’ Court was told.
Prosecuting, Martine Connah said the mum -of-three’s claim was not fraudulent at the outset.
But Bilsborough then gained employment at Lancashire County Council.
Her benefit claims to South Ribble Borough Council continued as she then got jobs for other firms.
Miss Connah added: “The defendant was claiming housing benefit and council tax benefit. She was in receipt of it from 1993 to 2015.
“ She had also used a false declaration on her benefits review form."
In interview she said she thought the council had known she was working.
Bilsborough pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances and making a false representation.
Defending, Michael Leach said the defendant’s husband, who had dealt with paperwork due to her literacy problems, had died in 1990, four years after having an accident.
He added: “Throughout this period of time she never claimed Employment Support Allowance or Income Support, despite her financial circumstances.
“She has tried to get by with part time jobs.
“Since all this came to light she has got financial assistance and a debt manager to address her levels of debt.
The bench said the length of time and amount of money aggravated the matter and jailed her for 20 weeks, but suspended it for 12 months after hearing she was of previous good character.
The overpaid benefits are being reclaimed.
The court ordered her to take part on a 10 day rehabilitation activity.
She must also pay an £85 victim surcharge and £85 prosecution costs at a rate of £5 a week.