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Benefits cheat as woman claims to be single mum in Greater Manchester | UK | News

Claire Finney, 41, told the government she and her four children were living alone when in fact she was residing with her partner. Her deceit lasted five years, during which time she raked in the support through various benefits, including Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.

Throughout that period, she went on holidays to five-star resorts in Cyprus.

The mum was eventually caught out by her local authority and the HMRC, and appeared at Manchester Crown Court yesterday. 

But despite condemning her behaviour, the Recorder of Manchester, Judge Nicholas Dean QC, gave Finney a suspended sentence and she was able to walk free from court.

The 12-month sentence was suspended for two years, and Finney was ordered to complete 180 hours unpaid work. 

The judge said: “Sometimes there is a stigma associated towards people who claim benefits, mostly because of people like you who give those who claim a bad name as they are tarred with the same brush.

“There are benefit cheats – 99% of those who claim are no such thing.

“This type of offending is impossible to stop once it starts – it snowballs until inevitably someone discovers after being contacted.

“These were public funds that you were not entitled to and you are paying back what you owe.

“You live with very young children, they would be deprived of your care and they would suffer, you really wouldn’t suffer so the sentence should be suspended.”

The defendant pleaded guilty to four offences of failing to disclose information to appropriate bodies that she was legally obligated to, reports Manchester Evening News.

Eleanor Gleeson, prosecuting, said Finney was sharing a house with Joseph Perry, said to be her partner throughout April 2014 to July 2019.

From her initial claim for Tax Credits, the defendant stated she was a single parent and failed to declare that she was living with Mr Perry at this time – this continued every tax year up to 2018/2019.

When interviewed, she confirmed that every Tax Credit annual renewal claim was false as Mr Perry continued to live with her, and also admitted in interview that she had never worked since claiming in 2009 and that she “inflated child care costs for financial gain”.

On August 5 2015, Finney, of Eccles, Greater Manchester, was required to confirm her renewal over the phone for the previous tax year (from April 2014).

She maintained she was single, despite the fact Mr Perry was living with her and supporting the family.

Ms Gleeson said: “Investigations discovered that at this stage both the defendant and Mr Perry had been named as jointly liable for Council Tax on the address since 2011.

“The defendant was entitled to claim £38,007.27 in Tax Credits.

“She in fact claimed £117,871.68.

“As a result, it is calculated she received £79,864.61 in over-payments over that period in tax credits.”

Finney went on to make a claim for Income Support in March 2016, declaring to the DWP that she had stopped working, separated from her partner and was a single parent.

She was overpaid £8,406.40, the court heard.

Finner also made a claim for Housing Benefit from Salford City Council, again declaring she was a single parent.

She was overpaid £3,446.25.

On February 19 2019 she made a claim for Universal Credit, but failed to notify the DWP that she was receiving other benefits.

These were cancelled once the Universal Credit was awarded.

She was entitled to claim £1,132.51 in the form of Universal Credit, but was overpaid £5,310.00.

“When renewing her applications for benefits, she claimed she had split up from her partner and continued to be a single parent,” Ms Gleeson said.

“In reality, she continued to live with Mr Perry and they had holidays at five-star resorts in Cyprus.

“When the address was put up for sale in 2017, both her and Mr Perry were joint vendors.

“There were dozens of opportunities to declare to HMRC, DWP and Salford City Council that she was not a single parent, which she failed to do.”

The total claim figure amounted to £136,168.02. Finney was entitled to £39,139.78, so the overpayment figure was £97,028.24.

So far Finney has repaid £362.25 in Income Support, but the other repayments can only be made after she has paid off the total amount of Income Support.

She was said to have two previous convictions for four offences, including three offences of making a false representation to obtain benefit.



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