A WORCESTER woman has admitted fraudulently claiming more than £32,000 in benefits – despite having more than £16,000 in savings.

Paula Hayward of Elgar Court, Rainbow Hill, appeared at Worcester Magistrates Court on Friday, May 16, where she pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to disclose information when she was under a legal duty to do so.

The court heard the 60-year-old had received illegal overpayments of £19,152.78 in Income Support and Employment and Support Allowance and a further £12,867.36 in Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit over a five year period after failing to declare cash in a number of bank accounts, bonds and investment policies.

Her false claims were uncovered in a joint investigation by Worcester City Council and the Department for Work and Pensions, which discovered she had more than £16,000 in savings, which legally barred her from claiming benefits.

When she was interviewed during the investigation Hayward admitted that she had not disclosed the full extent of her savings when she made benefits claims between November 2007 and August 2012 in relation to a property she previously rented in Broad Street, Worcester.

She was ordered to repay the entire £32,020.14 she had falsely claimed and was also sentenced to a 12-month community order, including a requirement to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work.

Partnership director for the South Worcestershire Partnership Nick Jefferies said: “It is important that benefits are only paid to those who are entitled to them.

“This was a premeditated case, designed to defraud the taxpayer of money by the claiming of benefits to which Hayward was not entitled.

“This case sends a clear message that if you try to cheat the system when you claim benefits, you will get caught.

“Remember – benefits cheats create higher bills for everyone else.”

The partnership manages benefits claims on behalf of Worcester City Council.

For information on whether or not you are entitled to Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support call 03004 560 560.

To confidentially report a case of benefit fraud to Worcester City Council, Malvern District Council or Wychavon District Council call 01386 565 280 or email fraud@southworcestershirerevenues.gov.uk.