Fittleworth woman falsely claimed benefits

A woman from Fittleworth has been ordered to do 80 hours community work after falsely claiming more than £18,000 in benefits, despite having savings.

Heather Clinch, 53, of Bedham Road initially claimed housing benefit and council tax benefit from Arun District Council. In 2014 she moved to Fittleworth and claimed housing benefit from Chichester District Council (CDC) because she said she had a low household income and no savings.

An investigation by CDC found she had savings of more than £16,000 which had not been declared.

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The prosecution was brought by the Department for Work and Pensions and Ms Clinch pleaded not guilty to three charges of dishonestly obtaining benefit. A trial found her guilty of all charges. She was ordered to do 80 hours of unpaid work in a year and to pay £770 in court costs and a victim surcharge of £85.

“The purposes of Council Tax and Housing benefits are to help the most vulnerable in our district,” said Cllr Philippa Hardwick, cabinet member for finance at CDC: “The vast majority of benefit claimants are honest however there are a few people who will cheat the system. We will always take action when we can prove that claimants have deliberately broken the law. Our aim is to protect taxpayers’ money and ensure benefits go to the right people.”

People who suspect someone of committing benefit fraud can contact the National Fraud Hotline anonymously by calling 0800 854 440. Calls are free and confidential. Lines are open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm. Reports can also be made online at Benefit Fraud reporting

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