A WOMAN who continued to claim disability benefits despite her condition improving enough so she could take a cleaning job, has been spared jail.
Julie Melson pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to notify the Department for Work Pensions (DWP) that her circumstances had changed.
Chester Crown Court was told Melson, 58, claimed about £29,790 in disability living allowance, incapacity benefit and tax credits between October 2008 and September 2012.
Melson, of Hatton Road, Blacon, Chester, began claiming benefits honestly in 1999 when she developed a disability which impacted on her mobility. In 2006 her condition worsened to a point where she was unable to walk 10 feet without feeling discomfort and had problems getting dressed, cooking, cleaning and bathing.
As a result, her disability living allowance and tax credits increased and she also began to receive incapacity benefit.
Sarah Griffin, prosecuting, said Melson began to claim dishonestly in 2008 when her condition markedly improved, so much so she was able to take a part-time job cleaning.
Melson failed to notify the DWP about her improvement and she was filmed walking briskly through Chester city centre and at a supermarket without any hint of a limp, as well as cleaning up to the top of windows and doors.
Tom Watson, defending, said the figure of £29,790 was not correct but the real figure was “impossible to calculate” because Melson was entitled to some benefits, although not the level which she was claiming.
Mr Watson also said Melson had “real remorse” for her actions and said she did not explain her personal circumstances, where she looks after her disabled granddaughter, because she did not want to make excuses for her actions.
Mr Watson also said she was of previous good character, had begun to pay back the money she owed and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
Judge Elgan Edwards, the Recorder of Chester, sentenced Melson to six months in prison, suspended for two years, ordered her to do 150 hours unpaid work and pay an £80 victim surcharge.
Judge Edwards said: “You did not start off intending to be dishonest but the fact of the matter is you should have told them when your circumstances changed.
“However, I am not going to send you to prison today. Do not get into this situation again.”