Chigwell woman was overpaid £6,000 in housing and council tax benefit

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Ms Clarke pleaded guilty to two charges last month Ms Clarke pleaded guilty to two charges last month

A teaching assistant convicted of benefit fraud has been ordered to do community service.

Sarah Clarke, 47, of Copperfield in Chigwell, was sentenced to a 12-month order and 50 hours unpaid work for committing housing benefit and council tax fraud resulting in an overpayment of £6,000.

Ms Clarke started claiming housing benefit in 2001 and told Epping Forest District Council she was employed by a teaching agency and was only being paid during term time.

However, Ms Clarke failed to notify the council about a change in her circumstances, namely that between July 11 2011 and April 1 2013, she was employed full time at a higher salary than previously declared.

On December 17, Ms Clarke pleaded guilty at Chelmsford Magistrates Court to not notifying the council about a change in circumstances and supplying false information.  

The fraud came to light after review checks were carried out in October 2012 and the council discovered Ms Clarke had been employed by the London Borough of Newham as a teaching assistant since 2011.

Ms Clarke supplied false information about her employment to the council on two occasions on June 17 and July 25 of 2011.

Conservative Cllr Syd Stavrou said: "Housing Benefit is means tested to help people on low incomes to pay their bills.

"We impress on our claimants that they must notify us in writing of any change in circumstances that affects their entitlement to benefit.

"Benefit fraud remains a major concern and Epping Forest District Council is committed to preventing and detecting it."

Ms Clarke is repaying the council the overpaid benefit in monthly instalments.  

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