Merton Council uncovers over £42,000 of fraud

A Mitcham woman is behind bars after she admitted defrauding Merton Council and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) of over £42,000.

Croydon Magistrates Court heard how Ms Handslip dishonestly failed to inform either the council or the DWP when her partner – who had a job – moved in with her. Handslip, therefore, continued to receive a total of £42,197.78 in benefits which she was not entitled to, including income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit.

Handslip’s fraud was discovered when her sixth child was born and she registered its birth with the council. The council’s benefits team became wary when the baby had Handslip’s partner’s surname but he was not named on the form for the ongoing benefits claim.

Merton Council raised their suspicions and contacted the DWP’s Living Together team. The council and the Government agency then worked in partnership to uncover Handslip’s fraud.

Croydon magistrates referred Handslip to Croydon Crown Court and she was sentenced to 12 months in prison. Around £1000 of the overpaid income support benefits has been recovered so far and debt recovery for the overpaid housing and council tax benefits will commence once Ms Handslip has been released.

Merton Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for corporate resources, Councillor Samantha George said:

“This is a clear example of how Merton Council will not tolerate people committing benefits fraud.

“We are committed to providing value for money for our residents and council taxpayers and that includes making sure people do not dishonestly exploit the benefits system.”