A St Helens woman who claimed her son was living in the loft when he’d moved to the Philippines has been sentenced for dishonestly claiming thousands of pounds of benefits for him.
The Crown Prosecution Service said June Roberts, 65, from St Helens, had dishonestly claimed £15,018 in Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP) on behalf of her son, Paul Roberts.
Ms Roberts, acting as the appointee for her son, made false claims on his behalf in 2016. Paul was said to be unable to work through ill-health and had severe mobility difficulties and significant care needs. His ESA and PIP benefits were paid direct into his bank account.
In May 2017 he booked a flight to the Philippines and never came back. He is believed to have married there.
June Roberts failed to report that Mr Roberts had left and in a phone call review of his benefits in July 2017, she told the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) he was unable to come to the phone because he was hiding in the loft.
Mr Roberts continued to make regular withdrawals of cash from within the Philippines until the DWP were alerted to a possible fraud and stopped his benefits.
On November 9, 2018, Ms Roberts was interviewed by police and asked if she knew her son had moved to the Philippines seven months before.
She replied: “Not really. Because Paul lives at home, he's at home now”.
On further questioning she conceded he may have been on holiday there for three or four weeks.
She was asked whether he’d been married while he was there and eventually admitted that he had.
The officer asked why she hadn't told a DWP official in an interview in July that her son was in the Philippines.
She said: “I can't remember. I honestly thought he was upstairs in the loft ‘cos I shouted down to him to answer the phone.”
The officer went on to point out that she’d contested a rejected claim for PIP in 2017, saying how severe her son's health problems were when he wasn’t even in the country.
She pleaded guilty at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court on August 20 to dishonestly making a false statement to obtain a benefit and dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances affecting entitlement to social security benefit.
At Liverpool Crown Court on September 27, she was given a 12 month community order and ordered to do 180 hours of unpaid work in the community.
Simon Tunnicliffe of the Crown Prosecution Service’s Fraud Unit said: “June Roberts was responsible for a substantial fraud and consistently failed to inform the DWP of the true circumstances.
“Her claims to have told her son to come down from the loft to answer the phone when he was in fact in the Philippines were, frankly, ludicrous.
"At that point he’d been away for two months. He’d been withdrawing cash from the Philippines and it was clear his mother was helping him.
“She’d contested a rejected PIP claim on the basis that Paul couldn’t move about at all. He was living in another continent.
“As Paul’s appointee, she was responsible for letting the authorities know if his circumstances changed. She didn’t and may never have done so if the authorities hadn't caught up with her.
“This is public money, there are many demands on it and cases like this could affect the many people who really need the support of the state to survive. A timetable has been set to recoup the money that was dishonestly claimed, as the proceeds of crime”.