Suspended sentence for pensioner who claimed benefits while hiding savings in separate account

Barking and Dagenham Redbridge Newham Tower Hamlets Havering receive funding boost

Nigel Scott failed to notify the Department for Work and Pensions of inheritance money held in a building society account - Credit: Kirsty O'Connor/PA

A 66-year-old Suffolk man has apologised for continuing to claim benefits despite having almost £18,000 in savings.

Nigel Scott appeared at Suffolk Magistrates' Court on Thursday to admit dishonestly making a false statement to obtain a benefit and failing to notify the state about a change of circumstances.

As a result, Scott, of Chapel Lane, Wickham Market, received an overpayment of £4,180 in Jobseeker's Allowance and £2,220.12 in housing benefit. 

When he applied for benefits in December 2014, Scott declared savings of less than the lower capital limit of £6,000 for Jobseeker's Allowance and £4,000 for housing benefit, the court heard. 

But, according to prosecutor Mark Milkovics, Scott actually had savings of between £12,000 and £18,000 while still claiming benefits up to May 2019. 

When asked if he had any savings in August 2015, Scott replied by declaring £4,000, but failed to notify the Department for Work and Pensions of inheritance money held in a Yorkshire Building Society account.

Mr Milkovics said that, by keeping the money in a separate account, Scott had clearly planned the deception. 

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Scott told the court: "I made a mistake. It was just an oversight.

"My mother died at the end of June 2014 and I eventually got £7,000 from the will, which I put into the Yorkshire because I didn't intend on touching it.

"The other money was what I had left after being made bankrupt – so I actually had about £10,500.

"When I realised what I'd done, I didn't know how to put it right. I tried to fudge it."

Scott said the government had been deducting weekly payments from his current housing benefit claim – registered at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

"Only when I retired did they decide to bring it to court," he added.

"I'm deeply sorry and ashamed. 

"I understand I may have to serve some time. If I go to prison, I'll lose my state pension and won't be able to pay the rent."

Scott was handed a 10-week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to pay a contribution to the cost of prosecution.

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