A TEACHER who illegally claimed nearly £40,000 in benefits over an 11-year period to be used as savings for her children has ‘narrowly avoided’ jail.
Jenna Oldham (39) stored the money provided by Income Support in two undeclared bank accounts between 2008 and 2019, despite experiencing no significant financial difficulty herself.
In the Magistrate’s Court yesterday, Oldham was sentenced to 150 hours of community service for committing fraud.
Legal adviser Francis Burak, prosecuting, labelled the fraudulent offending as ‘unsophisticated’ but noted Oldham’s ‘continuing deception over a period of time’.
The court heard that she had also failed to notify Social Security that she was receiving child maintenance support at the same time as Income Support.
Oldham has worked as a teacher since 2007 and has re-paid the full sum of £39,800 to Social Security.
Advocate Sarah Dale, defending, told the court that her client had saved the sum and ‘had not spent the money on lavish lifestyles or holidays’.
She said that Oldham had started the offending when she became a single mother.
Advocate Dale said: ‘She was scared, she had become a single parent and was left in a precarious and frightening position.
‘She was frightened for her children’s future in case anything would happen. That’s what drove the offending.’
She requested that her client avoid a custodial sentence because of the ‘detrimental impact’ it would have on her family, which could lead to ‘further reliance on the state’.
Relief Magistrate O’ Connell called it an ‘extraordinary case’.
He said: ‘The defendant was not servicing a need; she was making a lifestyle choice for the future.
‘Normally it is people who have difficulty with understanding how things work who commit this type of crime. Mrs Oldham is a well-educated woman, she is educated to post-graduate level and has held responsible jobs.
‘None of this makes sense.’
He added that Oldham had ‘no need to steal the money’.
‘Only because of the hardship a custodial sentence would have on your family have you narrowly avoided a custodial sentence,’ said Mr O’Connell.
Speaking after the sentence, Assistant Social Security Minister Malcolm Ferey said: ‘Every benefit fraud case is a crime against the whole community and this case serves to highlight that anyone cheating the system is highly likely to be discovered and, when necessary, prosecuted for their offences.
‘We are mindful that this course of action can have serious short-term and long-term consequences for any individual who is put through the judicial system but we need to deter fraudulent claims and, at the same time, protect public finances for those who are genuinely in need of financial assistance.’