Friday, 7 October 2011


A Birchington woman has been jailed for six months for benefit fraud of over £37,000.

Sandra Neame (46) from Yew Tree Gardens was claiming Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, single person discount on her Council Tax and Income Support on the basis that she was living alone. Following a claim that she had in fact been living with her husband Mark Neame from 2007 onwards, the council and Department for Work and Pensions investigated further. They discovered that Mr. Neame was linked to the address through his employment, had his vehicle registered there, was picked up from there to go to work and was even selling a boat on her driveway.

Both were interviewed in spring 2010 and denied the allegations, claiming that he only offered limited support. In November 2010, Mrs. Neame requested a further interview and admitted that her husband had been living at her address from 2007 until just after the first interview had taken place in February 2010. During that period, she was overpaid £19,086.99 in Housing Benefit, £16,086.85 in Income Support and £2,521.80 in Council Tax Benefit.

She was sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court on Friday 30 September by Judge Adele Williams. There was persistent dishonesty throughout the three year period and the overpayments were all of substantial amounts. As the Income Support offence was false from the outset, imprisonment was appropriate. However, taking into account her previous good character, medical conditions and her early guilty plea, she was sentenced to the minimum term of imprisonment available for these offences of six months imprisonment for each charge, to run concurrently.

Cllr. Alasdair Bruce, Cabinet Member for Partnerships and Tourism, said: “This is a prime example of how a change in someone’s circumstances can make a huge difference to any benefit claim they are making. In this case, the benefits were based on a single person living at this address, which turned out to be completely false. It’s a great shame that this ended up as such a serious case with no option left but imprisonment, but sadly the lies continued for a number of years and even after investigations into this started.”

To report benefit fraud, you can call the council on 01843 577369 or by e-mailing  You can also fill out a form on the council’s website, to report suspected benefit fraud. To notify the council of a change in your circumstances, call 01843 577000.  

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