A mother dishonestly claimed around £50,000 which could have been used for the benefit of schoolchildren and hospital patients, a court heard yesterday.
Kathleen Mawdsley, 32, claimed more than £116,000 in housing benefit, Income Support and Jobseekers Allowance over more than ten years.
But Bradford Crown Court was told around £50,000 of it was dishonestly obtained through fraudulent claims, by failing to tell the benefit authorities she was living with her partner who was in full-time work.
Prosecutor Claire Larton said Mawdsley had claimed benefits from 2001 but there was evidence that she had lived with her partner from August 2002.
Miss Larton said: "She didn't report that fact to the Department for Work and Pensions and made numerous false claims. She was required regularly to declare her circumstances had not changed and continued to do so.
"She was paid benefits as a single parent of two children on the basis she was unemployed with no income to the household at all."
Miss Larton said the offences were aggravated by being committed over a long period, with repeated or multiple claims and a substantial sum of money was involved.
The court heard Mawdsley had made two repayments of £50 and housing benefit was being recovered at £23 per week, but £109,000 was still outstanding, though that figure would be amended to reflect the fraudulent benefit.
Mawdsley, of Bonwick Mall, Buttershaw, Bradford, who had no previous convictions, had pleaded guilty to eight counts of dishonestly failing to notify changes in circumstances under the Social Security Administration Act.
She was sentenced to eight months imprisonment suspended for a year, with a two-month electronically monitored curfew, 150 hours of unpaid community work and a 30-day activity requirement.
Judge John Potter said her guilty pleas had saved her from immediate custody.
He told her: "You were paid, over a significant period of time, a very large sum of money indeed by the State which you weren't entitled to, which you had obtained fraudulently and therefore dishonestly.
"You have taken from other people in the community because that money could have been spent in different areas of public spending. For example, that £50,000 could have been used in hospitals to provide beds for sick people, it could have been used in schools to provide computers for young people to learn. It hurts children in schools, it hurts patients in hospitals - that's what you have done by not being candid and open."
Judge Potter said there was no application before him to recover the money from Mawdsley. But he warned her: "It may well be the benefit agencies seek to recover increasing sums from you over period of time to repay the money you took from the community."