A single mother with three children who fraudulently claimed more than £20,000 in benefits was spared jail today.

Shahida Maqsood, 43, a freelance NHS employee, of Lonsdale Street, Barkerend, Bradford, pleaded guilty to 11 counts of benefit fraud dating back to 2002.

Bradford magistrates were told she had provided false information when applying for housing benefit for the Lonsdale Street house, which had been her father’s and had passed to her brother after his death.

She also failed to notify the authorities that her mother, for whom she is the main carer, also lived at the address for at least part of that time.

Magistrates gave Maqsood a community sentence of 160 hours’ unpaid work and ordered her to pay costs of £200. She agreed to pay back the money at a rate of £100 per month.

In mitigation, the court was told Maqsood had arrived from Pakistan in 2001 having separated from her husband. It was claimed she was not aware of the laws in the UK and had been advised to claim benefits by family members.