£27,000 benefits cheat claimed she needed frame to walk - but was caught working at B&Q

B&Q in Bolton town centre. It is not clear which B&Q shop Bate worked at. Picture from Google Maps.

B&Q in Bolton town centre. It is not clear which B&Q shop Bate worked at. Picture from Google Maps.

First published in News
Last updated
The Bolton News: Photograph of the Author by , crime reporter

A BENEFITS cheat who claimed £27,450 in disability benefits worked as a cleaner — and was also a shop assistant at B&Q where she had to lift products in and out of trolleys.

Michaela Bate, who made the claims over five years, worked for two different cleaning companies as well at the DIY store, Bolton Crown Court heard.

The 48-year-old had made valid applications for disability living allowance since 1995 when she needed a frame to walk, used a commode and took 30 minutes to get out of bed.

But when her mobility improved, she failed to tell officials about her change in circumstances or any of her new jobs.

Sarah Johnston, prosecuting, said that the dishonesty took place between March 21, 2007 and September 18, 2012 resulting in an overpayment of nearly £30,000.

Ms Johnston said: “Michaela Bate made a legitimate claim for disability living allowance in 1995.

“She made an application that she was suffering from various disabilities.

“That meant she was allowed to have disability living allowance.”

By March, 2007 she was working at B&Q as a customer services advisor but did not tell her bosses about any disabilities.

The job entailed lifting products to and from trolleys. She carried on working at the store for more than two years until September, 2009.

Bate, of Crompton Street, Farnworth, also worked for two cleaning companies, where she was required to mop, dust, vacuum and move items.

The only mention of her disabilities was to employer Serco, telling them that she had problems getting down to low areas to clean.

Bate also failed to declare her employment to the Department for Work and Pensions.

The defendant had no previous convictions and has paid back £1,050 of the benefits at a rate of £75 every month.

Nick Ross, defending, said Bate suffers from health problems.

She has had a heart attack and is due to have an MRI scan on her liver and spleen.

The court heard she was “deeply and genuinely remorseful”.

Recorder Jeremy Lasker, sentencing, said: “The taxpayer has lost money to the tune of £27,450.80 when you were not entitled to it.

“It is a serious offence not only because of the period of time but the money involved.

“It is money the government or the taxpayer can hardly afford and the system can only work on the basis of claimants such as you being honest.”

Bate admitted dishonestly failing to notify change of circumstances.

She was sentenced to four months in prison suspended for 12 months.

She was ordered to comply with a 12-month supervision requirement and comply with a three-month curfew between 7pm and 7am.

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