Grandmother Patricia Ward drove children in a mini bus to and from Stafford Grammar School for seven years while also claiming disability living allowance.
Her lies to the authorities included saying she could only walk five metres and and that the blindness in her left eye meant she couldn’t seen oncoming vehicles, Stafford Crown Court heard on Friday.
But she was shown up in court when the judge commented that he had watched her enter the courtroom and sit down ‘with relative ease’.
To make matters worse, she also failed to disclose that her husband was claiming pension credit, Stafford Crown Court heard.
Mr Nicholas Berry, prosecuting, said the total amount of money illicitly claimed by Ward was £35,715.
Ward, aged 55, admitted two charges of benefit fraud and was given a nine month jail sentence suspended for a year.
Recorder Mr Michael Burrows QC told her: “Your husband was unable to manage his own affairs and in that way you were in a position of responsibility. For seven and a half years, from February 2007 to August 14 you failed to declare the pension credits your husband received. Three times in that period you completed claims [for disability benefit]. You dishonestly understated your capabilities and dishonestly overstated your needs.”
The court heard that in 2013 she stated her ability to walk was down to three yards and had difficulty getting in to and out of chairs.
Mr Berry told the court: “The prosecution say it was a claim that was fraudulent from the outset. Had she given a correct report as to her disability and movements, she would have had some entitlement to disability living allowance.”
The frauds came to light following checks by the Department of Works and Pensions on her bank accounts. The amount of illicit overpayment of disability allowance was £19,069 and the pension credit fraud amounted to £16,646. She was paying it back at the rate of £60 a month.
“She’s never going to pay it back, it will take something like 90 years to repay the amount that’s been defrauded,” Mr Burrows said.
“She is not working, so it is clawed back through her existing benefits she is entitled to,” replied Mr Daniel Oscroft, defending. “She is thoroughly ashamed of her behaviour. She knew what she was doing but didn’t realise the full seriousness of the offence. Once the initial dishonesty takes place, it is very difficult to come clean. She was entitled to benefits from the outset but was not forthcoming with the truth.”
Mr Oscroft added that as well as being the primary carer of her husband, she was also the full-time carer of her 12-year-old grandson.