A BENEFITS cheat who swindled nearly £12,000 has avoided a jail term.

Toni Kemp, 35, failed to declare her partner was living with her at her home in Wythams, Pitsea.

She also fraudulently produced a document, which she showed to council officers in order to continue receiving housing benefit and council tax benefit.

Kemp illegally claimed £11,906 between June 2012 and October 2013, including £6,159 of housing benefit, £799 of council tax benefit, and £4,946 income support.

She pleaded guilty to four charges during an appearance at Basildon Magistrates’ Court, including three counts of dishonestly failing to give prompt notification of changes of circumstance and one count of dishonestly producing or furnishing a document which was false.

Kemp was handed a 12- month community order, including 200 hours unpaid work.

She was also ordered to pay a £60 victim surcharge.

Rob Manser, operations Manager for billings and benefits at Basildon Council, said: “In most cases, benefits are paid to those in genuine need of support, but on this occasion that was not the case and the defendant had not declared her spouse was living with her or his income.

“This authority is committed to its duty to protect taxpayer’s money.

“In these times of financial austerity, when many local people are feeling the strain, it makes it doubly important that we do our utmost to ensure that public money only goes to those who are entitled.

“Benefit fraud is against the law and cheats will be forced to face the consequences.

“As well as paying their debt to society they will have to repay every penny they stole, back to the taxpayers.”