A BENEFIT cheat has escaped a jail term after failing to declare she was living with her partner.

Claire Sewell, 38, of Clifford Close, Laindon, swindled £11,275 in housing benefit and council tax benefit between June 2011 and September 2013.

She was found guilty of fraud after failing to tell Basildon Council and The Department for work and Pensions about a change in circumstances affecting her entitlement.

Sewell was handed a 12 month community order requiring her to complete 200 hours of unpaid work.

During an appearance at Basildon Magistrates Court she was also ordered to pay costs of £993 and a £60 victim surcharge.

Sewell must also pay back the money she fraudulently claimed.

Councillor Stuart Sullivan, cabinet member for resources said: “We will not tolerate those who seek to defraud this authority; they are effectively hampering our ability to provide vital services.

“The council is dedicated to catching and prosecuting benefit cheats and will always seek to recover every penny they steal.”