A 24-YEAR-OLD will take more than 11 years to pay back £17,460 she fraudulently claimed in benefits while pretending to be a lone parent when she was actually living with her husband.

Mother-of-two, Rebekah Oakes, made dishonest claims to receive jobseekers allowance, income support, employment support allowance and housing benefit between June 2015 and October 2017.

Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court heard this week that Oakes, of Larch Avenue, Shildon, made the claims at a time when her partner, David Gittens, began to gradually move in to her property.

Joanne Hesse, prosecuting, said that the claims to the Department for Work and Pensions were “fraudulent from the start”.

However, Stephen Andrews, mitigating, said she was originally entitled to financial aid, but quickly fell pregnant with her now-husband.

He said: “They decided over time that he would gradually move in with her and they were essentially started to live as man and wife. To claim benefits, that is the test that if you’re living as man and wife, you can’t continue to claim.

“He began to stay more and more, until he was essentially there full-time. She had another child during that time who are aged two-and-a-half and aged one.”

The court that that her husband’s income from full-time employment is used to pay household bills and taxes, and there is little left over from her benefits each month.

Mr Andrews added that Oakes has already started to pay back the £17,460.64 owed at a rate of £30 per week and has repaid £1,000 of the debt so far.

He said: “She’s trying to make her way and was rocked by the news that she was pregnant.”

Oakes, who was visibly upset during the court hearing, pleaded guilty to four counts of dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain for herself by claiming to be a lone parent.

She was given a 12-month community order by magistrates and she will continue to pay back the benefits debt owed at a weekly rate.