A MOTHER who continued to claim income support as a single parent after her baby was taken into care has been given an 18-month community order.

Heroin and crack cocaine user Chantelle Hayward was overpaid £7,348 over the space of two years.

Prosecutor Keith Ballinger told Swindon Magistrates Court she claimed income support for 101 weeks between May 2015 and 2017. When she made the application she was pregnant and unable to work and claimed she had no other income.

However the Department for Work and pensions obtained evidence that her baby had been taken away from her after the birth, so her claim was no longer valid.

When she called them in may last year to query why the benefit had been suspended they invited her in for an interview. But she failed to turn up. Another interview was offered but she did not attend that one either.

He said Hayward had previous convictions for dishonesty and her most recent conviction was for possession of Class A drugs.

He added her benefit claim was not fraudulent at first, so a community order was a suitable starting point for sentencing.

Hayward, of Ponting Street, pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to notify the DWP that her circumstances had changed.

Marc Glendenning, defending, said Hayward had given birth on May 24, 2015 and was entitled to the benefit up to that point.

But immediately following the birth the child was in hospital and there were discussions with social services as to whether it would stay with her. Initially it was not clear and there was some confusion.

“She has something of a chaotic lifestyle,” he explained.

The court heard from probation that Hayward had given birth to another child in November, who was now in foster care.

She had now lost two children, but hoped she would be able to get access to the second one.

She had stressed to them that the overpayment was not deliberate but she was at a very low point in her life.

Hayward was using heroin and crack cocaine and was not in a position where she would be able to comply with a drug rehabilitation order at the moment. With her drug misuse she was also at risk of falling into further offending.

However she did have a stable home address and a partner of two years, who worked. She was also very sorry for what had happened.

The magistrates imposed an 18-month community order with 30 rehabilitation activity days. They also put her under a curfew between 8pm and 6am from Monday to Sunday for the next six weeks.

Court costs and a victim surcharge, totalling £170 were deemed paid because she had been in custody over the weekend.

The overpayment is being reclaimed by the DWP.