Disabled benefits claimant did ‘extensive gardening’ at home

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A MAN who was claiming disability living allowance (DLA) is now repaying more than £13,500 because he was caught carrying out “fairly extensive gardening operations” at his home.

Stuart Ward (57) received an overpayment of £13,529.10 in DLA when he failed to notify the Department for Work and Pensions of an improvement in his physical abilities.

He was also overpaid £867.71 in income support when he failed to notify the DWP he was receiving a mineworker’s pension.

Spalding magistrates heard on Wednesday that Ward, of Dawsmere Road, Dawsmere, is repaying the entire sum – £14,396.81 – to the DWP at the rate of £20 a fortnight.

Magistrates conditionally discharged Ward for two years and ordered him to pay £100 towards prosecution costs.

Ward pleaded guilty to failing to notify the DWP of a change in his circumstances, namely that he was receiving a mineworker’s pension, between April 27, 2009 and January 25 last year.

He also pleaded guilty to failing to report an improvement in his condition, which he knew would affect his entitlement to DLA, between January 9, 2008 and November 15 last year.

Ward pleaded not guilty to three similar charges which were dismissed when the DWP offered no evidence.

Gordon Holt, prosecuting for the DWP, said Ward made a claim for income support quite legitimately from May 1995, indicating he was single at that time and his only other income was incapacity benefit.

Mr Holt said Ward later failed to declare his pension, which he began receiving in September 2004.

In his original claim for DLA in 2002, Ward declared he had difficulty walking and needed help with his personal care.

Mr Holt said Ward’s physical condition was “actually much better” by 2010 and he was seen “carrying out some fairly extensive gardening operations at his home without any medical aids or anything to assist him in walking”.

On one day, Ward was seen digging up a large root ball, which he threw over a hedge which was almost as tall as he was.

Daven Naghen, mitigating, described Ward as a man with a number of health problems.

He had been advised by doctors to do as much as he was physically able to do, but after working in the garden he would be laid up in bed for two hours and had to use a Tens machine.

Mr Naghen said Ward was only able to do the work because he took 18 tablets a day.

After being sentenced, Ward asked to speak to the court and told magistrates: “I feel as if I shouldn’t be here to tell you the truth.”

Presiding magistrate Malcolm Hall replied: “Well you are and we have dealt with your case now.”