South Gloucestershire woman prosecuted for continuing to claim benefits for her father after his death

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A daughter acting as her father’s carer did not inform South Gloucestershire Council that her father had died and continued to pay herself as his personal assistant from the funding provided by the council intended to fund his care and support. She defrauded South Gloucestershire Council out of £6,507.

Natalie Newcombe, 35, of Emersons Green in South Gloucestershire appeared before Bristol Magistrates Court on 28 March for sentencing after previously pleading guilty to a charge of fraud. Following her guilty plea, Newcombe failed to attend three sentencing hearings and on 18 March 2024 Bristol Magistrates issued a bench warrant for her arrest. She handed herself in and on 28 March she was given a 12 week custodial sentence, suspended for 18 months, 80 hours of unpaid work, and has been ordered to repay the council £6,507. The fraud was identified by South Gloucestershire Council’s Internal Audit Team and subsequently investigated by the council’s Trading Standards team.

Newcombe’s father received a care plan via South Gloucestershire Council which allowed him to appoint his own carers. He employed his daughter, Natalie Newcombe, as his Personal Assistant and she would get paid by the council for the hours that she cared for Mr Newcombe.

Mr Newcombe passed away on 2 April 2020 and the council was not informed. In August 2020 Natalie Newcombe was contacted and asked whether she was continuing to support Mr Newcombe. She replied confirming she was and claimed funding from April 2020 to October 2020, which she was not entitled to. In November 2020 the council became aware of Mr Newcombe’s death and prevented any further payments.

The council tried to contact Natalie Newcombe several times to discuss the matter, but she failed to respond. In February 2021, South Gloucestershire Trading Standards identified her whereabouts, she admitted to the fraud and made an agreement with the council to repay the £6,507.

Newcombe was given several opportunities to resolve the matter informally and repay the money to the council, but she failed to do so. As such, she was interviewed under caution in May 2023 where she admitted she knew what she had done was wrong. She claimed that she had used the money for her father’s funeral and was given the opportunity to provide evidence to support this, but didn’t. As a result, a charge of fraud was laid against her.

Shaun Fudge, service manager for Trading Standards at South Gloucestershire Council, said: “This result follows close working between the council’s finance officers and Trading Standards team to investigate this matter. It’s important that the council’s limited funds go to those that are entitled to them and where we identify fraud has been committed we will take action to recover any money that has been wrongly claimed. A fraud conviction on your record will not be viewed favourably and can seriously harm your employment prospects.”

If you have concerns that someone maybe misusing funds intended for care and support, please refer to the fraud pages on the council’s website, there are contact details available https://beta.southglos.gov.uk/fraud-prevention-and-detection/.