A WOMAN who had never been in trouble in her life became a benefits cheat to try and help pay her son's drug debts.

Blackburn magistrates heard Mary Andrews worked as a cleaner while claiming housing benefit, employment and support allowance, personal independence payment and casers allowance at various times over a four year period.

And the court was told there was a total overpayment of £31,000.

by Andrews, 54, of Monmouth Road, Blackburn, pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to notify changes in circumstances, making a false statement to obtain benefits by misrepresenting her mobility and personal care needs and failing to disclose information intending to make a gain for herself. She was sentenced to 24 weeks in prison suspended for two years and ordered to pay £115 victim surcharge and £35 costs.

Andy Robinson, prosecuting, said payments had been made on the basis that Andrews wasn't working and was looking for work and also that she was struggling with her mobility.

"Benefits were paid on the basis that she would notify any change in her circumstances," said Mr Robinson. "It came to light she had worked for two different companies without notifying the benefits providers.

The court heard Andrews had taken jobs to help her son.

"Because of the problems he was having he requested money over a long period of time to pay the debts he had accrued as a result of his addiction," said Mr Taylor. "It put a great deal of pressure on my client and she was always short of money. The money from her cleaning jobs went straight to her family, it wasn't used to fund a lavish lifestyle.

"Once it started it spiralled," said Mr Taylor. "Having pleaded guilty today part of her is relieved. She always felt the authorities would catch up with her. She now has a fresh start and wants me to assure the court she won't be coming back."