A BENEFIT cheat has avoided a jail term after swindling nearly £13,000.

Jemma Rose Donnelly, 35, failed to tell Basildon Council and the Department for Work and Pensions that her partner had moved into her house in Beauchamps Drive, Wickford.

She also did not reveal she had an additional bank account, and had received money from her partner.

During an appearance at Basildon Magistrates Court, Donnelly pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances.

She also admitted one count of making a false statement or representation to obtain benefits.

Donelly illegally claimed £12,798 in housing benefit and council tax benefit between March 2010 and June 2013.

Magistrates ordered her to back every penny.

She was also sentenced to a total of ten weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months.

Donnelly must complete 150 hours of unpaid work, and was also ordered to pay costs of £400.

Councillor Stuart Sullivan, cabinet member for resources, said: “Benefit fraud is theft and the cheats who try and get away with it are stealing from their neighbours, the residents of Basildon.

“In most cases, benefits are paid to those in genuine need of support.

“However, there are an unscrupulous few who think they can dishonestly dip into the public purse unnoticed and it is right and fitting that every penny will be repaid.”