A WOMAN who swindled more than £18,000 of benefits has narrowly avoided a jail term.

Anna Luxton, 34, of Orkney Gardens, Wickford, failed to tell Basildon Council and the Department for Work and Pensions that she was working and earning nearly £25,000 a year.

She pleaded guilty to five offences during an appearance at Basildon Magistrates Court.

Luxton admitted two counts of failing to give prompt notification of a change in circumstances affecting her entitlement to benefits between April 5 2012 and October 17 2013, and three offences of making false representations on August 7 2012, August 16 2012 and August 21 2013.

She illegally claimed £9,342 in housing benefit, £1,960 in council tax and local council tax support, £4,523 in income Support and £2,430 in maternity allowance.

Luxton was sentenced to a community order and must complete 180 hours of unpaid work within the next 12 months.

She was also ordered to pay back her £18,255 overpayments and costs of £700.

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.

“Benefit fraud is against the law and cheats will be forced to face the consequences.”