An corrupt DWP official who stole more than £25,000 of welfare handouts to pay off her drug dealer has been spared jail after arguing she needed to be at home to look after her six-year-old daughter. 

After getting into debt from her drug habit, Hayley Powell (mother-of-one), 43-year-old, went to Golborne near Warrington and diverted Universal Credit payments meant for claimants into her bank account.

Powel worked in Wigan as an administrative assistant for Ashton-Makerfield’s Wigan office, Greater Manchester. She took advantage of shortfalls on benefit credits to pay herself and forward them to her during the 14-month-long fraud.

Also, she diverted funds into the account of Jonathan Duffy (46-year-old single struggling father-of-1 Jonathan Duffy) – and even requested a cut.

Powell, who admitted fraud by using her position at Bolton Crown Court was facing up to 3 years imprisonment. However, she was sentenced to 16 month jail term suspended for an additional 18 months. Also, she was ordered to work 150 unpaid hours. 

Recorder Alexandra Simmonds was the judge. She said Powell had only escaped prison because her 6-year-old daughter (with whom she lives) would have been forced from her house to live with her father.

Hayley Powell, 43, from Golborne, near Warrington,  was sentenced to 16 months jail suspended for 18 months after she diverted Universal Credit payments intended for claimants into her own bank account

Hayley Powell, 43, from Golborne, near Warrington,  was sentenced to 16 months jail suspended for 18 months after she diverted Universal Credit payments intended for claimants into her own bank account 

The DWP official also diverted payments into the bank account of close friend Jonathan Duffy (pictured outside court with Powell)

A DWP official diverted money into Jonathan Duffy’s bank account (pictured with Powell outside the court). 

The court heard the scam took place between October 2018 and December 2019 whilst Powell was working for the DWP in Ashton-in-Makerfield.    

Powell used fake paperwork to justify why money wasn’t going into accounts of legitimate claimants on each occasion. Powell also exaggerated herself and her dire financial circumstances to get additional child care allowances. 

Powell eventually admitted that she did need the money, as she still owed debts for her cocaine habit she got rid of in 2018. 

She said her dealers were vandalizing her house, threatened her and wanted money.

Sentencing Powell, Miss Simmonds said: You received universal credit for 14 months, but you did not have the right to it. Furthermore you abused the trust you had as an employee with the DWP to take money for genuine claimants. Then you created excuses to change the system in your favor.

“There was some preparation involved in identifying potential universal credit accounts that could be swindled from and making justifications to change the payment for them on our system.

“There will undoubtedly have been distress or hardship for the recipients of these payments. Your syphoning of funds before they reached them would have caused delays.

You also made your friend get involved in crime that he might not have otherwise. He even asked for a cut of the fraudulent payments.

“But, you are the primary carer of your 6-year-old girl – she lives with me and we have a lot of respect for her. 

“If she went to prison, she would need to leave her home with her dad and move to another school. It was a cause of upheaval for her. I have the authority to suspend it.

“You can have no complaints whatsoever, if you were to be sent through the backdoor by the prison officers. But you’ve come as close as possible to being in custody.   

Roger Brown, the prosecutor said that her employment allowed her to transfer money into her personal bank account. This was intended for claimants who are eligible for Universal Credit payments.

The mother-of-one used her DWP log-in details and password to carry out 33 fraudulent online transactions

This mother-of-1 used her DWP login details and password for 33 fraud online transactions

Jonathan Duffy of Ashton-in-Makerfield admitted retaining an unlawful credit and was ordered to complete an 18 month community order

Jonathan Duffy from Ashton-in-Makerfield confessed to retaining illegal credit. A community order of 18 months was issued for him

She also paid 14 Universal Credit to Duffy’s account, dishonestly adding child cost to Duffy’s claim for benefits.

He wanted to receive benefit because of the child care expenses he had incurred. Powell and Powell were good friends for years. He was told that she would investigate the matter and money was transferred to his account as a result.

‘The total amount he got was £8,308 although a portion of that money was then paid by him into Powell’s account.

The investigation showed that Powell’s staff number, pass card, and computer password were all used when the payment destination was changed.

The genuine claimant in each instance had not been paid all they were due and was expecting to receive a partial payment. This never happened.

She allegedly diverted money from the account belonging to a claimant and transferred it into her own account.

“Another reason that was given was that the payment should go to the wife of the claimant because he had lost his bankcard and couldn’t access his personal bank account.

Powell admitted to being in debt and that she had borrowed money from relatives when Powell was interview. She said that she bought more drugs after she paid off her debt.  

Later, Duffy, a driver of forklift trucks, told investigators that he knew Powell since 1996 and was familiar with her work for the DWP.

Powell helped him when he was denied additional child care payment due to increased work hours.

Neil Ronan, defense counsel for Powell stated that Powell’s mitigation was due to her inability to repay debts she had already incurred and was seeking help.

At Bolton Crown Court, the judge, Recorder Alexandra Simmonds, told Powell she had only escaped jail because her six-year-old daughter would have been forced to move house

Bolton Crown Court Recorder Alexandra Simmonds told Powell that she only got out of jail to save her daughter, six, from having to move.

“It was the payment of her debts for her past abuse of drugs, that caused her to misuse the trust she had been given. Her capture was certain.

“She felt like she had debt collectors in her throat and that someone was trying to take her money. The issue of debt collectors was very real to her and she made a terrible choice.

His statement continued: “She had been in an abusive marriage for some time and leaned heavily on her addiction. She was eventually found shelter. The addiction that brought her to such terrible depths is no longer a problem.

“It’s ironic that she’s now depending on the exact credit she abused, but she wants to concentrate on her daughter with who she lives. Her child, who’s had some upheaval and rough times in her life, would be negatively affected if she was taken into custody.

Duffy, Ashton-in-Makerfield, admitted to having an illegal credit. Duffy was then ordered to serve an 18-month sentence and do 100 hours of unpaid work.