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Monday, 22 December 2014

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Morris-dancing benefit cheat caught on film

A former teacher who claimed to be virtually unable to walk has been exposed as a morris-dancing benefits cheat.

Allan Baldwin pocketed £30,000 to which he wasn’t entitled on the highest possible rate of Disability Living Allowance.

But, despite claiming he was dogged by mobility problems, the 67-year-old was fit enough to jig with the north Cumbria-based Solway Morris Group.

Video footage of him performing with the traditional dancers was released as he was prosecuted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

And, in it, he had no problem moving as he completed a short routine, skipping and spinning around while waving handkerchiefs.

The recording proved that while his role with the Solway Morris Group was primarily that of a musician, he also took part in the dancing.

Investigators also discovered that various events he would have taken part in, including those throughout Cumbria, would have involved him walking for several miles.

Baldwin, of Peacock Place, Lockerbie, worked as a teacher at Annan Academy before taking early retirement for health reasons.

At Preston Crown Court yesterday, he avoided being jailed.

He had admitted falsely claiming more than £28,000 in disability benefits between 2008 and 2013 at a previous hearing.

Baldwin was sentenced to a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

Speaking afterwards, Jane Baker, the DWP’s fraud manager in the north west, said: “It is our duty to ensure that benefit payments go to those who really need them and we are committed to cracking down on those who play the system.

“It is unfair that some people get support when they do not have a disability, while many people depend on the benefits system to provide a safety net.”

And in a warning to others, she added: “Deliberately not informing us of a change in your condition that may affect your claim is a crime. Don’t wait for our fraud investigators to find you. Tell us of a change now.”

The court was told that Baldwin had originally been correctly claiming benefits after suffering heart attacks and being considered for a heart transplant. But when his condition improved, he did not tell the authorities.

A judge was told Baldwin continues to suffer health problems for which he takes a large amount of medication.

He has also previously been dealt with by the courts in Scotland for falsely claiming £25,000 of benefits.

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