A £30,000 benefits cheat claimed handouts as a single mum while living with her husband could spend the rest of her life paying it back, a court heard.

Burnley magistrates were told how Lorraine Wilkinson, 49, had dishonestly claimed £10,860 in income support, £16,780 in housing benefits and £2,759 in council tax benefit over a five year period.

The mum-of-three who is now on a number of benefits, has now started to pay back the £30,400.30, at £36 a week which could take her years to pay back, the court heard.

Prosecutors said that Wilkinson had two children with Gordon Wilkinson before the couple separated.

But, he was said to have gone back to live with her again so he could look after the youngsters while the defendant spent a lot of time at hospital with her third child, prosecutors said.

The court heard Wilkinson's husband was working in Burnley while sharing her home and investigators saw him leaving her address on an almost daily basis.

Wilkinson who has since moved to Old Market Court, Morecambe, admitted three counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances, between October 2008 and June 2013, one involving the Department for Work and Pensions and two regarding Burnley Council.

She was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for a year, with a 12-month community order and 150 hours unpaid work. She must pay £85 costs and an £80 victim surcharge.

Prosecutor Andrew Robinson said Wilkinson's claim was legitimate at first in 2003, but it became a fraud in 2008.

She had claimed on the basis she was a lone parent, separated from her husband, with one dependent child and another on the way, the court heard.

Magistrates were told from 2008 until 2013, there was evidence Mr Wilkinson was living at the address, having registered it with his employer and was seen leaving the house.

Mark Williams, defending, said the Wilkinsons, who are still married, had been apart for some time and she had had a third child.

He said:" It's not an intimate relationship and it isn't now.

“But there was a common household.

“She is repaying the money at £36 a week and that will continue potentially for the rest of her life, until this money, or as much of it as she can, is repaid."