Mum to repay $40,000

A MOTHER of two who signed up for single parenting payments when she was living with a de facto partner has been ordered to repay Centrelink more than $40,000.

Jenna Maree Hardwicke, of Trevallyn, was 19 and had just given birth to her first child when she completed a Centrelink form on Christmas Eve in 2004 and falsely represented herself as a single parent.  

Hardwicke, now 27,  continued to receive the payments  until August 2007, when she and her partner separated.

Sentencing her in the Supreme Court in Launceston yesterday, Chief Justice Ewan Crawford said Hardwicke committed the offence in desperate circumstances.

 ``She was in a dire financial position and committed the offence because of need and not mere greed,'' he said.

Chief Justice Crawford said Hardwicke was only to be sentenced on the basis of that first misrepresentation, which she did not correct until her relationship resumed in August 2007.

Hardwicke pleaded last month to dishonestly causing a financial loss to a Commonwealth entity, but disputed the Commonwealth's allegation that she had been in a relationship continuously from December 2003 to August 2007.

Chief Justice Crawford ruled, after a two-day hearing, that the couple had separated for about 18 months during that time, and that she did not have to repay benefits received in that time.

He said she had already repaid $6994.97 through monthly deductions from her family tax benefit, and ordered she repay the remaining $34,268.11.

Hardwicke was also given  a nine-month suspended  jail sentence.