A couple who defrauded the Ministry of Health of more than $11,000 in carer support payments for their daughter have been ordered to pay back the money.



Donna and Brian Gainford, both unemployed, of Maungatapere, appeared for sentencing in Whangarei District Court last week after earlier pleading guilty to 19 charges of dishonestly using a document and using a document to obtain a pecuniary advantage. The carer support subsidy, funded by the ministry, is designed to help unpaid full-time carers of people with disabilities to take a break.



Since becoming eligible for carer support in October 2001,



24 carer-support claim forms had been submitted and each sought a re-imbursement to Mrs Gainford on the basis that she had paid the support carers from her own funds.

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The ministry paid her $14,722 in total, but the amount fraudulently obtained by the couple was $11,851.



In March 2011, the ministry received a tip-off that Mrs Gainford submitted claim forms using her maiden name of George.



The ministry later discovered her full maiden name was Donna Marie George.



In her statement, Mrs Gainford admitted she used the name Marie George or Mary George to identify support carers who did not exist.



Mr Gainford admitted



he was aware the claims were fraudulent and that the fraud occurred after he reached an agreement with his wife.



Defence lawyer Chris Perry said the couple were ashamed of their actions.



The fact both offered to pay reparation after being bankrupted was a significant mitigating factor, he said.



Judge Simon Maude said fraudulent claims diverted unnecessary spending from those families that had a real need for service.



Those losses, he said, also had a flow-on effect to the overall health budget which meant important funds were unavailable to provide other important services.



He sentenced Mrs Gainford to three months' home detention and ordered her to pay reparation of $5925.



Mr Gainford was sentenced to three months' community detention and ordered to perform 150 hours' community work.



He will also repay a similar amount to the ministry.