A WOMAN cheated thousands in fraudulent child maintenance payments, a court heard.

Katherine Cole failed to notify the Department for Work and Pensions of a change in her circumstances and managed to accrue than £5,000 between April 2015 and October 2015.

The 22-year-old didn’t change her details because she was in a “desperate” position, branding herself a “tramp”.

Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard that when the former Brockenhurst College student initially claimed for income support she had a child, but the baby was taken away by Social Services.

Part of the conditions of the claim was that she was a single parent.

Mitigating, Joanne Chester told the court when Cole was around 17 years old she fell pregnant with a convicted paedophile’s baby and the department threatened to take the baby away.

She said: “She had no reason to suspect her partner at the time was a convicted paedophile, but she was told if she continued the relationship with him the child would be taken.

“She left him and moved to a mother and baby unit in Southampton but returned back to the New Forest as she felt isolated and alone.”

After she moved back, Cole’s child was taken and within days of another child being born they were taken and adopted too.

Ms Chester added: “She was in a desperate and desolate position. She was a young mother who lost her children. She didn’t want to wash, didn’t want to go out she became a tramp. Changing her circumstances on a form was the last thing on her mind.”

Prosecutor Dan O’Neill said that Cole’s actions had cost the government in £5,738.50 but that she had begun paying off the debt.

The court heard that Cole has since restarted her life and moved to Southampton with her new baby and is hoping to go to college to work with disabled children.

Cole, of St Annes Road, Southampton, admitted dishonestly failing to notify the change of her circumstances. She was given a 12-month community order and must complete 40 hours of unpaid work.