A TEACHING assistant falsely claimed benefits despite having tens of thousands in nine bank accounts – and a home worth £120,000.
Wendy Bleazard was paid £10,000 in benefits after claiming she had one account with a balance of £100.
But the 46-year-old had £26,000 in just one of her accounts and had recently sold a flat in London for £210,000.
Ms Bleazard, who worked as a teaching assistant at a primary in Edinburgh’s upmarket suburb of Morningside, was convicted of benefit fraud in 2015 and ordered to do 60 hours community service.
But she recently applied to be fully registered as a teacher and details of her case were revealed during a hearing of the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) in Edinburgh.
Following the hearing, the GTCS decided she was unfit to teach as a result of the benefit fraud she had committed and refused her application for registration.
Ms Bleazard had previously worked for the BBC as a business development manager and for the corporation’s Top Gear magazine. She had also worked for Channel 4 as an account director in their PR team.
The GTCS hearing was told that Ms Bleazard sold her London flat in 2010 and moved briefly to New York where she claimed to have spent all the proceeds from the sale.
The following year, she returned to Penicuik, Midlothian, where she grew up, and started claiming benefits from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) as a single mother. She also qualified as a teacher and teaching assistant.
But after fraud investigators “received intelligence” in 2013 they discovered she had nine bank accounts, including one with Nationwide with a balance of £26,000.
The same year a Tesco Bank Account was opened with the sum of £5,760 and Santander account was opened with a cheque for £5,677.52.
She had also bought her home in Penicuik from her father and received undeclared rental income. She sold that property for £119,000 and moved to a flat in Morningside.
During the GTCS hearing, she claimed she “could not recollect” buying her father’s house.
She told the panel that she has a real enthusiasm for education and was committed to becoming a successful teacher.
She revealed that she had volunteered with the Children’s Hearing Service for three years and had secured employment as a PSA at primary schools and as a supply teacher at a pre-school.
In her defence, the panel was told: “The respondent invited the panel to view the offence as one which arose as a result of wholly unintentional mistakes on her part. She had learned all possible lessons from the offence.
“The respondent maintained that she would never knowingly act in the manner reflected in the conviction. It had not been her intention to receive money that she was not entitled to.
“She had made a mistake, had been incredibly naive and she was truly sorry.
“The respondent also invited the panel to see that she was not the same person as she was then and that she could absolutely guarantee the same thing would not happen again.”
Ms Bleazard’s mother, who is retired but used to work as a PA to the Depute Director of Finance of a local authority, also gave evidence saying her daughter did not declare the rental income because she “did not consider the rental income to be her own”.
Her mother also revealed that she had received £20,000 from her daughter in order to pay her own debts off.
But the GTCS refused her application, stating: “The Respondent had conducted herself in a sustained manner over a period of time and in a way that fell significantly short of the standards expected of a registered teacher.
“The fundamental issue was that, at the time of the hearing, the Respondent did not accept that she had been guilty of a criminal offence. This was despite the fact she had pleaded guilty to the offence at Edinburgh Sheriff Court after receiving legal advice.
“The respondent stated that she had been forced to plead guilty to the offence by her solicitor at the time.
“The respondent maintained that rather than having knowingly obtained the sum of money by misrepresentation and failed to disclose information, she had made an honest mistake.
“The Panel did not find that the Respondent’s position on these points was either credible or reliable.
“The respondent had also purchased her father’s home for £80,000 but her evidence was that she could not recollect having done so.”
The GTCS said Ms Bleazard could reapply in two years’ time.