How woman claimed Centrelink payments for 15 years after baby daughter's death

A woman who claimed Centrelink parenting payments for almost 15 years after her baby died would dress up a doll and pretend it was her daughter, a NSW judge has been told.

Alison Christie Mains, 41, is awaiting sentence in Sydney's Downing Centre District Court for three counts each of obtaining financial advantage by deception and defrauding the Commonwealth.

"The offending began as a result of Ms Mains' daughter dying in horrific, tragic circumstances, aged five months," her barrister, Marty Bernhaut, said on Wednesday.

He said the disabled baby girl died in mid-1998 and the debt came to the fore in 2013 – a period of 14-and-a-half years.

Alison Mains arrives at court charged with three counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception and defrauding the Commonwealth. Source: AAP

Mr Bernhaut conceded Mains claimed $209,114 in Centrelink payments she wasn't entitled to and made false oral representations over the years that her baby was still alive.

But he also submitted she was illiterate, had never worked, had a background of "significant deprivation" and would have been entitled to $69,696.20 in Newstart allowance during the offending period.

Mr Bernhaut said a Centrelink investigator also established she could have received $189,281.70 in Disability Support Pension (DSP) entitlements.

"The DSP she may as well have been eligible for... was some $2500 more than the single parenting payment (of $186,875.24)," he said.

Ms Mains (left) arrives at the Downing Centre Local Courts in Sydney. Source: AAP

Mr Bernhaut said his client has previously told medical practitioners the baby's death was "a particularly difficult, stressful event" and had since engaged in behaviour including dressing up a doll and pretending it was her daughter.

"She reports being emotionally distraught and in poor physical health at the time," the barrister said.

"It's patently apparent that she deteriorated significantly in the period following her child's death."

The court heard Mains has also spent periods of time in rehabilitation for alcohol dependence.

The sentence hearing before Judge Nicole Noman continues.

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