An experienced social worker who falsified records of her visits to vulnerable older people and submitted mileage claims for journeys she had not taken has been struck off the register in Northern Ireland.
The Southern Health and Social Care Trust dismissed Mavis Ruth Eagle from her position as a care manager in October 2010 after a disciplinary investigation identified a “substantial difference” between her mileage claims, attendance records and her actual work. The trust then referred the case to the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC).
The NISCC’s conduct committee heard that Maggie Nugent, Eagle’s former team leader, had been aware that the social worker’s mileage was at the higher end of the scale, but felt this was not unusual because she covered a large rural area.
However, in early 2010, two members of staff informed Nugent of concerns about Eagle’s standards of case recording. One colleague later said in a statement: “I was receiving queries from family members and clients on a daily basis, but when I went to check the client files, there was often information missing.”
The other colleague said she had witnessed Eagle making retrospective changes to the care manager signing in/out book, “scribbling some things out”.
Nugent began an investigation and carried out a detailed analysis of Eagle’s files and caseload, cross referencing her expense claims against the visits she had undertaken.
She contacted a random sample of nursing homes relevant to Eagle’s caseload and asked if they had records of her recent visits – and many did not. On several occasions, there were no client records to account for Eagle’s prolonged periods of absence from the office, Nugent found.
It transpired that Eagle had claimed payment for 600 miles over and above the journeys she undertook during a 10-month period, the NISCC’s conduct committee heard.
Eagle denied any wrongdoing, but was unable to explain the gaps in the records. She also denied making retrospective entries in the care manager signing in/out book.
However, after hearing from witnesses and viewing the book, the conduct committee found Eagle had indeed falsified the records “in a vain attempt to cover her tracks”.
“The type of misconduct in this case is particularly nasty and unacceptable; it reveals considerable lack of honesty on the registrant’s part,” said the committee, adding: “Her actions were totally unacceptable and were entirely at odds with accepted social work practice.”