A social worker has been sent to jail for 15 months after stealing over £31,000 from elderly clients via council accounts set up for those unable to handle their own finances
Lorraine Graves, 36, from Glebe Road in Hertford, pleaded guilty to seven counts of theft involving five victims between 2009 and 2011 in Cambridge Crown Court last week.
Detective Inspector Mike Trotman from the Safeguarding Adults from Abuse team who led the investigation said the crime was “despicable”.
“This woman was placed in a position of trust which she totally abused. I would like to pay tribute to the victims, including those who have sadly passed away before seeing justice delivered, and their families. No-one deserves to be a victim of crime, especially those who are vulnerable.”
Graves stole money from the accounts mostly through a petty cash box in the adult social care department which reportedly contained more than £12,000 cash and was available to social workers on production of a hand-written note.
Graves made regular withdrawals the clients had not asked for and was only caught when the executor of a victim’s will questioned how someone who had been housebound for years was able to go on a caravan holiday.
The council has been criticised for its poor systems which allowed the crime to go undetected for so long.
Colette Wyatt-Lowe, cabinet member for adult care and health for Hertfordshire Council said they had now put in place a series of stringent checks to protect vulnerable client’s finances.
“Each client now has a budget plan on their records, signed off by themselves or a person on their behalf which specifies agreed expenditure. Any attempt to make a purchase which is not recorded on the plan will be blocked and prompt an investigation by senior managers.
“We have introduced debit cards for purchases made on behalf of clients so there is a clear audit trail. Cash transactions for clients are kept to a minimum. However, as they are sometimes necessary we have introduced prepaid debit cards, so only the amount of cash agreed in the budget plan can be withdrawn.”