Social worker struck off after stealing thousands from service user

Practitioner funded addictions with money taken from vulnerable adult she was assisting, tribunal hears

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Finanacial exploitation can be a key feature of mate crime. Photo: REX/Shutterstock

A social worker has been struck off after pleading guilty to taking more than £20,000 from a vulnerable adult she was supporting.

The social worker admitted misappropriating money belonging to the man, named as Person A, during an investigatory interview.

She was now residing in New Zealand and did not attend the Health and Care Professions Council hearing earlier this month.

The tribunal found that the sole mitigating factor in the case was that the money had been repaid to Person A, and decided that striking off was the only appropriate sanction.

Insufficient funds

The social worker had been employed by Lambeth council, seconded to Maudsley NHS foundation trust, since 2009. From May 2010, the Court of Protection had appointed her as a deputy to assist Person A with his property and financial affairs.

The financial abuse came to light in November 2016, when a routine payment from Person A’s bank account failed to clear because of insufficient funds.

A subsequent investigation by Lambeth council into the handling of the man’s finances between May and November 2016 found that the social worker had withdrawn £21,768.63 from his account.

“In an investigatory statement dated 1 March 2017 and in an investigatory interview on 2 March 2017 the Registrant admitted misappropriating Person A’s funds, spending it on herself, in part to fund her addiction to drugs and alcohol,” the tribunal heard.

The investigation also found that the social worker had in March 2016 prepared a document for a Court of Protection visitor overstating Person A’s bank balance by £3,000.

In 2017 she received a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to three charges of fraud by abuse of position and one charge of dishonestly making a false representation.

Aggravating factors

The HCPC panel determined that the case included many aggravating factors. These included the level of dishonesty involved, the length of time over which money was taken, and the fact that the theft was only admitted after it had been uncovered.

The financial abuse occurred at a time when the social worker “would have been aware she could have sought help from agencies to treat her addictions”, the tribunal said. Her actions “caused real financial harm to Person A”, it added.

The panel noted that while the social worker had since sought treatment, there was “no evidence of remediation of the dishonesty”.

“Overall, the panel considered the convictions would be considered deplorable by fellow professionals and the public,” the tribunal concluded. “The [social worker’s] fitness to practise is impaired by reason of her convictions.”

 

11 Responses to Social worker struck off after stealing thousands from service user

  1. A Man Called Horse April 25, 2018 at 10:36 am #

    Do they know if she is working in New Zealand as a Social Worker? It is not that easy to get into good places to live these days, so think that should be checked out. While Social work as a job is stressful and can and does drive some to drink and drugs this is not acceptable behaviour and she should never again be able to work with vulnerable adults.

    The stress placed onto Social workers in the UK is killing Social Workers for sure but many stick with it even though it might eventually cost them their life. No easy Social work jobs these days. But as they say and it should apply ” you will never work in this town or any other town ever again as a Social Worker”

  2. Christie April 25, 2018 at 12:37 pm #

    I agree someone in authority should follow it up in NZ

    • Mary Rice April 25, 2018 at 10:11 pm #

      Shocking breach of trust to take advantage of a vulnerable person in this way. Deserve to be struck off.

  3. Nick Stokes April 25, 2018 at 3:12 pm #

    How on earth can you get employment in NZ with a criminal record? Even if no record before entering, their immigration laws must put her future in jeopardy for remaining in the country.

  4. Nell April 25, 2018 at 3:40 pm #

    ‘The stress placed onto Social workers in the UK is killing Social Workers for sure but many stick with it even though it might eventually cost them their life.’ What is wrong with this sentence?

  5. lucy April 25, 2018 at 5:15 pm #

    It sounds like she returned to her country of origin, and I doubt she would be able to work as a Social Worker there, given her DBS would have her recent criminal convictions, which would show up as all statutory agencies are required to conduct international checks as well.

    I do think she may get a position on the HCPC, given some of their shocking previous decisions, however for once they got it right.

  6. Didi April 25, 2018 at 10:40 pm #

    It’s wrong for her to use her position of power.

  7. Pi April 26, 2018 at 8:02 am #

    Interesting comments from all but a few things..
    How was the worker able to carry on the deception for so long? Surely there is also a case for HCPC to investigate the workers supervisor and authority for poor governance, management and support for worker with an addiction.
    The worker was likely to be known and their needs through supervision but how much support offered? Probably very little and management oversight and duty of care very poor.
    It isn’t good enough for fellow workers to so judgemental and offers the questions of those workers attitudes to simular client groups with addiction and pius attitudes of ” I am alright Jack” mentality.
    Social work is about compassion, support and understanding to improve lives and I do not understand how so called colleagues now feel able to be judge and jury.
    Investigation and analysis should offer wider conclusions and recommendations in such cases with actions and not learning sets.
    What is happening to the profession today with such comments?
    What are the HCPC doing about the lack of management oversight?
    Answer, nothing…it’s not there remit to investigate outside the box or original allegations.
    Sad failure really for the service user and worker..

    • Dj April 27, 2018 at 2:46 pm #

      Good point about management oversight , particularly in integrated services where a social workers manager is likely not to be a special work manager.

      Also questions should be asked about how the court of protection authorised this deputyship to a care coordinator and why they didn’t question why it wasn’t the local authorities finance department.

  8. Sw111 April 27, 2018 at 12:36 pm #

    Absolutely appalling, position of trust abused. As the comments by Pi, where was the management oversight?
    Anyway it’s sad the vulnerable service user was cheated.

  9. Graham May 3, 2018 at 9:55 am #

    I agree, where was the management oversight? A vulnerable adult’s finances should be managed by the council’s Court of Protection team, not by an individual social worker. Striking off is the only acceptable sanction for such a serious breach of trust, however it would be interesting to know who repaid the service user – the social worker or the council.

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