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Lambeth council into the handling of the man’s finances between May and November 2016 found that the social worker had withdrawn £21,768.63 from his account.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