Social worker embezzled £20K from service user

Published on 24th April 2018

News


Social worker embezzled £20K from service user

HCPC strikes off social worker who withdrew £20K from a vulnerable service user’s bank account to fund her addiction

Published on 24th April 2018

A social worker who embezzled more than £20,000 from a vulnerable service user has been struck off the Health and Care Professions Council register.

Aimee James admitted taking £21,768.63 from Person A’s bank account, in part to fund her addiction to drugs and alcohol.

“Overall, the Panel considered the convictions would be considered deplorable by fellow professionals and the public,” said the Panel.

Ms James had been employed from 2009 as a registered social worker and care coordinator by Lambeth Council, seconded to the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. From May 2010, the Court of Protection had appointed her as Deputy to assist Person A, a vulnerable adult service user, with his property and financial affairs.

However, in November 2016, Lambeth Council launched an investigation after a routine payment from Person A’s bank account was rejected for lack of funds. A full investigation of the handling of Person A’s monies in the period 14 May 2016 to 4 November 2016 revealed that Ms James had expended or withdrawn £21,768.63 from Person A’s bank account.

In a statement during the investigation dated 1 March 2017 and in an investigatory interview on 2 March 2017, Ms James admitted misappropriating Person A’s funds, spending it on herself, in part to fund her addiction to drugs and alcohol. The investigation also revealed that she had prepared a document for the Court of Protection visitor in March 2016 in which she had overstated Person A’s bank balance by over £3,000.
 
Ms James was prosecuted and on 19 April 2017 pleaded guilty to three charges of fraud by abuse of position and one charge of dishonestly making a false representation. By this time, she had repaid most of the money and completed a treatment programme for her addictions.

On 19 May 2017, Ms James was sent by South London Magistrates Court to Inner London Crown Court for sentence, and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment suspended for two years. She was ordered to pay £2,876.22 in compensation, undertake 150 hours community service, and pay £1,000 costs.

The Panel noted that although there was evidence of treatment of the addictions, there was no evidence before them of remediation of the dishonesty.  There was, therefore a real risk of repetition of the dishonest behaviour within the convictions.

The Panel determined that the following paragraphs of the ISP applied:

    “Striking off is a sanction of last resort for serious, deliberate or reckless acts involving  abuse  of trust  such  as  sexual  abuse,  dishonesty  or persistent failure.

     “ Striking off should be used where there is no other way to protect the public, for example, where there is a lack of insight, continuing problems or denial. A registrant’s inability or unwillingness to resolve matters will suggest that a lower sanction may not be appropriate.”

The Panel therefore determined that a Striking Off order was the only appropriate order in this case.

 

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