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Locum social worker for fraudulently claiming mileage and parking costs

Locum over claimed £2,600 while under financial pressure

Published on 21st October 2019

A locum social worker has been suspended from the social work register for fraudulently claiming mileage and parking expenses.

Mr Cedric Anderson was working at Rotherham Council as a Family Support Worker in the Complex Abuse Team through Reed Health and Care locum agency when he over claimed for mileage and parking expenses between the week ending 8 September 2017 and the week ending 1 December 2017.

On 12 December 2017, Witness KB, Team Manager at the Council, met with Mr Anderson to raise this concern with him. Mr Anderson was the subject of a disciplinary meeting on 15 January 2018 at the Reed Health and Care locum agency, with regard to an allegation that he “fraudulently claimed mileage and parking expenses.” The Agency subsequently referred the matter to the HCPC on 15 March 2018.

The sum over-claimed by Mr Anderson amounted to more than £2,600 of public funds.

KB was called upon as a witness at a Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service hearing.

KB was employed by the Council as a Team Manager in the Complex Abuse Team and was Mr Anderson's direct line manager. She said that when Mr Anderson began his employment at the Council, she spoke with him about claiming mileage and expenses, in part in response to specific questions asked by him.

She said that she was very clear with him that he could not claim mileage to and from work and that the Council would not pay for parking expenses, unless this was for attendance at Court. KB said that she remembered Mr Anderson asking her quite early on in his employment whether he could claim mileage between home and work and she was very clear with him that he could not.

KB said that she sent Mr Anderson a basic spreadsheet to keep on top of his mileage expenditure and told him that he needed to keep this up-to-date along with receipts so that he could evidence the mileage and parking he was claiming. KB said that she also spoke to the Agency and a consultant there; it is KB’s understanding that the consultant at the Agency also advised Mr Anderson that he could not claim for mileage to and from his home to the office.

Initially, Mr Anderson's hours and mileage were authorised on a weekly basis by Human Resources at the Council. KB said that this was in part an oversight and in part because she was away on leave, and that she should have been the person authorising his claims, rather than HR. She explained that the HR member of staff signing-off Mr Anderson's weekly expenses worked in a different building, would not have been familiar with his work, and was not in a position to have checked or verified his claims. KB said that following issues being raised by other team members, she looked onto Mr Anderson's portal on 11 December 2017 and noticed that he was claiming for around 700 miles car travel per week and around £50 a week for parking. KB’s witness statement exhibited a table showing the mileage and parking claimed by Mr Anderson between the weeks ending 8 September 2017 and 1 December 2017.

KB said that she used AA Route Finder and calculated the amount of mileage that she thought Mr anderson should have claimed, based on the visits he recorded, his diary and his family contact reports to be a maximum of 215 miles per week though for some weeks she expressed the view that it would have been significantly less.

During a meeting on 12 December 2017 between KB and Mr Anderson, KB told him that she was concerned about the amount of mileage and parking expenses that he was claiming. She asked him if he had kept receipts for his parking and if he had recorded his mileage on the spreadsheet that she had provided him with at the outset of his employment. he said that he had not. KB said that Mr Anderson then admitted to claiming for mileage and parking expenses that he had not incurred and apologised for doing so. KB asked him why he had done it and he said that he had a wedding to pay for and needed the extra money.

On 12 December 2017, KB informed the Agency by telephone that Mr Anderson had admitted to fraudulently claiming mileage and parking expenses. KB’s witness statement exhibited an email dated 18 December 2017 from KB to the Agency, setting out the detail to the matter and the meeting on 12 December 2017.

In a written statement to the Panel, dated 25 September 2019, Mr Anderson apologised for not being able to attend the hearing due to unforeseen circumstances. He wrote: "I would like to make you all aware that I do accept full responsibility for the accusations against me, and I do not deny the over claiming of expenses and parking. I understand the seriousness of matter [sic] and I should never have put myself in the position to be dishonest. I made a mistake I should never have done it; I am embarrassed and ashamed for what has happened, and I will never make the same the mistake again. Because I understand that I made a mistake and was dishonest, I made every effort to find a new job to repay my former employers what I overclaimed to show that I was serious about taking responsibility and doing my part to make things right."

"Since this incident I have made the necessary changes and educated myself on the proper ways to claim expenses. I informed my new employers of the events that took place and that I was under investigation with the HCPC, and when a decision is made I will make them aware of the outcome as well, as I want to uphold the trust I have built so far with my new employers. Also since the incident I have made sure that all expense claims are reviewed and signed off by upper management to ensure I am following the correct procedures and everything is documented, I also have regular monthly supervision with my managers to check in and ensure I am continuing to do what is required of me. I understand what I did was wrong and the seriousness of that, but I also want to inform the panel that this will never happen again. I value my role as a social worker and understand the impact we can have on the people that I work with every day. I know that honesty is very important and will do my best moving forward to rebuild the trust that may have been lost and improve as a person; I will never forget this experience and will continue to make every effort to ensure this never happens again. Thank you for your time and consideration," the statement added.

The Panel was in no doubt that Mr Anderson's actions fell significantly short of the conduct that would be expected of a social worker and amounted to misconduct. The panel felt that although he stated that he was disappointed in himself, embarrassed and ashamed, they did not consider that he demonstrated a high level of insight or indeed remorse. Mr Anderson had not addressed the possible or likely impact of his actions on his employer, professional standards or on public confidence in his profession. The Panel had no objective evidence from a third party to assist in this regard. The Panel was also aware that there is a spectrum of dishonest behaviour and noted that the Registrant’s actions amounted to sustained, repeated dishonesty. In all of these circumstances, the Panel considered that there was a potential risk of repetition. It has therefore concluded that Mr Anderson's fitness to practise is currently impaired.

The Panel considered the aggravating factors in this case to be:

• Mr Anderson's dishonesty was sustained and repeated over a 13 week period;

• His actions amounted to a breach of trust towards his employer for personal gain of over £2600;

• He has shown only limited insight in respect of the gravity of his actions and its possible consequences to the public, his employer and his profession;

• There is potential risk of repetition.

The Panel considered the following to be mitigating features in this case:

• Mr Anderson cooperated throughout the Agency’s investigation, has taken responsibility for his actions and made early admissions to the Council, the Agency and to this Panel;

• He repaid the money to the Agency within a year;

• He has engaged with these regulatory proceedings and the Panel acknowledged that he is unrepresented to date;

• Mr Anderson has told the Panel that he is currently employed and working without
incident and that his employer is aware of the allegation he faceds.

Although it did not consider these to be mitigating factors, the Panel noted that the dishonesty in this case was not directly related to service users and that there was no identifiable risk posed to service users by Mr Anderson.

The Panel suspended Mr anderson for 12 months to give him sufficient time to reflect on the Panel’s findings, develop insight, and formulate a plan for remediation.

Before the Suspension Order expires, it will be reviewed by a panel of the HCPC and Mr Anderson will be invited to attend that review hearing. This Panel cannot bind the assessment that will be made by any future reviewing panel. However, it may assist any such reviewing panel, and Mr anderson, if at or before a future review, he produces:

• a written reflective piece dealing with the reasons for his dishonesty; the impact of his dishonesty on his employer, the Social Work profession and members of the public; and what steps he has taken to prevent such failings occurring again;

• confirmation that he has undertaken continuing professional development;

• written references or testimonials from any place of work, either for paid or unpaid employment, regarding his character, trustworthiness and integrity.

Mr Anderson is encouraged to attend a further review hearing and it is likely that any future reviewing panel will benefit from his attendance.

 

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