Social worker who fraudulently claimed £28K is struck off
HCPC Panel strikes off social worker who obtained £28K fraudulently
Published on 21st October 2019
A social worker who fraudulently obtained £28,000 from the local authority she worked for has been struck off the social work register.
Mrs Lisa Finn, a senior social worker at Middlesbrough Borough Council for approximately 20 years before the events leading to her conviction, fraudulently obtained £28,397.18 from the authority.
Part of Mrs Finn's role involved dealing with vulnerable families who required financial help and assistance from the Council through a Section 17 Form or s.17 form. The payments that followed from that form could be for a variety of purposes but they offered direct assistance to children in need. The form had to be signed by a line manager of the team along with the department head and the cash funds would then be handed to Mrs Finn who would distribute it to the family named within that form.
On 14 March 2018, an Audit Officer within the Council, discovered two Section 17 Forms which had apparently been signed by a former employee who had left the Council’s employment three months earlier. On both of those occasions, the forms had been submitted by and cash paid to Mrs Finn. The sums involved at that stage were £462.55 and £455.50.
An internal audit took place, checking all of the transactions involving Mrs Finn and it was established that approximately 60 transaction, amounting to a total of £28,397.18, were fraudulent and the money had been paid to her between February 2017 and March 2018.
Mrs Finn was interviewed at work on 15 March 2018. After initially denying the fraudulent transactions she took a short break, returned to the interview and admitted what she had done, albeit only to the extent of £10,000 to 12,000. A week later, she spoke again to her employers and explained that she had stolen the money.
Mrs Finn was charged in relation to these transactions and she appeared at Teesside
Magistrates Court on 9 January 2019 where she pleaded guilty to Fraud by abuse of position under Sections 1 and 2 of the Fraud Act 2006. The sum to which she pleaded guilty was £28,397.18.
She was committed to the Crown Court at Teesside where she was sentenced on 27 March 2019 to 16 months imprisonment suspended for 24 months. Mrs Finn was also required to undertake Rehabilitation Activity Requirements for a maximum of 30 days and to remain at her home address between the hours of 10:00pm and 7:00am for six months which was to be electronically monitored.
The Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service Panel was provided with a certificate of conviction dated 5 April 2019 which confirmed Mrs Finn's conviction.
Accordingly, the Panel found that Mrs Finn's fitness to practise is impaired in respect of both the personal and public components.
The Panel had regard to the following mitigating factors:
- Mrs Finn demonstrated remorse and apologised for her misconduct;
- She made admissions to her employer after initially lying;
- She entered a plea of guilty at the earliest opportunity;
- Mrs Finn has repaid from her workplace pension the money she had stolen;
- There are no other criminal or regulatory matters recorded against her apart from a conviction in 1996, so that she was treated as a person of good character by the judge who sentenced her;
- Mrs Finn has a 20 year career as a social worker and appears to have been well regarded by her colleagues.
The aggravating features are that:
- Her conviction arises from sustained dishonesty over 13 months involving some 60 fraudulent transactions, including forgery of former colleagues’ signatures, which only ceased when her dishonesty was discovered. As such her actions were active and not passive;
- Mrs Finn's dishonest activity was committed during her professional practice and represented a gross abuse of her position;
- Her dishonesty was a serious breach of trust and a misuse of public funds;
- The financial benefit Mrs Finn obtained was significant;
- There is no evidence that Mrs Finn has developed any further insight or engaged in any remediation through the regulatory process.
The Panel considered a Suspension Order. The Panel found that Mrs Finn has neither demonstrated sufficient insight, in particular into the impact of her dishonesty on her colleagues and the profession as a whole. Nor is there any evidence that she has engaged with the HCPC to demonstrate that she understands the impact of her conduct on the reputation and standards of her profession. The risk of repetition remains.
The Panel found that the nature and gravity of Mrs Finn's conduct over a considerable period, together with the breach of trust inherent in her acts of dishonesty, left the Panel with no other sanction which would sufficiently protect the public and the public interest.
The Panel has seen very limited evidence from her of insight or remediation to deflect them from that view. The Panel was satisfied that public confidence in the profession and the regulatory process would be undermined if Mrs Finn remained on the register having abused the trust of her position.
Accordingly, the Panel decided to strike Mrs Finn from the register.
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