Former Suffolk Children’s Home worker sentenced for dishonestly working a second job when on sick leave

A former Youth Support Practitioner employed by Suffolk County Council to work in one of its Children’s Homes, has today been sentenced for dishonestly working a second job with a private care agency whilst on full sick pay from the Council, benefitting from £10,565.25 in sick pay and employer contributions.

Samantha Harris, of Pott Hall Road, West Row, was sentenced today to 6 months custody suspended for 2 years and 15 days of rehabilitation activity. She was also ordered to pay the Council compensation and investigatory and legal costs, totalling £17,051.41 and a victim surcharge of £154.

She pleaded guilty on 15 January 2024 at Ipswich Magistrates to one charge of fraud over the period December 2022 to May 2023; namely dishonesty making false representations to Council staff concerning her health with the intention of making a gain.

Speaking after the sentencing, Cllr. Bobby Bennett, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s Services, said: “Today sends a very strong message to anyone thinking of defrauding the public purse to think again. The behaviour of individual was unacceptable and the vast majority of officers would never act in this way. I thank our counter fraud service and our Legal Team for their hard work and professionalism in pursuing this case to a successful conclusion. We will not tolerate fraud and we will rigorously investigate all allegations of fraud.”

Concerns were raised with the Council’s Counter Fraud Service by the Children’s Home Management Team, who had been contacted by a known care agency enquiring if HARRIS was on sick leave as she was currently working for them. Separate disciplinary and criminal investigations were launched and ran in parallel.

The investigation found that Harris had five separate sickness absences, with the longest one being two months, working for a private care agency during each absence. Whilst legitimate GP sick notes had been provided by Harris to her manager, it was found that she had exaggerated the extent of her illness compared to the work she was able to undertake for the care agency which was very similar and physically demanding in some instances.

Harris dishonesty messaged management and colleagues at the Children’s Home about how unwell she was during times she was on shift with the private care agency; and even shared a picture of a COVID-19 positive lateral flow test stating how bad her symptoms were, when in fact she worked shifts in her second job during this period.