Carer Stole From Patients

An agency supplying care for elderly clients employed a man, found to be a convicted thief, as a home help who went on to steal cash from two elderly ladies. Eden Care Services of Cross Street, Macclesfield – who are contracted principally by Cheshire County Council’s Social Services – last night explained their decision to employ Paul Ashcroft when he had a criminal record. Two years ago he was convicted of stealing from his father.

Owner Cheryl Gregson said: “He slipped through the net. We trusted him and he betrayed that trust. He was a good carer and we were as shocked as anyone. Yes, of course we received his criminal record check. We made a decision about this rightly or wrongly.”

The company, which employs 29 carers and has been going for three years, has now pledged to overhaul its recruitment policy and blacklist potential workers known to have a criminal record. Mrs Gregson added: “From now on we will be saying ‘if you have a criminal record then you can’t work for us’. We will be completely changing our policy.”

Eden entrusted 23-year-old Ashcroft to look after a 75-year-old widow, suffering from Parkinson’s disease, and a frail 88-year-old woman who has dementia. Macclesfield magistrates heard how he robbed them of more than £600 and abused his position of trust – just six weeks into his job.

The 75-year-old said later: “I am just amazed that he got a job there. It gives you a bit of a shock. I am a pretty independent soul. It’s unnerving.”

News that Ashcroft had a criminal record and was employed by a care agency was greeted with alarm by Age Concern who questioned the agency’s vetting procedures. Madelyn Bridge, chief executive, said: “This is an horrendous illustration of the unacceptable quality of service that some vulnerable older people have to endure. A Criminal Record Bureau check should clearly have taken place and identified the risk, avoiding putting the victims in danger in the first place.”

She added: “This will come as no surprise to many older people and their loved ones who are aware that ingrained ageist attitudes can lead to older people receiving second-class treatment. There can be absolutely no excuse for vulnerable older people being put at risk in their own homes.”

Last week Ashcroft, of Commongate, Macclesfield, admitted four offences of burglary, and was transferred to Chester Crown Court for sentence after the town’s magistrates declined jursidiction.

Patrick Hutchinson, prosecuting, told the court: “The victims are elderly and the defendant was in a position of trust. He was lawfully entitled to be in their home to clean and care but not to steal – this is not a common or garden burglary.”

He said one victim was a 75-year-old widow, who had fractured her pelvis and was struggling with everyday chores. Ashcroft had been helping out once a week with cleaning duties when £50 went missing from her fruit bowl.

Ashcroft, who was suspended by his bosses after the first theft and then quit, returned unofficially to the home of one of his clients on the pretext of cleaning. The woman welcomed him but later found £120 from her purse and £400 savings in an envelope were missing.

The second victim was an 88-year-old woman who suffers from dementia. He took £57 from her. Ashcroft, the court heard, already had a record for breach of trust. He was convicted of stealing his father’s cheque book in 2004, the court was told by Mr Hutchinson.

JPs heard that Ashcroft told police he had a drugs problem and debts to pay. Defending, Sinead Roberts, said: “There are a series of aggravating factors and this takes it above this court’s sentencing powers.”

Afterwards Cheryl Gregson, the proprietor of Eden, said: “We check every member of staff that we employ using the Protection of Vulnerable Adults register. We also do rigorous checks with the Criminal Record Bureau.”

Eden, which has not broken any laws by employing a crook but compromises acceptable standards within the care industry, has fully reimbursed both victims.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We can’t comment on the Criminal Record Bureau publicly for confidentiality purposes but criminal records do show up on criminal checks.”

And Age Concern boss Madelyn Bridge warned: “Agencies that are employing care workers need to be very careful about employing somebody with a criminal record.”

A spokesman from the Commission for Social Care Inspection, the industry’s watchdog, said employing staff with a criminal record was at the discretion of the care agency.