Care agency slammed for employing convicted thief

A HUSBAND has criticised a care agency that allowed a thief to look after his disabled wife. Thomas Atkins, 56, who is also disabled, was shocked to read about the conviction of Elizabeth Flower and her husband Stephen in the Evening Mail last month.

Mrs Flower, 48, a carer with Barrow-based Twilight Years, had been providing care to Mr Atkins’ wife, Barbara, 61, for several months previously.

Mr and Mrs Flower, of Coniston, had pleaded guilty to taking £53,682 from the post office section of the convenience store they ran in Elterwater over a three-year period before they were caught in August last year.

At Carlisle Crown Court, Mr and Mrs Flower were given 12-month prison sentences, suspended for two years, and each ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid community work. The court had heard that they stole more than £53,000 in a desperate attempt to keep their struggling village shop in business. They had started using money from the post office section to prop up the loss-making convenience store attached to it.

Mr Atkins, of Maple Avenue, Ulverston, said Mrs Flower was “one of the best” carers at Twilight Years. But, he added: “As a carer, the second you walk through the door, you’re in a position of trust.

“We were concerned that Twilight Years put this woman in that position of trust. How could a criminal record slip through the net?

“I would like to know the thoughts of other people in terms of care provided by the social services to their own homes, say, to their own mother or father. Would they still be happy if they knew that a care person had got a criminal record, or would they still be willing to allow them into their own homes?”

Mr Atkins said he brought the matter to the attention of Twilight Years and the social services office in Barrow – and Mrs Flower had not returned to his house since. Michelle Keay, boss at Twilight Years, would not confirm whether Mrs Flower was still employed by the company.

Ms Keay said it was a matter for the Care Quality Commission, the independent regulator of health and social care in England.

A spokesperson for Cumbria County Council said: “The county council contracts out to Twilight Years and is happy that decisions made by the agency are for the benefit of those who are cared for.”

A spokesman for the Care Quality Commission said: “In general, CRB (criminal record bureau) checks must be made on every individual employed to work in a social care service who has contact with the people who use the service.

“In general, regulated social care services have to ensure that all staff and volunteers who have contact with the people who use their service have a satisfactory CRB check.”