Social workers paid young offenders fines
SOCIAL workers in Irvine used taxpayers’ cash to pay the court fines of young offenders in their care.
An internal investigation found three fine payments worth £95 were made from council funds – but poor documentation may have prevented auditors from finding others, the Irvine Herald can reveal.
This week, North Ayrshire Council defended the three payments, insisting they were of an “exceptional nature.”
But a damning report by their own auditors said such use of the public purse did “not appear to comply with the council’s financial regulations and codes of financial practice.”
A probe was launched after a former employee of the council’s Irvine-based Rosemount Youth Project for vulnerable youngsters claimed that project staff were using council cash to pay court fines of kids in their care.
Internal auditors discovered that three payments worth £95 had been paid to the Scottish Court Service to cover youngsters’ fines.
And they admitted “there may have been others that cannot be identified due to a lack of supporting documentation.”
The auditors said social services’ view that the payments were made in the best interests of the youngsters and within council rules could not be substantiated given the “poor standard of documentation and the lack of detailed procedural guidance available to staff.”
They said it should be a high priority for management to clarify the legal position of using council funds in this manner.
On Tuesday, North Ayrshire Council’s Head of Children, Families and Criminal Justice, Sheena Gault said clear guidance had now been issued to staff to reinforce the “exceptional nature” of the payments.
She added: “While it is not our policy to pay court fines, the council has a responsibility to support vulnerable young people in our care and we will take account of any extenuating circumstances when deciding how we might assist those who are experiencing financial difficulties.”