Despite extensive vetting carried out when they were recruited, two men working at a care home have been jailed for theft. The two men stole several valuable items including an OBE medal and jewellery from patients at a home in Reading in Berkshire. The exact number of thefts is unknown, with police indicating that at least ten elderly people had been victims of the pair.
After a trial at Reading Crown Court, the two carers were jailed for a total of 5 years and 7 months. One of their victims was an 84-year-old woman who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. After being moved into a hospice, she fell victim to the two carers, who stole sentimental items and sold them at a local pawnshop.
Another victim was a 90-year-old man with dementia. The two carers sold an OBE medal from the man, along with other items with sentimental value. One carer, branded the ringleader of the scheme by the judge, was jailed for 40 months, the other for 27 months.
The organisation which employed the two carers spoke out after their conviction. The agency highlighted their recruitment policies, which involve both extensive background checking and enhanced DBS checks. Reassuring patients and family that they had done everything they could to check on the background of employees, the employer stated that enhanced DBS checks had shown nothing of concern. The employer also stated that they had reported suspected thefts to the police at the earliest opportunity and co-operated fully with the investigation.
No Guarantee of Future Conduct
This sad case highlights one of the main failures of the current criminal records checking process in the UK. The enhanced disclosure which is required for anyone working in adult social care is the most detailed. It will show not only current convictions and cautions, but also older information if the police feel it is relevant. Should the carers come from countries outside the UK, a similar level of certificate is obtained from their home country. There is no legal requirement for carers to be “squeaky clean” with no convictions at all. However, a history involving theft or violence would make it extremely unlikely that someone secure employment.
Employers must also be aware that a clean DBS certificate at a set point in time is no guarantee of how someone will behave in the future. Just because someone has no convictions and cautions now does not indicate that they will be tempted at some point to steal or commit other offences. Care homes and other similar employers therefore have to consider safeguarding on an ongoing basis, rather than something which is done once at the point of recruitment, and then forgotten about.
One way around this issue is to ask people to enrol in DBS Update, a system which provides real-time access to DBS information online. Access to this system may make things easier for employers but does not opt them out from having a robust recruitment process in the first place.