A Doncaster care worker pocketed nearly £2,600 from vulnerable people with learning difficulties to buy drugs, a court heard.
Paul Hunter, aged 37, was handed a 12 month sentence suspended for 24 months after admitting two counts of fraud whilst working as a support worker for St Anne’s Community Services.
The court heard Hunter abused his position of trust to obtain £1,120 from one of the residents he was supposed to be caring for between March 17 and 31 and £1,464 from another between January 13 and March 23.
At the time of the offences Hunter, of Owston Lane, Carcroft, was supporting clients with learning disabilities in their own homes in Doncaster.
Doncaster Magistrates’ Court heard Hunter used the cash to buy drugs.
Hunter started using heroin when he was 18 but had not taken any for a number of years.
A report read out on behalf of the probation service said: “In the period leading up to the offence everything was going right and he convinced himself that something was bound to go wrong.
“In his mind he told himself the worst thing that could happen would be for him to return to drugs so he stole the money to buy drugs.
“He decided to impose the worst thing on himself to fulfil the prophecy that he had set, believing that if that happened nothing else could then go wrong.”
The court heard Hunter had always maintained contact with a support worker throughout his life so he would not return to his drug habbit.
Speaking in mitigation Andrew Bostock said: “He accepts full responsibility and accepts the faith that these two individuals have in the care system will have been greatly affected.
“He knows he let his family down and let himself down.”
A spokesman for St Anne’s Community Services said: “It is concerning that he used his privileged position to take money from vulnerable clients. We treat all such cases seriously and as soon as we were alerted to this situation we believe we acted promptly to ensure the clients in the service concerned were safe and sound. St Anne’s reimbursed the clients concerned in full and without delay.
“We are sorry for any inconvenience or anxiety this has caused to our clients.
“We deeply regret what happened in this case and we have reviewed our clients’ monies procedures and made them more robust to significantly reduce the likelihood of reoccurrence.”
Mr Bostock said Hunter, who had no previous criminal record, was keen to reimburse the money in full.
As well as the suspended sentence Hunter was ordered to pay back the cash he had taken in compensation and complete 300 hours of unpaid work.
The St Anne’s spokesman added: “When the financial irregularities first came to light the matter was immediately reported to the Police and St Anne’s then also completed its own internal investigation as soon as we were able.
“The person concerned was dismissed from St Anne’s employment last month.”