Is a carer stealing from your elderly relative?

Emma Woollacott
woman taking credit card out of ...
woman taking credit card out of ...

Over the last couple of years, there's been a rise in the number of thefts from the elderly by the very people paid to look after them.

Just last month, for example, care worker Donna White was jailed for ten months for stealing thousands of pounds from 84-year-old Diana Bramall.

In one heart-breaking case, an elderly couple were forced into different care homes after a thieving car worker cleared out their bank account, making it impossible for them to carry on living at home.

Earlier this year, freedom of information requests revealed that more than five thefts a day are taking place at care homes across the UK, with elderly residents being robbed of more than £2.7 million in money, jewellery and treasured possessions in the last three and a half years.

In many cases, the thief gets off lightly. This summer, for example, Lorraine Cenci was ordered only to carry out 80 hours unpaid work after stealing from a 92-year-old woman.

Even worse, when Lisa McIntyre was found to have stolen £20,000 from her elderly clients' bank accounts to pay for a trip to America, she was handed a suspended sentence, and ordered to pay back just £1.

So what can you do if you suspect that an elderly relative is being stolen from?

Increasingly, concerned families are turning to CCTV to catch thieving carers in the act. Cameras disguised as air fresheners, alarm clocks and even smoke detectors are available for under £100.

Last year, the Care Quality Commission published guidelines on the use of CCTV to monitor the care of the elderly; the main requirement is to get the person's consent.

"Cameras have helped to expose terrible cruelty and neglectful care and I welcome this new advice," commented care and support minister Norman Lamb.

"Decisions about using surveillance are extremely difficult - there is always a balance to be struck between protecting people and respecting their right to privacy – but this information will help families to the make the right choice for them."

Of course, it's worth noting that the vast majority of carers are decent, dedicated people doing a difficult and badly-paid job. But if you do believe that an elderly person is being stolen from, then your first port of call should be the police.

You should also contact social services, asking for the adult protection or safeguarding co-ordinator, to report your concerns.

"We all want people using health and social care services to receive safe, effective, high quality and compassionate care," says Andrea Sutcliffe, chief inspector of adult social care at the Care Quality Commission.

"It is what everyone has a right to expect."