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Suffolk County Council children’s home worker Samantha Harris, of West Row, near Mildenhall, receives suspended jail sentence after pocketing £10,565.25 in sick pay and employer contributions while working second job for private care agency





A former council children’s home worker has received a suspended jail sentence after pocketing more than £10,000 in sick pay and employer contributions while working a second job.

Samantha Harris, of Pott Hall Road, in West Row near Mildenhall, who was a Suffolk County Council youth support practitioner, shared a picture with management and colleagues of a Covid-19 positive lateral flow test stating how bad her symptoms were while on sick leave but still worked shifts for a private care agency.

The 36-year-old, who was sentenced at Suffolk Magistrates’ Court in Ipswich today, benefitted from £10,565.25 in sick pay and employer contributions.

Samantha Harris, of Pott Hall Road, West Row near Mildenhall, who was a Suffolk County Council youth support practitioner, was sentenced at Suffolk Magistrates’ Court in Ipswich today
Samantha Harris, of Pott Hall Road, West Row near Mildenhall, who was a Suffolk County Council youth support practitioner, was sentenced at Suffolk Magistrates’ Court in Ipswich today

She pleaded guilty on January 15 to one charge of fraud over December 2022 to May 2023; namely dishonesty making false representations to council staff concerning her health with the intention of making a gain.

Today, Suffolk County Council said concerns were raised with its counter fraud service by the children’s home management team, who had been contacted by a known care agency inquiring if Harris was on sick leave as she was currently working for them.

Separate disciplinary and criminal investigations were launched and ran in parallel.

A council spokesman said the investigation found that Harris had five separate sickness absences, with the longest one being two months, and was working for a private care agency during each absence.

While legitimate GP sick notes were provided by Harris to her manager, it was found that she had exaggerated the extent of her illness compared to the work she was able to undertake for the care agency which was very similar and physically demanding in some instances.

She dishonesty messaged management and colleagues at the children’s home about how unwell she was during times she was on shift with the private care agency, the spokesman said.

Harris was sentenced to six months custody suspended for two years and 15 days of rehabilitation activity.

She was also ordered to pay the council compensation and investigatory and legal costs, totalling £17,051.41 and a victim surcharge of £154.

After the sentencing, Cllr Bobby Bennett, cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “Today sends a very strong message to anyone thinking of defrauding the public purse to think again.

“The behaviour of the individual was unacceptable and the vast majority of officers would never act in this way.

“I thank our counter fraud service and our legal team for their hard work and professionalism in pursuing this case to a successful conclusion.

“We will not tolerate fraud and we will rigorously investigate all allegations of fraud.”