Children put on HSE 'risk' register over €96k scam by social worker
Published 10/06/2016 | 02:30
Youngsters who were never in care ended up on a HSE Children at Risk register as a consequence of a €96,000 theft by a social worker.
It emerged care worker Jennifer O'Driscoll (38) deliberately overpaid unwitting foster carers, sometimes for children that were never in care, so she could then claim the excess money back from them in cash.
Some foster carers would offer to allow the overpayment to be deducted from their future HSE and Tusla payments. But O'Driscoll insisted that the money had to be repaid in cash because another foster carer was already waiting for it.
O'Driscoll, of St John's Terrace, World's End, Kinsale, appeared before Cork Circuit Criminal Court having pleaded guilty to 80 charges in relation to offences which left the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Tusla facing a €96,962 loss.
Judge Dave Riordan was told by Det Sgt Clodagh O'Sullivan that O'Driscoll was charged with 38 counts of theft and 42 counts of deception following an investigation into financial matters surrounding the operations of Tusla, the childcare agency, and the HSE.
The investigation found that O'Driscoll's actions between May 29, 2008 and January 1, 2013 had left the HSE and Tusla facing a €96,000 loss.
The offences all related to the North Lee social work department in Blackpool, Cork.
Judge Riordan was told that O'Driscoll would arrange for overpayments to be made to foster carers for children that weren't in their care.
A total of nine foster carers and 23 children were involved. None were aware of what O'Driscoll was doing.
O'Driscoll would then personally contact the foster carers, blame the overpayment on a staff error and then demand the repayment of the money in cash.
The investigation was launched as a consequence of an internal disciplinary matter within the HSE and Tusla.
Judge Riordan was told that O'Driscoll, who has two children aged six and 16 years, has since been dismissed from her job as a social worker.
Defence counsel Sinead Behan BL applied for sentencing to be adjourned to allow the defendant further time to raise compensation.
She pointed out that O'Driscoll had brought €18,000 to be lodged in court.
Ms Behan said that O'Driscoll is further examining the possibility of raising funds based on equity involving her home.
She also said that the court would benefit from a detailed psychiatric report on her client, which is currently being prepared.
Judge Riordan agreed to adjourn sentencing until October 25 next after being told the State had no objection.
O'Driscoll was remanded on continuing bail to appear before Cork Circuit Criminal Court in four months.