A social worker who used other people’s names to sign up for food parcels and supermarket coupons for troubled families was censured for her conduct and ordered to pay $20,000.
Jacqui Wastney was working in Christchurch at the time for VisionWest, who coordinated food parcels from supplier 0800 Hungry to be given to people in need.
Over the course of a year Wastney signed up people for the service but they never received their boxes. Prosecuting attorneys said she was keeping food for herself, but a disciplinary court investigating her conduct could not prove on the basis of odds that she was.
However, he found her guilty of misconduct, censuring her and ordering her to pay $20,000 in court costs.
While Wastney’s offense actually occurred from 2017 to 2018, the Social Workers’ Disciplinary Court held a hearing on the matter last year, and the findings were released today.
According to the decision, the food package issue was discovered when the company he worked for conducted an audit of delivery forms and discovered multiple discrepancies, including changes in the names and ages of customers and their children, and with the addresses listed.
When contacted by 0800 Hungry as part of its internal audit, some of the intended recipients of the food parcels reported that they had not received them.
At the hearing, nonprofit warehouse supervisor Carol Bensemann said she first noticed something was wrong when she answered a call from someone Wastney had signed up for the service.
“I know you work with Jacqui” she asked him, but the man replied “no, I don’t know who it is”. Bensemann said the man was single and lived alone, yet the forms Wastney filed said there were two adults and four children in the home.
Bensemann said that when he reviewed Wastney’s previously submitted forms he noticed that the names “Richard” or “Richards” commonly appeared as a first and last name.
He also noted that when comparing two specific forms, the address was the same but the couple’s names were different as were the telephone numbers and the ages of the children.
Bensemann proceeded to call about 30 people listed on the forms to ask if they had received a food package from Wastney, and about half had no idea what he was talking about.
Next, he took his findings to 0800 Hungry CEO and Wastney manager at VisionWest, Timothy Beale.
It conducted its own verification and produced a spreadsheet that mapped VisonWest customers to forms submitted by Wastney that identified the same discrepancies Bensemann had discovered.
VisionWest has also provided supermarket vouchers to some of its customers and Wastney has been the key link in receiving them. However, the $320 worth of it was lost while in her care, and records show it was used in three different supermarkets.
When asked where the coupons had gone, Wastney bought more coupons and presented them as if they were the originals.
In relation to the forms, Wastney told the court he had not received training on how to fill them out properly and had seen other employees either neglect to fill them out or leave them until the last moment and send them in bulk.
He vehemently denied the misappropriation of “a single package or food item”. However, she admitted returning forms for other staff members and admitted that she was wrong to do so.
He said he never questioned getting food packages for people that VisionWest didn’t have contracts for and that he “just wanted to serve people in the best way possible.”
However, the court ruled that due to “falsifying details on the forms and lack of clarity with 0800 Hungry” there was dishonesty in obtaining the food parcels.
But it has not been established that based on the odds Wastney took the food parcels for himself or his family.
“The court was not satisfied that there was sufficient evidential basis to conclude that Ms. Wastney had personally gained or benefited from her actions.”
She discovered, however, that she took the $320 in supermarket coupons for her own benefit.
The court said Wastney has not been as transparent with her employers as it could have been.
“Social workers are not expected to put themselves in a position where they can act to the detriment of clients,” she said.
“While there was no evidence of actual loss or harm to customers as a result of Ms. Wastney’s behaviour, she misappropriated food vouchers and food parcels intended for customers.”
“The court was satisfied that when Ms Wastney’s dishonest acts are considered objectively contrary to the standards which the public and the profession have come to expect of social workers, the conduct was a serious deviation from those standards and undoubtedly brings the profession of social worker into disrepute. social worker”.
– By Jeremy Wilkinson
– Open Justice Media Journalist, Palmerston North