A former youth support practitioner employed by Suffolk County Council has handed a suspended jail term for pocketing £10,000 in sick pay while dishonestly working a second job. 

Samantha Harris, of Pott Hall Road in Bury St Edmunds, pleaded guilty at Suffolk Magistrates' Court to one charge of fraud over the period December 2022 to May 2023 for dishonesty in making false representations to council staff concerning her health with the intention of making a gain. 

Concerns were raised with the county council's counter fraud service by the children's home management team, who were contacted by a care agency enquiring if Harris was on sick leave as she was currently working for them. 

An investigation found that Harris had five sickness absences, with the longest one being two months, and she worked for a private agency during each absence. 

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It was also found she exaggerated the extent of her illness to provide legitimate GP sick notes and dishonestly messaged management and colleagues about how unwell she was during the time she was on shift with the private care agency. 

In one instance she shared a picture of a Covid-positive lateral flow test stating how bad her symptoms were.

The investigation revealed Harris received £10,565.25 in sick pay and employer contributions. 

She was sentenced to six months in jail, suspended for two years, and 15 days of rehabilitation activity. 

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Harris was also ordered to pay the county council compensation and investigatory and legal costs, totalling £17,051.51, and a victim surcharge of £154.

After the sentencing, Bobby Bennett, cabinet member for children and young people's services at Suffolk County Council, 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 this way. We will not tolerate fraud and we will rigorously investigate all allegations of fraud."