‘Despicable’ Sheffield NHS workers defrauded £120,000 from adults with learning difficulties

Joanne Brownhill, 46, and Mandy Sargent, 49
Joanne Brownhill, 46, and Mandy Sargent, 49

Two Sheffield NHS workers who defrauded dozens of adults with learning difficulties out of more than £120,000 have been jailed for their ‘absolutely despicable’ crimes.

Joanne Brownhill, 46, and Mandy Sargent, 49, were senior managers at Mansfield View Supported Living Accommodation in Sheffield, which provides accommodation for adults with moderate to severe learning disabilities.

They ripped off at least 24 residents whose money they were responsible for managing over a seven-year period.

The women were jailed for three-and-a-half years each at Sheffield Crown Court today after pleading guilty to false accounting at an earlier hearing.

Five of their victims have now died, while police say the ‘full extent of their deception’ may never be uncovered due to large number of records being destroyed.

Many of the residents at the living accommodation did not have the capacity to manage their finances and as such, Supported Living Assistants help with shopping and payment of household bills.

Residents’ Financial Services (RFS) hold their money and management could request RFS vouchers for residents, to reimburse them for these costs.

The women were suspended by Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust in 2013 and police were called after a review of Mansfield View by auditors revealed significant financial discrepancies.

Detective Constable Jenny Elsley said: “This has been a complex investigation over three years, looking at thousands of financial transactions by two women employed to care for vulnerable adults.

“The victims’ families entrusted these women to care for their relatives and instead, they abused their positions as senior management to exploit these individuals for financial gain.

“Their offending was sophisticated and pre-meditated, with such a large number of victims being deliberately targeted. At no point throughout our investigation or legal proceedings have either of the defendants offered any explanation, apology or remorse.

“They were solely responsible for the management of service users’ monies and therefore because of their unique position within the money management process, they were able to exploit the system for many years.

“While it is estimated that the women defrauded 24 residents out of around £120,000 over a seven-year period, because a large number of records were destroyed we may never know the full extent of their deception.

“Their behaviour is absolutely despicable and I am pleased they have now finally accepted responsibility for their crimes after three years of denial. However, for five of our victims this comes too late, as they have now sadly died.

“To financially exploit vulnerable members of our community is just unacceptable and we will take every opportunity we can to bring individuals who commit this offence before the courts.”

Brownhill, of Campion Drive, Killamarsh, Sheffield, was jailed for three-and-a-half years.

Sargent, of Myrtle Crescent, Wickersley, Rotherham, was jailed for three-and-a-half years.

Enquiries under the Proceeds of Crime Act are now underway to attempt to reclaim the money taken.

Kevan Taylor, chief executive of Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust (SHSC),said:“We welcome the verdict today.

“It is important to recognise the impact this upsetting situation has had on the residents and their families as well as trust staff and we have taken every possible step to ensure that appropriate support has been put in place.

“We put trust in our staff to work in the most appropriate way possible on behalf of service users and their families and carers, and, as the vast majority of our employees are hardworking and conscientious, it is extremely distressing for all concerned when that trust is abused in this way.

“As soon as our service review identified financial irregularities at Mansfield View, we worked closely with South Yorkshire Police and the Guinness Partnership as well as conducting our own internal investigation which has resulted in the dismissal of both Joanne Brownhill and Mandy Sargent.

“In light of our investigation findings, the Trust made immediate changes to financial procedures, to ensure, as far as possible, that appropriate controls are in place to prevent any recurrence.”