Police called in to help recover overpayments

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TWO foster carers were paid £158,400 by cash-strapped Doncaster Council for children they were no longer looking after, a report revealed.

A total of £243,262 was overpaid to carers and may be written-off, an internal audit report published by the authority showed

The overpayments, most of which were in the last two years, were revealed in the month that council chiefs called for a pay cut for workers earning over £15,000, not including school staff. Talks are still ongoing with unions over the planned reductions.

The audit report found the system for paying carers was ‘totally deficient’ and so faced ‘critical risks’.

It blamed council workers who made manual calculations, kept poor records and had a lax attitude to making sure that payments were accurate.

Between April 2010 and November last year, eight overpayments totalling £202,667 were made to foster carers no longer looking after the relevant children.

Most of the money involved was paid to just two separate carers.

In addition, £40,595 was overpaid to 13 carers who should have had their child benefit reduced as they were receiving an allowance for adoptive care, special guardianship or residence.

The overpayments occurred between 2004 and last year.

The report added it was likely that there were more overpayments in previous years.

The council is now working with South Yorkshire Police’s Forensic Economic Crime Unit to try to recover the debts.

Chris Pratt, director of the council’s children and young people’s service, said: “This report did not deal with safeguarding issues and did not raise any concerns about the quality of care provided.

“Overpayments have been made to foster carers due to major systems errors that we have since addressed to avoid this happening again.

“We are in the process of recovering these overpayments through all the relevant channels.”