By Sophie Wheeler
(Picture by Cavendish Press)
A SHAMED social worker has quit after he was caught illegally sharing confidential and highly sensitive information on troubled children while banned from frontline duties.
Leo Kirk, 59, from Leech Brook Avenue, Audenshaw, had been suspended from practice for 18 months by a healthcare regulator after he persuaded a grieving woman to lend him money for a mortgage repayment when he was allocated to look after her.
But he carried on working as a regional manager for a private care company which helps young people without disclosing his suspension.
Kirk was reported to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) after he sent private documents to a rival firm which contained confidential details about 14 youngsters in care and whether they were at risk of child sexual exploitation.
He subsequently claimed he passed on the information to show the other company how “difficult and complex some of these young people are”.
At Stockport Magistrates Court, Kirk was fined £483 and ordered to pay a further £412 costs after he admitted two charges of obtaining and recklessly disclosing personal data under the Data Protection Act 1998.
His 18-month suspension was lifted in October last year but he is no longer involved in social work.
Kirk, who qualified as a social worker in 1998, had originally been reprimanded by the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service in April 2018 after he borrowed £450 from a woman he was assigned to care for through an agency between 2014 and 2016.
He paid back £100 after she lent him the cash but he transferred to another post two weeks later.
The money was subsequently refunded in full by Warrington Council after the woman told another social worker.
The ICO investigation began in May 2018 after the director of Preston-based Holywell Children’s Services learnt information about children in its care had been sent to a competitor, the Hillgate Health Group in Stockport.
It emerged Kirk had been working at Holywell without telling his employers about his suspension.
Asif Khan, prosecuting for the ICO, said: “We received a report about unlawful misuse of personal data by a manager who had without reason passed on documents about up to 14 young people aged 16 to 18 to a competitor.
“Mr Kirk was suspended from his job on May 10 after breaching data protection rules and an investigation revealed he had unlawfully disclosed referrals for residential and foster care placements for vulnerable young people.
“He was working for an agency at the time but he disclosed information to a competitor. He was interviewed and admitted these offences.’’
Representing himself, Kirk said: “The competitor was a new business that was opening up and the reason I sent referrals over was to acknowledge that and to show the new business how difficult and complex some of these young people are.
“I deeply regret what I have done. But my intention was nothing more sinister then showing somebody the complexity of young people and I do apologise for that.”
Sentencing Kirk, chairman of the magistrates Lynn Moores said: “We have listened very carefully and taken into account your early guilty plea and your fairly obvious remorse – you have obviously lost your job.”