A home care company’s registration was withdrawn two months before its thieving boss stole from an elderly client.
Peter James Heselwood was jailed for four months on July 27 after admitting stealing from an 80-year-old woman who used the services of his company, Smiley’s People.
Staff had previously complained about the way they were treated, non-payment of wages and concerns about the welfare of vulnerable clients who had entrusted their care to his business.
An employment tribunal heard he had apparently bought his co-director and partner a sports car rather than pay the wages he owed – the panel describing this as an ‘ample demonstration of where Mr Heselwood’s priorities lay’.
His history of employer misconduct included making ‘unpleasant and unjustified slurs’ against his hard-working staff, accusing them among other things of fraud, harassment and even of making death threats against him.
The Registrations and Inspections Unit of the Department of Health and Social Care served an improvement notice in 2019 on Smiley’s People – then based in Castletown – before the company’s registration was withdrawn in April 2022. This meant he was no longer registered to carry out domiciliary care which includes personal care and support but does not cover shopping and cleaning.
Magistrates heard that Heselwood stole from his elderly client some two months later, emptying her bank account of more than £5,000. His victim had been using the company for five years and would give a carer her bank card and a shopping list.
In 2022, Heselwood had started doing her shopping, which usually only involved a few items and cost around £20 per week.
However, between June and August, the 51-year-old used the card for his own purposes, even while she was in hospital, buying a laptop for £429 and taking money from cash machines and via cashback in shops.
The next month, the woman found that all of her savings were gone, with a total of £5,637 having been taken.
When Heselwood, latterly of Cross Street in Ramsbottom, Bury, was interviewed by police, he admitted stealing the money, but claimed he had mixed up the woman’s bank card with his own.
In a victim impact statement read out in court, the victim said she had considered him a friend who had visited her in hospital: ‘I had trusted him with my care and I can’t believe what he had done.’
A spokesperson for the DHSC said: ‘The Registration and Inspections Units of the DHSC served an improvement notice to Smiley’s People in December 2019, following concerns that had been raised by the public and ex-employees of the company.
‘Ongoing monitoring of the company took place throughout 2020, including a further inspection in the September. Additional complaints from staff and other professionals were received during this time.
‘As the company did not meet the requirements of the improvement notice, the department moved to cancel the registration in May 2021 – this was appealed by Mr Heselwood, who later withdrew his appeal, and the company’s registration was withdrawn in April 2022.’
In August 2021, a former member of staff was awarded just under £5,000 in compensation by an employment tribunal over Smiley’s People’s failure to pay her wages and expenses and provide her with terms and conditions of employment within four weeks of starting her job.
She told the Isle of Man Examiner she has never been paid a penny of that compensation.
‘I’ve been paid absolutely nothing at all. It’s not as bad for me as that poor lady but I live alone, have rent to pay and I’m still struggling,’ she said.
She said it hadn’t surprised her when she learned he had been charged with theft but described his sentence of just four months as ‘ridiculous’.
In 2020, seven other former employees of Smiley’s People successfully took their cases to tribunal over unpaid wages. They are still out of pocket.
Another former member of staff told the Examiner she raised concerns with Registration and Inspections in November 2019. Her email to them read: ‘My concern today is if Mr Heselwood is capable of doing this to a person of sound mind, I am very worried about what could be happening to his vulnerable clients.’
In 2018, Heselwood issued a warning on radio about the elderly being at risk of being conned out of money by scammers. That same year another former member of staff took his previous company, Wise Care, to tribunal over unpaid wages. He had accused her of unfounded allegations of theft and forgery which the tribunal described as ‘unpleasantly threatening’.