A CARE worker who was heavily in debt stole thousands of pounds from the blind woman she was entrusted to look after.

Catherine Emma Bastiman, 33, withdrew £7,800 over a year from the bank account of the 58-year-old woman, who was also said to have learning difficulties and suffer from a schizophrenic disorder, York Crown Court heard yesterday.

Bastiman, of Kitchener Street, Selby, was working as a carer in 2010 for the Selby-based Wilf Ward Family Trust, when she was assigned to the woman to help with domestic tasks each Wednesday. Her duties included taking the woman to the bank to withdraw money for groceries.

David Bradshaw, prosecuting, said Bastiman first withdrew money without consent to buy a “shopping cart” and intended to return the cash later.

He said: “Having bought that she forgot about it and, because nobody had noticed, she then took advantage of the situation over the period of about a year.”

When her deception came to light Bastiman immediately confessed to police, at first telling them she had taken between £800 and £900, but later admitting to the larger sum.

Simon Kealy said Bastiman, a single mother of three, had been £15,000 in debt, costing her £700 each month to repay, and her wages only just covered her outgoings.

He said: “It was in these circumstances that temptation came before her. The money was taken by her to keep her head above water. She was simply trying to survive.” He said since admitting the crime, Bastiman had received help from a debt management organisation and was hoping to set up her own business.

Passing an eight-week prison sentence, suspended for one year, Shaun Spencer QC told Bastiman she had committed a “gross breach of trust”.

He said: “You were, at the time, in dire financial straits. You were a single mother. You were living in private accommodation and received no financial help from their (her children’s) father and you got seriously into debt.”

As well as the suspended prison sentence, Bastiman was ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid community work.

A spokesperson for the Wilf Ward Family Trust said it “very much regrets” the thefts.

He said: “When this first came to light the member of staff was immediately suspended and subsequently dismissed from post. At the request of the family the Trust continues to support the service user and has worked closely with North Yorkshire County Council on improving procedures to help eliminate the risks of such abuse happening in other similar services.”