A Yorkshire community centre which had provided support for parents, the elderly and the unemployed was shut down after its debt-ridden manager stole almost £30,000 over a five-year period.
The lottery-backed Mixenden Parents Resource Centre had been helping people for decades, but Elizabeth Childs’ offending “destroyed” its ability to raise funds and led to it closing in 2018, a court heard.
Childs, who had problems with debts and gambling, was described by witnesses as being “manipulative and controlling” and today (Fri) she was jailed her for three-and-a-half years for a series of theft offences.
In an impact statement read to the court Councillor Meghan Swift said Childs, who had been manager at the Calderdale centre for about 18 years, had been employed to help improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable and least well off families and children in Mixenden.
“The centre had for decades provided support especially to younger parents who would otherwise have struggled with the challenges of parenting,” she said.
“It also provided a place for older people to come and have lunch, meet friends and have a regular social life.”
She said Childs’ actions had “destroyed” the centre’s ability to raise funds and described the closure, which led to redundancy for six staff, as a direct consequence of the offending.
Childs, 65, of Heather Drive, Mount Tabor, Halifax, had admitted stealing £2,300 from the centre before her trial started last month, but she was also convicted by a jury of seven further theft charges by amounting to almost £26,000.
Imposing the jail sentence Recorder Keith Miller said he rejected claims by Childs that the work had “got on top of her” and that her requests for help had been refused.
Bradford Crown Court heard that since her conviction Childs had contacted Gamblers Anonymous and her barrister Abigail Langford submitted that there was evidence of the use of centre dwindling at the time of the thefts.
But Recorder Miller said the centre had played an important part in the lives of those who used its services and that had all gone primarily because of Childs’ actions.
“A recognition of the work that was being carried out by the centre is indicated by the fact that the Big Lottery granted funds of about a third of a million pounds to be paid in tranches, but of course as soon as your behaviour became apparent, as soon as it became clear there were concerns about financial irregularities, funding stops,” said Recorder Miller.
The judge said there was evidence that Childs made life “frankly impossible” for other members of staff adding:”The whole atmosphere, its abundantly clear, was so poisonous that I am sure it affected the work of other members of staff.”
Recorder Miller said Childs had “actively misled” the accountants and the Big Lottery by providing false information and had also been involved in shredding documents when an investigation had been launched.
The court heard that Childs had no previous convictions and Miss Langford said her client had been of exemplary character prior to the offending.