The General Social Care Council has admitted registering a woman claiming to be a social worker after failing to spot her diploma certificate was forged.
Service user campaigners are calling on the regulator to review its procedures after Kate Ariemugbovbe, who is also registered as a nurse with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, was allowed to use the protected title of social worker for three years.
She was allowed to join the register in January 2007 after submitting a degree certificate from a university in Nigeria, which turned out to be false.
Ariemugbovbe remained on the register until last month. A GSCC conduct committee ordered her removal because “she had no right to be on it”.
Diane Smith, who was manager of the regulator’s international recognition service at the time, told the committee the team had not identified the forgery when checking Ariemugbovbe’s application.
The truth emerged after concerns about fraudulent documents relating to the same institution – Ambrose Alli University in Ekpoma, southern Nigeria – prompted a wider investigation by the GSCC, which led to Ariemugbovbe’s fraud being discovered.
The GSCC’s presenting officer at the hearing said “to the best of my knowledge” Ariemugbovbe had not practised as a social worker.
But service user charities expressed concern at the failings highlighted by the case.
“At a time when the effectiveness of regulation is rightly coming under closer scrutiny it is of some concern to discover the ease with which Ms Ariemugbovbe became registered with the GSCC and retained the title of social worker for so long,” said Gary FitzGerald, chief executive of the Action on Elder Abuse charity.
“Registration potentially gave her access to roles and people in the most vulnerable of situations.”
Liz Sayce, chief executive of Radar, said: “This is clearly a worrying lapse in procedure that we hope the GSCC will learn from.”
A GSCC spokesperson said: “Of course we are concerned about this. Unfortunately, forged documents are sometimes difficult to detect, which is why when we do have a question of doubt we work closely with the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom to help detect forgeries.
“We have specific procedures in place to verify overseas applications, including anti-fraud mechanisms, and these have picked up a number of fraudulent applications before registration.
“Indeed, it is through our work in this area that we identified the fraud in this case, which has now led to the person being removed the workforce.”
A spokesperson for the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom declined to comment on the case, but said the problem of education fraud was a “growing menace”.
The centre, which supports organisations in checking overseas qualifications, deals with about three cases a week that raise concerns.
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