The Care Standards Tribunal has accused three UK councils of failings that could have put vulnerable children at risk by allowing a man with bogus credentials to practise as a social worker.
The criticisms came in a judgement upholding the General Social Care Council's decision to refuse registration to Christopher Nwokoro. He had gained employment through agencies with Denbighshire Council, Wales Highland Council, Scotland and Stockport Council, north west England, from October 2005 to May 2006.
Claiming he was a registered social worker with two social work degrees and glowing references from previous employers, Nwokoro was allocated cases of children in need and looked-after children.
He lasted between nine days and three months in each job before being fired for incompetence and dishonesty, including alleged timesheet fraud and supplying false references. Denbighshire reported Nwokoro left a trail of "chaos" by failing to complete assessments and implement care plans.
Inquiries by the GSCC found no evidence of his enrolment at Salford University, where Nwokoro claimed he had been awarded a masters degree in social care in 2005.
During the CST hearing, deputy tribunal chair Simon Oliver expressed astonishment at employers' "basic failings" in procedures such as verifying references and asking to see a registration certificate, which Nwokoro did not have.
These mistakes "could have put a child or young person at risk", Oliver added. He also rebuked Stockport and Denbighshire for failing to notify the GSCC of concerns about his conduct, which allowed Nwokoro to continue working.
GSCC chair Rodney Brooke said it was "vital" that providers followed rigorous recruitment processes, as set out in the employers code of practice. He added that checking the GSCC's register "can be done in a matter of minutes".
A Denbighshire spokesperson said the contract with the agency that employed Nwokoro had been terminated, and all checks on references, registration and criminal records were now done internally.
Stockport, which sacked Nwokoro after nine days when it found he had supplied a false reference, said a "reputable employment agency" - London-based Flow - had presented Nwokoro as a "registered social worker with all the necessary clearances".
Highland said it had offered staff "further support and guidance to ensure references and registration are all robustly scrutinised and checked".
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