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Social worker struck off for 'sophisticated' expense claim fraud

PUBLISHED: 06:30 03 October 2019 | UPDATED: 09:37 03 October 2019

The social worker was an employee of Suffolk County Council Picture: ARCHANT

The social worker was an employee of Suffolk County Council Picture: ARCHANT

A social worker has been struck off over an expense claim fraud which subverted "considerable" funds away from safeguarding vulnerable people.

Kerry Jane Barrett's actions as a Suffolk County Council employee constituted "gross misconduct", a tribunal found.

Ms Barrett was accused of making mileage claims for days when she was not at work and failing to disclose information to payroll, described as a "wilful blindness" which she used to her advantage.

The Health and Care Professions Council's (HCPC) tribunal panel decided last week it would "profoundly undermine" public confidence if Ms Barrett was not struck off.

The panel found Ms Barrett had undertaken a "sophisticated attempt" to work around the council's expenses policy. "This process of using the system to her financial advantage had subverted sparse funds from the core business of the council - safeguarding vulnerable service users," the panel said.

The fraudulent claims, relating to a "considerable" amount of money, were uncovered after Ms Barrett complained about distances she had to drive following an injury. While looking into the complaint, her line manager became concerned there may be fraudulent expense claims.

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The council's subsequent investigation formed the basis of a disciplinary hearing. But she resigned before it was heard.

Ms Barrett, who did not attend the latest hearing, made the expense claims between March 2012 and September 2014. Two other allegations were not upheld.

Ms Barrett's representative said the evidence was "tenuous" and could be explained by oversights. He said council policies had contributed to a "complex and confused" situation around how Ms Barrett's expenses were paid.

But the HCPC said she was experienced and responsible for the accuracy of her claims.

The panel heard supporting references from three of Ms Barrett's former colleagues. But it also found her an "unconvincing witness who lacked credibility".

The panel said she had displayed a pattern of denial with no insight into the seriousness of the matters or remorse. It said her actions could be seen as stemming from a dishonest disposition, or as a way to get her own back at her manager, whom she felt was "out to get her".

SCC said it had zero tolerance towards misuse of resources.

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