Are Bonuses paid to Social Workers?

If there are no targets to take children into care, then say so. What’s so hard about that? And if you won’t say so, why not?

The issue of ‘adoption targets’ and bonuses paid to social workers has for some years now been a feature of the intense feelings of distrust and dislike many feel for professionals in this sector. 

We have discussed the issue of ‘adoption targets’ in another post and how it seems that targets set up to speed up finding homes for children in care have been interpreted as pushing social workers to focus on younger, more ‘adoptable’ children in order to improve how they hit these targets. We have argued that the statistics don’t seem to support this but that there is a lack of transparency around this issue which doesn’t aid understanding. 


And what does ‘performance’ mean?

Sarah Phillimore writes:

It was always my understanding that social workers were paid a salary – nothing more, nothing less – and that talk of them getting ‘bonuses’ was just more wild conspiracy theorising. There were proposals for a pilot scheme relating to bonus payments in 2009 with a view to rolling out the scheme nationally in 2013 but I don’t know what happened to that. This proposal met with sceptical comment from Community Care and as far as I am aware, it didn’t happen.

A FOI request in 2012 by Shelia Hersom produced this response about payment of bonuses to social workers. The response received did not seem to indicate that additional money was routinely paid to meet ‘targets’.

Social Workers do not receive any other specific non-monetary bonuses or
commissions. However, they may be entitled to a non-cash award, which
would be at the manager s discretion. Non-cash awards can potentially be
awarded to any KCC member of staff and are not exclusive to Social
Workers. Non-cash awards are awarded to individuals or teams as an
immediate recognition of extra effort or one-off successes. The value
of the non-cash award will not exceed £50 for an individual.

It seems that there are problems with both recruiting and retaining social workers and money additional to salary payments may be forthcoming to try and meet these problems:

Market premium payments are made to ensure the retention of experienced
caseholding Social Workers and to keep salary levels competitive within
the District DIAT, Children and Families and Disabled Children s teams in
addition to market premium payments made to Newly Qualified Social Workers
and Social Workers recruited from overseas.

One-off recruitment incentive payments are also made to Principal Social
Workers to encourage new staff to come to the Kent District and Disabled
Children s teams and to Newly Qualified Social Workers in order to offer
incentives similar to other local authorities.

The specific question was asked: ‘Question 9. Are there any targets for forced adoption? If yes please supply details?’  The answer was ‘no’. 

Then I was sent a link to this article in the Maidstone and Medway News on September 20th 2014. A council spokesperson said:

Children’s social work is one of the hardest and most demanding roles in the public sector and we need to attract and retain people with talent and experience. This is a nationwide issue, which is why we have to offer attractive incentives to ensure we get the best people we can looking after Kent’s vulnerable children.

Eligibility criteria apply to these payments, which are available to social workers, senior practitioners and team managers in district teams and disabled children’s service, and are dependent on performance.

This makes me very uneasy. Paying social workers bonuses for ‘performance’ immediately raises the question – just what exactly is involved in ‘performing’ well to attract such a bonus?

I have made a Freedom of Information Request to Kent Council asking them to specify how many social workers qualified for this bonus in 2014, how much they were paid and what are the details of such a scheme.

I will update with the response I get. I agree with what Andrew Pack says:

What I would say, for the ultra-cautious people, is that I would agree that the lack of transparency on ‘payments and adoption targets’ is deeply unhelpful and creates a genuine reason for people to feel sceptical, uncomfortable and unhappy. The absence of clarity and transparency is itself very shabby. It may or may not have distorted how many times adoption was recommended in final social work evidence, it may or may not have had an impact on individual people’s cases. At this point, we don’t have the evidence to draw a proper conclusion and that in itself is wrong. It creates at best, a fishy odour, and as we well know, “Justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done”

Update – Kent Responds Oct 2014

Dear Ms Phillimore

Thank you for your request for information made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000, relating to bonus payments to social workers. I am pleased to provide the response below:

I would be grateful for information to answer the following questions: 

a) the total bonuses paid to social workers in 2014

The market premium/retention payments made to Social Workers for 2014 was £354,639.35

b) the total number of social workers who qualified for a bonus in 2014

262 Social Workers qualified for the market premium/retention payments

The information is for case-holding Social Workers (Social Worker – Newly Qualified, Social Worker and Senior Practitioner) within Specialist Children’s Services, receiving market premiums and recruitment premiums between 1st January and 25th September 2014.

c) disclosure of the scheme and performance targets that qualifies a social  worker for a bonus 

Additional Criteria for Market Premium Payment

Social Workers

  • carrying a full caseload
  • performance level – achieving or above
  • not subject to any formal ER process
  • working in post for a minimum of 4 months during the qualifying period, i.e. 01 June-30 November or 01 December-31 May (e.g. staff on sick leave for more than 2 months in that period would not qualify)
  • not on probation

Senior Practitioners and Team Managers

  • performance level – achieving or above
  • not subject to any formal ER process
  • working in post for a minimum of 4 months during the qualifying period, i.e. 01 June-30 November or 01 December-31 May (e.g. staff on sick leave for more than 2 months in that period would not qualify)
  • not on probation

But how much further forward does this take me, given that I still don’t know how ‘performance’ is defined?

Reference to ‘performance’  probably means reference to KPIs (key performance indicators), such as number of cases held or closed, number of s47 investigations done. But the lack of transparency does mean that parents from Kent would not be unreasonable to at least feel anxious that decisions on individual cases were taken in order to get the bonus.

I will edit again if I can get any further information.


EDIT – I reply to Kent

On 15th October 2014 I sent the following email:

Thanks for your speedy response to my original query. Is it possible to ask you to expand upon your answer or do I need to raise a fresh request?

I would be grateful if you were able to refer me to any document or written policy that can explain what is meant by ‘performance level – achieving or above’.

This is because many people appear to believe that social workers are financially rewarded for getting children adopted and  if that isn’t the case it would be useful to be able to demonstrate that this isn’t what these bonuses are about.


EDIT – Kent reply on 23rd October 2014. Lots of words but no information.

Thank you for your request for information made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000, relating to performance levels. I am pleased to provide the response below:

The reference to ‘Performance level – achieving or above’ in the response to your previous FOI request (copy attached) relates to the process (‘Total Contribution’) which Kent County Council (KCC) uses to measure individual performance throughout each year (April to March). A total contribution assessment takes into account all the elements of an individual’s performance during a work year: their day to day behaviours, the quality and impact of their skills and aptitudes in their job. It applies to all KCC employees employed on the Kent Scheme terms and conditions, including those on the Kent Scheme working in schools.

Further information on the Total Contribution process is set out in the attached guidebook.

So no help there in defining ‘performance’. So I turn to the guidebook.

The guidebook sets out the Four Key Elements of Total Contribution.

Assessment Category Elements
Objectives and Accountabilities
  • Delivery to Action Plan
  • Effectiveness in job role on a day to day basis
  • Targets
  • Quality Standards
  • Budget Control
  • Customer Feedback
  • Peer group/360 degree feedback
Values and behaviours
  • Continuously improving in terms of how the job is done
  • Demonstrating enhanced delivery through behaviour
  • Living our values and behaviours
Wider Contribution
  • Contributing to team,
  • Project work outside the normal job
  • Participation in KCC work activities not directly related to job role
Personal Development
  • Achievement of Development Plan
  • Application of Development
  • Attainment and use of required skills
  • Qualifications attained


What is that word I can see in the top right hand box? The ominous word ‘targets’

So what ‘targets’ do they mean? Back to the guidebook. They don’t seem to be identified – or rather, the individual employee has responsiblity for selecting their own ‘targets’.

    • Check and adjust your targets throughout the year according to developments at work. Your targets are dynamic and should reflect what you achieve throughout the year so they need to change when changes occur.
    • Make sure you get at least one opportunity, mid year, to talk about progress against your targets with your manager. Ideally 1:1 meetings, or supervision sessions will also help you keep a tab on your progress.
    • Ensure that the development needs you identified are put in to action.

Cash benefits get further mention:

Cash awards are intended to be used throughout the year to reward specific actions. They can also be considered as part of rewarding the overall Total Contribution but managers need to ensure that there is no double counting of an individual’s contribution and remind themselves of any recognition given or payments made earlier in the year. They should not be used as an alternative to making the proper TCP assessment or to supplement the corporately agreed performance or general award.

So what do I learn from 40 pages of rather dense management speak? That ‘targets’ are important in order to measure whether or not employees are performing sufficiently well to be rewarded on top of their salaries. I learn that these ‘targets’ are dynamic and ‘need to change when changes occur’. But there is no clarity as to what possible areas or achievements these ‘targets’ relate.

While I am grateful for Kent’s speedy response to my queries, I can’t help but be disappointed by the nature of their reply. It’s little wonder the proponents of the forced adoption debate gain so much traction when a simple question gets a 40 page booklet in reply, that is full of lovely words but very little information.

Remember my earlier question? … many people appear to believe that social workers are financially rewarded for getting children adopted and if that isn’t the case it would be useful to be able to demonstrate that this isn’t what these bonuses are about.

My question is unanswered and I am left with a growing sense of irritation and frustation – this debate is important.  The way the State intereferes in the lives of individuals has huge ramifications in so many areas. Due process matters. This is an unnecessarily opaque response to an important question.  We are all entitled to as much clarity and honesty as possible about what is done in our name, with our taxes. If there are no targets to take children into care, then say so. What’s so  hard about that? And if you won’t say so, why not?



‘Targets’ defined in 2012 FOI response

The 2012 FOI request lead to the provision of this information regarding  ‘targets’ that are used to monitor performance in Specialist Children’s Services and are reported at a District level on a monthly basis.  Information relating to performance is available at Social Worker level from which the performance of individual Social Workers can be measured.


Number of CAFs completed per 10,000 population under 18 58.9
Number of TAFs per 10,000 population under 18 67.7
Number of Referrals per 10,000 population under 18 533.1
NI 68 – Percentage of Referrals going on to Initial Assessment 65.0%
Number of Initial Assessments per 10,000 population under 18 415.4
Number of Core Assessments per 10,000 population under 18 170.6
Number of S47 Investigations per 10,000 population under 18 109.2
Percentage of S47 Investigations proceeding to Initial CP Conference 70.0%
Number of Initial CP Conferences per 10,000 population under 18 44.3
Number of CIN per 10,000 population under 18 (includes CP and LAC) 290.0
Numbers of Children with a CP Plan per 10,000 population under 18 40.0
Children looked after per 10,000 population aged under 18 47
Number of Looked After Children with a CP plan. 30
Numbers of Unallocated Cases for over 28 days (Business) 100
Percentage of TAFs held within one calendar month of CAF upload 70%
NI 59 – Percentage of IA’s for children’s social care carried out within 7 working days of referral 69.0%
Initial Assessments in progress outside of timescale 200
(NI 60) – Percentage of Core Assessments that were carried out within timescale 80.4%
Core Assessments in progress outside of timescale 100
NI 67 – Child protection cases which were reviewed within required timescales 97.9%
NI 66 – Looked after children cases which were reviewed within required timescales 94.6%
Percentage of Case File Audits judged adequate or better 85%
Percentage of open cases with Ethnicity recorded 95%
Percentage of Referrals where the Referrer is informed of the outcome 80%
Percentage of Children seen at Initial Assessment 90%
Percentage of Children seen at Core Assessment 90%
Percentage of Children seen at Section 47 enquiry 90%
Percentage of Children with a CP plan where all statutory visits are within timescale 90%
Percentage of Looked After Children where all statutory visits are within timescale 90%
Percentage of Looked After Children aged 5 to 16 with a Personal Education Plan (PEP) 95%
Participation at Looked After Children Reviews 95%
Children subject to a CP Plan not allocated to a Qualified Social Worker 0
Looked After Children not allocated to a Qualified Social Worker 5
Percentage of TAFs closed where outcomes achieved or closed to single agency support 90%
Percentage of TAFs closed because the case has escalated to Children’s Social Services 7%
Percentage of referrals with a previous referral within 3 months 6%
Percentage of referrals with a previous referral within 12 months 23.0%
NI 65 – Percentage of children becoming the subject of a CP Plan for a second or subsequent time 13.7%
NI 64 – Child Protection Plans lasting 2 years or more at the point of de-registration 6.0%
Percentage of Current CP Plans lasting 18 months or more 7.0%
NI 62 – LAC Placement Stability:  3 or more moves in the last 12 months 10.1%
NI 63 – LAC Placement Stability: Same placement for last 2 years 67.5%
LAC Dental and Health assessments held within required timescale 85.0%
Percentage of Children Adopted 11%
Percentage of caseholding posts unfilled (100% – QSW inc Agency Posts) 10%
Percentage of caseholding posts filled by agency staff (Agency Staff ÷ Establishment) 10%
Percentage of caseholding posts filled by Qualified Social Workers (QSW posts exc Agency ÷ Establishment) 90%
Average Caseloads of social workers in fieldwork teams 20



Further reading

You may be interested in these articles by Andrew Pack at the Transparency Project for more detailed consideration of whether it is possible that there is a financial motive or incentive driving care proceedings.

20 thoughts on “Are Bonuses paid to Social Workers?



  2. Pingback: Adoption Statistics | Child Protection Resource

  3. Gregory Doyle

    I.had two children placed for adoption a few years ago after supporting my wife as best as I could through addiction to alcohol. I was told to choose and when I refused and tried to support my whole family social workers systematically built a case against me built on lies and half truths. They even tried to bargain with me that if I got an exclusion order banning my wife from our house they would let me keep my kids. I lost eventually and even appealed the final order to no avail despite being a good father
    The system is rotten and corrupt through and through social workers, psychologists, so called expert witnesses and even education workers are in on it! The whole thing needs to be replaced by a fairer more humane system.

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I am sorry to hear that you feel so unhappy by the experience you had in the system. But an alcoholic parent is a very difficult thing for a child to cope with and the line between ‘support’ and ‘enablement’ is often not an easy one to draw. Often parents are asked to chose between their children or the other parent. I don’t doubt it is a horrible, difficult choice. But children cannot be expected to wait years for adults to ‘get better’.

      however, I agree that there needs to be urgent investigation of how the whole process can be made less traumatising for those within it.

    2. Gary Silvester

      Well, what you explain, is very similar to the exsperience I’ve had with these so called professional ppl and ss . All liers and corrupt. The system is rotten [I am deleting this because it reads like a violent threat to me]

    3. Sarah

      My social worker is absolutely corrupt I have followed and done everything I was asked I’m to compliant now I gave birth she never even told me she was going to remove my baby. She was the same social worker to my friend who took her own life because of her and still nothing being done she lied havent looked at other options just straight adoption.

    4. Doesn't Matter

      You chose your wife over your kids, if they asked you to choose it shouldn’t really be a choice for you at all.
      Shame on you to be honest..

  4. Angelo Granda

    Thank you for your contribution, Gregory.
    Your experience was a few years ago.I share your views and so do many other fathers and mothers.
    I am glad to be able to inform you that,in part due to this resource and its good work in tandem with the Transparency Project, things are looking up.The Government set out a policy statement which called for radical changes to front line practices in the child – protection system as a whole and ,despite the inevitable resistance to change of all well established governances and bureaucracies, I think it is finally trickling down.
    Above all, a fresh crop of professionals are coming through and the extremely risk averse, ‘robust’ ( as they call it) reactions and methods previously the norm a are becoming outdated.Professionals are beginning to apply a little bit more of their own grey matter to approaches and care-plans.

    To be continued.

    1. Angelo Granda


      For example, these days it does not wash anymore for a professional to plan solely on the basis of their own risk assessment which usually,of course,concentrate on ‘potential’ and possible dangers which may arise based on stereotype cases.One supporter of the CPR,Dr.L.Devine has demonstrated the disconnect between such assessments and actual child abuse and significant harm as meant by the Children Act.She shall be speaking at this years CPR Conference,I think.SW’s are beginning to realise the emphasis has to be on working together with parents with the general object being to keep families together .I think the monolith,the stone -wall that the liquidation of a child’ natural family can be in his or her interests is finally beginning to topple.
      The children taken away don’t benefit,they become subject to great trauma and a life time of degradation .
      We all know life can be difficult for children when their parents are not normal,perhaps disabled,dying of cancer,chronically sick or unable to act at all times stereotypically but finally I think we are coming around to the belief that working together with parents like you towards alleviating problems rather than going in and ordering a couple to part is the more humane course,one children will thank us all for.
      Sarah, we all have a cross to bear and children usually cope with sick and disabled parents.What right has anyone to say children cannot wait for parents to recover? I feel that is an example of false ideology and dogma( FI and D) typical of LA lawyers and management now hopefully to be consigned to the past.
      I think addiction to drink or drugs is just as much an affliction as disablement or any other illness.Do you get the impression that alcoholics ,for example,are victimised?

      1. Gary Silvester

        After reading your comment, I think the main point has been lost on you. The point of the article you respond to was more in relation to the way the system and those involved lie and manipulate to active the goal of seperating children from their family’s .

    1. Sarah Phillimore Post author

      I don’t think they do get bonuses and certainly not bonuses in the region of £30K for each child ‘taken’ as is so often asserted to me.
      But the available information is confusing and not transparently shared. There are certainly worries that elements of funding depend on ‘targets’ that must be met regarding numbers of children adopted etc.

  5. Angelo Granda

    They aren’t called bonuses. The term used is ‘payment by results’ which is shortened to PBR payments.
    £4000 is payable to LA’s for all families meeting the criteria as a ‘troubled family’ plus further additional payments for particular outcomes. When a family has been ‘helped’ the LA concerned can claim payments .Please note,generally the claiming LA judges whether the help has been effective or not. Of course, it will see family liquidation and a placement for adoption order or other permanence plan as success. Everyone else including most of its own SW’s see that as FAILURE.
    Check this link for further details of PBR.

  6. Angelo Granda

    I reckon it is perfectly legitimate for employers to incentivise workers but as Sarah says,why not be open and honest about it?
    Most would support the payment of bonuses to SW’s for achieving the aims of the Children Act which is fundamentally to keep families together unless absolutely nothing but removal will do.This would be an incentive to provide facilities for Mum’s and kids together and the management would pursue that rather than choose to spend budgets on facilitating removal.
    If their aims were legitimate,I am fairly certain the authorities AND all the SW’s would be trumpeting it from the rooftops.Personally,i doubt if bonuses are paid to SW’s but that they are so taciturn on the subject is disturbing.SW’s,open up!
    Not one of them will come on and inform us ,they neither confirm or deny whether bonuses are paid or not nor in which circumstances.
    So ,have they something to hide? Heaven knows.Why are they so slow to comment?

    1. Gary Silvester

      The amount of lies and ineptitude I experienced while going through the family courts was astonishing and social services and all involved lied like it was second nature. This tells me that it’s happening on a regular basis. If note for money then ego, authority and just plain old nasty destruction. My children have been physically and mentally abused by the ss in north Lincolnshire and when I raised concerns and made complaints, I was attacked by these so called professional ppl. They are discusting and evil and have to answer for purgery and systematically destroying children and families . I’ll see what I can do to raise awareness.

      1. Natasha Davies

        Honestly reading these intelligent responses is eye opening. I’ve been a victim of the social services terrible misconduct, lies and manipulation in the court room, no chance give them my side of the story just removed my child. It was so right on one of the comments that they pick on the right people. If you’re a murderer, a shoplifer, committed fraud basically anything illegal you’ll get the help you need through legal aid and entitled to a solicitor yet social services remove your child and you have no rights whatsoever? Where is the justice. It just makes you think that’s exactly why they do it and get away with it what repercussions are there? They none you don’t have a leg to stand on. It’s a horrible, flawed, manipulative system. There should always be the choice to work with the family before removal that’s not the case. Not just social services though everyone there all stick together included the family court advisors (CAFCASS) who all lied and the judge was listening to their decision on my child’s future who didn’t even get mine or my child’s name right? Did I put in a complaint yes, did it do any good? No. They go home with a nice bonus and my life will never be the same again it’s heart wrenching

  7. Angelo Granda

    Gary, I do agree with the gist of your comments and so do the majority of ordinary parents whose children have been traumatised and abused in care. I am glad you refer to the Social Services and the SYSTEM destroying children and families rather than directing your energy and consternation against the individuals involved.
    Whilst a system ,due to its power, can become disgusting and evil ,the cause of it is the power itself. In other words it is AUTHORITARIANISM.
    People in power become infected by it ,that is a truism. That is why we have the ECHR conventions set down in law,to protect us from the powers that be! The individuals who work for them are not necessarily evil in themselves , at least not when they join, but they become indoctrinated by false ideology and dogma; they think ( in fact they believe strongly,they are doing right).
    Sadly,as you say,many professionals are guilty of perjury on many occasions .Usually,i think it is when they don’t take care and don’t follow safeguards and guidelines set down to prevent it thus,in my eyes, they are guilty of a criminal offence. They don’t check their evidence.
    Gary, you have referred to it as lying by human nature . You are quite correct. We are all prone to tell lies and i don’t think any of us actually lie to harm or hurt others. People lie usually to evade accountability for their own wrongdoing and very often this is because they don’t know they are doing wrong. In the CP system, as i said before, the professionals are indoctrinated and work for a system which completely lacks focus. Its aims, as an industry, are inconsistent with the aims of the Public set out by statute.It is normal practice for those within it to bend,twist and do almost anything to achieve the illegitimate aims set down by those at the helm, acting in the same manner as authoritarian systems and dictatorships throughout history. They have to recruit people who will go along with the false ideology and kow-tow not people who will argue against the general policies and blow the whistle.Professionals who protest are ignored and demoted in deference to those who ‘go along’. I think this is demonstrated in part by the system’s failure to come clean about the payment of bonuses which is the subject of this particular thread.
    We have to conclude ,because of these industrial,systemic malpractices, that we need SW’s and lawyers of a much higher calibre. We need professionals who are able to act independently,to impose their own integrity upon the system and to FOCUS on the true aims of the statute.
    We don’t want professionals who work against the Public Law which,if we remember, is to support families and work together with parents to protect children and not to remove them disproportionately to the circumstances.
    When children are removed from parents permanently and families liquidated,the system has FAILED. They are convinced the system has triumphed. Even Sarah, in a recent speech ,persisted with the false dogma that some parents need to have their children removed from them into care as quickly as possible. On the other hand, she acknowledges that the system acts unlawfully due to an alleged lack of resources and fails to apply safeguards, guidelines and reformative sanctions in good time to avoid it. Perhaps removal is called for on a temporary basis pending reform in really dire circumstances but permanent care-plans or forced adoption are AGAINST CHILDREN’S INTERESTS. Not least of the reasons is because the poor wretches are abused and exploited in the care system.
    Gary,you say you will see what you can do to raise awareness and that you will do what you need to to avenge your children.
    All victims feel the same but I am afraid vengeance is not possible under this system within the law. Complaints procedures usually get us nowhere and appeals to higher courts almost impossible to achieve because of the classes of families targeted by the system. They know who to pick upon! Legal funding is something of a joke and an imbalance of power holds sway especially in closed proceedings.It is recognised by many that the Judicial system is broken.
    Alas, the S.S. powers that be will not change their ways whilst they can get away with it, why should they? They dictate political policy directives and will continue to do so.
    What is needed is a thorough Public Inquiry by Royal Commission,in my opinion, and we should all demand one.

    Meanwhile ,we should raise awareness among individual professionals. All SW’s have good in them as we all have. They are basically honest .How should they change their front -line practices?
    They should impose their integrity upon the L.A’s as the independent ‘professionals’ they are. Not go along with the endemic lack of it.
    They should at all times highlight the deontological and moral aspects. They should remember that the only power they have is that power we, the Public, have granted to them. Their clear moral duty is one to the General Public and the Community as a whole who are their ‘primary’ employers . All their work has to be in the interests of the Community as a whole not in those of their ‘secondary’ employers i.e. the politically and financially orientated authorities.
    Particularly, Social Workers should never allow their efforts to be thwarted by any alleged shortage of resources. Change front-line practices in that respect and don’t go along with excessive workloads and overwork! Compel the L.A. to change ,increase staff levels and support you in helping families. You are the trained social workers not the accountants,human resources staff or the lawyers.
    If these reprobates insist they will not supply resources, then you must never CHANGE FOCUS, you should hold your focus and renew it .Focus what resources you do have on helping and supporting families .Refuse to destroy them just because it is easier ,more convenient and financially beneficial to the Authorities.
    Gary, please tell us more of your experiences.You are by no means the first to complain about the system in North Lincolnshire. It has a bad name. Do you know if the same applies to Hull and North Humberside? Or is it a localised problem?

    All comments welcome.

  8. andy whitehead

    in the targets there is no mention of cases closed with children remaining with parents anywhere.And that screams louder than anything by its absence.

Comments are closed.