Debate on whether staff in three star authorities should be rewarded

We asked people:- Should staff working for three-star
authorities be rewarded with bonuses or incentives?

These are the comments we received.

“The article starts with comparisons with the private
sector. It is indeed true that some organisations reward profit and
good performance with bonuses and it is also true that they respond
to loss and poor performance with closure and redundancy.

Given this, I would think anybody advocating incentive systems
for staff at three star local authorities would also have to answer
the more interesting assertion as to whether staff at zero star
organisations should have their pay cut.”

Nicholas J Breakwell

“I am a social worker at Leicestershire Council (a three star
authority) which does not reward its’ employees in any way, or even
acknowledge that we are doing an exceptional job.

Until I read the article I was unaware that local authorities
had the freedom to award cash bonuses to staff in recognition of
good practice.

However, I tend to agree with the comments made by the director
of the British Association of Social Workers, Ian Johnston, that
the star ratings system is a pretty crude way of assessing the
performance of staff and local government’s response to what are
generally very complicated social issues.

Good performances would be better rewarded by a proper salary
scale consistent with that of other professions and a more positive
portrayal of the social work profession.

There is no financial recognition for self-improvement, for
example, there is no acknowledgement of the completion of PQ awards
– financial or otherwise. It is just another necessity that busy
staff have to fit into their lives, mostly during their own

Another factor which is surprising for a three star authority is
the poor IT provision for front-line workers. Although we have
access to our own council intranet services, the majority of staff
are not allowed access to the internet.  For a three star authority
in the 21st century, this certainly lacks forward thinking and is
surely inconsistent with the image that social services is
endeavouring to project?”

Elaine Rowe
Leicestershire Council

“In the article you made specific reference to Kirklees
Council and stated that staff received no recognition for the work
which enabled us to achieve the three star rating. We would wish to
advise you that the information given was incorrect. Whilst it is
true to say that staff did not receive any individual financial
reward, there were other ways in which managers have, and continue
to, demonstrate their ongoing thanks to staff.

We have chosen to invest money into improving opportunities for
all employees rather than give one off cash bonuses, which after
tax are little more than token gestures.

In addition, all staff received a letter of thanks from both the
director and assistant directors for individual service areas. They
also received a letter of thanks from elected members and this is
not the first time staff have received letters to thank them for
their contribution to the service. 

We have for a number of years held a Celebration of Achievement
Event for individual staff and teams who have been nominated by
colleagues across the service for implementing good practice, new
initiatives, achieved recognised training awards (e.g. NVQ,
Post-qualifying Child Care Award) or have long standing employment
with the council. 

We have for the last three years seconded staff to complete the
DipSW and have evaluated the skills mix within teams to ensure
staff are undertaking tasks appropriate to their role. We are
currently investing significantly in the Children & Families
Service and developing new jobs and career opportunities.

We have re-graded some social work staff and managers in
recognition of the complexity of their work. In addition, we have a
number of long-standing work-life balance policies available to
staff including compressed working weeks, term time contracts,
working from home and career breaks.

Our work to date has led to a significant reduction in the
vacancy rate and at this moment in time we have a less than five
social worker vacancies in the whole Children & Families

We are now focussing our time and energy on improving our
initiates to retain staff with work ongoing to consider the
re-grading of unqualified staff, the introduction of Trainee Social
Workers, a Payment Scheme for NVQ Assessors and the freeing up of
social worker’s time to enable more staff to both have more
direct client contact time and to complete the post-qualifying

Our approach we believe demonstrates our ongoing commitment to
valuing and rewarding staff and whilst research continues to
demonstrate that cash bonuses are not the most effective way of
doing so we would prefer to invest our financial resources in ways
that improve morale amongst a larger number of employees, not
solely concentrating on those at the front line.” 

Catherine Harrison
Community Manager
Performance & Strategic Development Unit



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