Bonus culture arrives in social work

Social workers look set to join GPs and bankers as members of the bonus culture with the arrival of social work practices in the autumn.

The new arrangements, modelled on GP practices, will be piloted by six local authorities, which will outsource services for looked-after children to independent groups of social workers.

It is of course right that social workers are properly rewarded for good work, but we would question whether a heavy reliance on bonuses is the way to go about it.

We owe the banking crisis to the bonus culture, and in GP practices, which receive “quality payments”, they have produced the usual skewed motivations. GPs have focused on achieving targets, but this may not always be in the interests of patients. Harder-to-engage patients may not receive the attention they deserve when other patients tick all the necessary boxes.

Looked-after children are often among the most disengaged of all from services and they present an enormous challenge in terms of education and placement stability. It is crucial that the bonus culture does not divert attention from those who most need help for the sake of some relatively easy wins.

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