The DOLS gold rush?

There is a current high demand for qualified Best Interest Assessors …

Earlier this year, I was at a Best Interests Assessor conference run by Edge Training at one of the Inns of Court. I was sitting next to a man from the Midlands who had just resigned as a social worker to become an independent Best Interests Assessor (BIA). He was very enthusiastic about the change, claiming that he was paying off his mortgage double quick and had already booked a luxury holiday to India with his wife.  He had no regrets turning his back on his old local authority and was enjoying the flexibility and, indeed, the increased wealth his new role as an independent BIA was bringing him.

He’s not the only one I’ve heard from. Apparently social workers and nurses, in fact anyone who’s BIA trained, is able to coin it these days.  Another colleague of mine worked as an agency worker for a year and a half, bough a house and is now taking a year off to go round the world!

I was curious about this, but wanted to do some research.

So let’s look at money (figures researched in October 2016):

The old fashioned way: as a staffer

£25,000 – £34,000  – West Berkshire Council

£31,635 – £37,629 – Islington, London

The interesting thing when I was doing my searches is that there are very full full time jobs being advertised for Best Interest Assessors within Adult Social Care teams. I don’t know why this is, my only guess is that those who become qualified go onto the much richer pickings of agency or independent.

In my local authority,  (which I don’t work for) they are in the process of moving from a system of around 6 BIAs working, and failing, to cover the DOLS request backlog, to bringing in the agencies, which must cost the LA more, surely? Although once you calculate the on costs of employing someone and then the convenience of being able to suddenly stop paying for agency workers with no redundancy, no HR, no union involvement, maybe it does work out for them.

It’s a market economy after all…


Still a partial slave: on an agency basis – 

With Sanctuary for Lewisham:  £30.00 an hour

HCL Social Care in Luton: £30.00 an hour

Charles Hunter Associates in Central London: £33 an hour.

Aurora Resourcing – Durham: £28 an hour.

Medacs Health Care – Stoke on Trent: £21-£24 an hour.

Caritas in Macclesfield: £33 an hour

Social Work 2000 in Hertfordshire: £50 a day.

Lots of these being advertised. I guess that this is a halfway house. You can still get paid well, £30 an hour for a 37 hour week is still £58,500 a year and if you get a good accountant you will not be paying in tax what the poor staffers in the social work teams have to pay.


Free at last: as an independent BIA

This is the much touted “gig economy.”  It used to be called piecework when it was less fashionable, or even zero hours contracts. It’s much harder to find figures for how much BIAs are paid per assessment. I found an article from Community Care from way back in 2014, which said that councils had racked up a bill of £1.4 million in 6 months and claimed in the headline that BIAs were being paid £600 an assessment. In the body of the article it narrows this figure down to between £350 and £450 an assessment.  My own experience is of being paid £250 – £275.

I have heard it whispered, with a tap on the nose that the best BIAs are being paid up to £1500 to do tricky cases. (Surely am one of the best BIAs who can handle tricky cases. How come no one has rung me with an offer of £1500???)

Of course BIA earning as independents depends on how many assessments they can do in, say, a week. I have heard horror stories of people doing desk-based BIA assessments, without seeing the person. That makes me kinda shudder. Certainly there is software out there (I need to see whether I can get an affiliate link…) that will churn out your Form 3 for you.  Most independents seem to have templates, and I must admit I have knocked one up myself that has the Supervisory Body details on, plus my own and little aide memoires throughout in red saying what I should put in each box. I can possibly post that up here at some point.

There was a survey done in 2015 by Cornwall County Council (link here) into the average time to complete a BIA assessments. If I read it right, there’s a big scatter in how long people are claiming it takes them to do a BIA assessment – from 1 hour to 20+. It should be said that the people claiming it takes 1 hour are very few, while those saying 20+ are considerably more. An article from Research in Practice here  suggests an average of 12.1 hours. I would say that’s about right. With simple ones, I can probably do one in a working day – 7 – 8 hours, though those hours may be split over a week, depending on when you can see or speak to people over the phone (social workers, CPNs, etc)

How does this pan out money-wise?

Role Annual Week Job Hour Time taken
Staff £34,000.00 £653.85 £18.16
Agency £51,840.00 £1,080.00 £30.00
Independent £43,200.00 £900.00 £300.00 £25.00 if 12 hours 3 a week
Independent £64,800.00 £1,350.00 £37.50 if 7 hours 3.5 a week
assume 36 hours in a working week
assume 4 weeks off a year

Of course, if you’re getting more than £300 an assessment, you’re going to do a lot better.

Then you have to take account of the tax regime, as a staffer you’re going to get taxed plus NI at around 33% of your take home and any fees such as paying to park at your place of work (don’t get me started…). As agency or independent you can set yourself up and pay yourself minimum wage and then take dividends, which lets you keep much more of what you earn.  I am not giving financial advice here, just doing some imaginary number crunching. Please don’t base your financial planning on what I’m telling you!

But if these figures are right, then we would be better off going independent.