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1.1.9 Managers Practice Standards

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter seeks to describe and establish the standards required of managers with regard to leadership, oversight and supervision and highlights the importance of this with regard to practitioners and children and families themselves.

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Social Work Practice Standards Procedure

Supervision in Children's Specialist Services Procedure

Performance Management Framework Procedure

This chapter was added to the manual in March 2017.


Contents

  1. What are Management Practice Standards?
  2. Management of Practice
  3. Standards: General Management
  4. Key Practice Issues
  5. Standards: Supervision
  6. Standards: Service Culture and Support

    Appendix 1: Management Standards, Acceptable / Unacceptable Practice


1. What are Management Practice Standards?

The standards and practice matters contained in this document should be viewed as part of an approach to ensure that services are delivered to an agreed quality. They do not stand alone, but are an integral part of achieving service strategies and policies and meeting procedural and operational requirements.

There are three key drivers in any organisation for determining the way a service is delivered. These are having agreed standards, procedures and policies.

The following definitions help show how these drivers are related and dependent on each other:

  • Standards: these are the rules that describe the (minimum) service or practice that can be expected by the service user. Most of them are legally set through government guidance and legislation, or are based on evidence based research. They are mandatory;
  • Procedures: These are the steps that describe the actions needed to deliver that service or practice – the what, how, when, where and who. They are mandatory;
  • Policies: These provide the strategic context for shaping the standards and procedures, and answer the question of why the service is delivered in particular way and why the service is important. The delivery of the policy requirements, as set out by Wirral Council is the responsibility of all staff.

The management standards in this document are designed to improve consistency in practice across the service and to drive up the quality of the service provided to the vulnerable children and young people of Wirral and their families.

It is important that the management standards document is read in conjunction with the children’s procedures manual and the safeguarding procedures relevant to the service.


2. Management of Practice

Why this is important?

‘Effective leadership sets the direction of an organisation, its culture and value system, and ultimately drives the quality and effectiveness of the services provided’. (Laming 2009: 2:1)

The decisions and actions made by managers and practitioners will have a profound impact on the lives of those children and their families for whom they have a responsibility, whatever happens. They therefore have to be undertaken with the greatest care and diligence to ensure the best possible outcomes for those children and their families.

Managers across the service, including senior managers, group managers and team managers, have overall responsibility for ensuring that a good quality service is provided which includes the following:

  • Ensuring a professional response from the initial referral to the closure of the case;
  • Overseeing good quality decisions about the type of response or investigation to be undertaken, and ensuring the skills, competences and capacities are in place for a quality service;
  • Providing clear direction and setting priorities in the service;
  • Ensuring the young person’s voice is heard and fully considered when implementing the plan;
  • Scrutinising to ensure good quality recording, analysis of need and report writing;
  • Providing good quality supervision, annual appraisals and well organised staff and team meetings;
  • Making sure staff work within a supportive team culture, with good communications, and routine commitment to rigorous professional practice; and
  • Demonstrating effective multi-agency collaboration and working.

In order to provide a quality service, practitioners need to know what their managers expect of them; and managers need to be assured that work has been carried out to an acceptable standard. In a practitioner’s absence, colleagues need to be able to access the records and know quickly what has been happening in the child’s life and how best to respond to any need arising. Information needed should be available from the contact summary screen, Chronology, recent reports, and the latest records, plan, reviews and summaries.

Managers are responsible for ensuring that there are systems in place to monitor and review the performance of staff and provide protection, support and professional development for practitioners, so they can deliver the best possible service, as well as comply with service procedures and legal requirements.

Consistent scrutiny of practice makes explicit the service’s expectations of each practitioner and enables the manager to provide evidenced feedback about good or acceptable practice, or to address unacceptable performance where it is identified.

These management practice standards are intended to assist managers in providing and evidencing consistent scrutiny, support and supervision, and ensuring defensible decision-making. It will also help practitioners understand better what the manager can reasonably expect from them when evidencing their child care practice through accurate and up to date records.


3. Standards: General Management

All managers will ensure that all managerial responsibilities for children and young people for whom the local authority has a responsibility, will be carried out in line with the standards set out in this document.

‘Senior Managers should be confident that decision making, communication and information sharing within and between each of the local services is effective in keeping children safe even when those services are under pressure. In turn they should support and value first line managers, ensuring that management oversight of decision making is rigorous and that the lines of communication between senior managers and frontline child protection staff are as short and effective as possible.’ (Laming, 2009: 2.12)

‘Managers must lead by example by taking a personal and visible interest in frontline delivery.’ (Laming, 2009: 2.12)

Standards: Managment Oversight

All children and young people for whom the local authority has a responsibility will have evidence in their records of managers scrutinising practice to make sure that decisions are made in the interests of the child or young person, and are properly recorded.

Managers will ensure all recording and reports are of good quality and are completed in a timely manner.

Managers will ensure that thorough enquiries are undertaken that produce good quality assessments and analysis of needs, leading to well argued and evidenced recommendations for actions to be taken.

Managers will aim to observe and give constructive feedback to social workers minimally on an annual basis.

Management oversight and scrutiny of practice will be evidenced through case audit, supervision and observations. It is important that observation of practice is a constructive and learning activity for practitioners.

The service has identified a number of key requirements to assure ourselves that children and young people are kept safe and receive a quality service. These include the requirement for an allocated social worker; that children’s needs are assessed and they each have a plan which meets those needs, among other things. In order to assure ourselves each social worker and every manager is responsible for their own performance and can check this through Infoview. Monthly safeguarding reports are collated by the Group managers and Senior Managers and presented to the Director of Children’s Services at the monthly performance meeting so that team managers can show that they are achieving in their teams.

The supervision record is a key management tool for child care planning and case records. It must be used in every supervision session relating to that child and must include consideration of the following:

  • The purpose of allocation, expectations of the practitioner’s intervention – including the purpose of home visits; (Laming 2003 Rec 53);
  • Guidance as to the course of action required if expectations cannot be met, and contingency plans in the event of no access visits; (Laming 2003 rec34); and
  • A key management decision outside supervision, that will shape the actions and interventions of a practitioner, must be recorded by the manager responsible not the practitioner.

The discussion will also cover:

  • Any potential risk to the practitioner; and
  • Any training or support needs he / she may have in order to complete the agreed actions to an acceptable standard.

Information on these issues must be placed in the practitioner’s personal supervision file and not on the child’s record.

It is also essential to effective and visible management scrutiny that records contain evidence that they have been regularly audited and routinely read.


4. Key Practice Issues

Supervision Records

  • There must be a record of the discussion completed for each child at every supervision session concerning this child. It must be located with the child’s case records within two working days. (Where non case holders (e.g. senior managers) discuss individual cases and make decisions this must be recorded on the child’s file);
  • The team manager must retain a copy for the practitioner’s supervision file;
  • It is good practice to remember that the person being discussed may see the supervision record in the case recordings at some point in the future.

Auditing

Team Managers are responsible for the auditing of all of a child’s records to ensure that:

  • The details held on the child and family on the contact summary screen, and the paper file, are accurate and up to date;
  • The chronology is up to date;
  • Records are up to date and well written, with entries owned by the practitioner;
  • Records must meet agreed standards of practice, e.g. in regard to statutory visits, seeing the child alone, recording the child’s views;
  • The record is maintained electronically and management oversight must be logged;
  • There is a recent photograph of the child, with name and date on the back, correctly located on file for children looked after;
  • There is a birth certificate correctly located on file for Children Looked After;
  • There is a quarterly summary based on case records, case discussion, agreed actions and recent reports;
  • The child’s most recent plan and review minutes are on record;
  • The most recent court order, where appropriate, is on record;
  • Reports and quarterly summaries are owned and dated by the practitioner and, where appropriate, by the team manager;
  • All documents are located in the correct sections and in the correct order;
  • In accordance with the Data Protection Act, only documents that are relevant to the child in question are retained, and they are not kept longer than is necessary;
  • Managers’ supervision records for the child are filed with the case recording under the appropriate section;
  • The confidential section of ICS is used only for essential third party; documents that it would not be appropriate to share with the child.

Any action needed to address poorly maintained records must be discussed with the practitioner and steps to address this noted on the audit tool. Managers will need to speak to the Independent Reviewing Officers or child protection chairs about late or missing planning and review documentation.

Regular case file checks will be conducted by social workers and their team managers. This will ensure that case files are well presented and maintained to the required standards should they be required for auditing by:

  • Team Managers;
  • Group Managers;
  • Independent Reviewing Officers;
  • Senior Managers of Children’s Social Work Service.


5. Standards: Supervision

5.1

All staff will have supervision contracts and annual appraisals in place that are being acted upon and progressed within agreed timescales.

‘Supervision is the cornerstone of all good social work practice’.
(Laming, 2003, Victoria Climbie Inquiry Report)

See also Supervision in Children's Specialist Services Procedure.

Supervision includes:

  • Guaranteed supervision time for practitioners that may vary depending on experience; (Laming 2009, rec15); and
  • High quality supervision focused on case planning, constructive challenge and development. (Laming 2009, rec16).

The purpose of supervision is to offer a Managerial, Representative, Supportive and Developmental element to practice.

The management element will address:

  • Overall management of the quality of work practice;
  • Overall management of workload and priorities of resources;
  • Provision of a safe environment in which to work;
  • Professional discussion of performance against individual and team objectives; and
  • Role of supervision in ensuring that Council policies are communicated and made clear by both parties.

The representative element will address:

  • Advocacy between the practitioner, senior management, the team and any outside agencies; and
  • The transfer of relevant information between the practitioners, senior Management, the team and any outside agencies.

The supportive element will address:

  • Support for the practitioner as a professional and as an individual person in her/his own right, including acknowledgement of issues of diversity; and
  • Support for well-being at work.

The developmental element will address:

  • Identifying individual strengths;
  • Identifying areas for development in order to carry out the job to the required standard and objectives;
  • Identifying development opportunities;
  • Planning how development needs could be met;
  • Ensuring that the practitioner has induction training; and
  • Evaluating development opportunities taken.

Effective supervision is:

  • Regular and scheduled: both parties need an opportunity to prepare for supervision;
  • Documented: there needs to be a clear audit trail and record of supervision including actions required from the supervision;
  • Supportive: issues such as workload, stress, safety in dangerous situations and the emotional effect of difficult cases must be addressed;
  • Probing and challenging: cases must be discussed in detail to ensure all issues have been covered;
  • Non-adversarial: a blame culture will lead to defensive behaviour and the cover up of omissions; and
  • Skilled: line managers need to be fully trained in supervision skills.

5.2

Key Practice Issues

There must be a supervision contract (See Supervision in Children's Specialist Procedure, Appendix 2: Supervision Contract Meeting Template) between every member of staff and their manager.

Every manager has a duty of care to staff. This includes a requirement to ensure that they are safe within their work environment. 

Staff have a professional responsibility to be accountable for their own conduct, development and delivery of a high quality service. This includes being prepared for supervision, bringing evidence of progress, seeking appropriate assistance when needed and using a range of learning opportunities. 

Formal supervision for practitioners, which includes case discussion, professional development and personal support, will normally be held minimally monthly.

The frequency of supervision sessions will also be determined by the level of experience and the complexity of the work being undertaken. Additionally, supervision for practitioners involved in assessments will need to be more frequent as caseloads can change within four weeks.

Formal supervision will be undertaken every two weeks for newly qualified practitioners (practicing for less than one year), practitioners who have undertaken a major change of role in transferring to a different team and practitioners returning to work following a career break or other long term absence.

Summary of frequency of supervision
Newly qualified social workers. Every two weeks for the first twelve months and monthly thereafter.
Social workers returning to work or who have had a major role change. Every two weeks for an agreed period, then monthly.
Social workers with more than twelve months experience. Minimally monthly and as required determined by the supervisor.

Annual Performance Appraisals

All staff must have an annual performance appraisal. This is an important opportunity to formally note achievements in the past twelve months and record any actions needed to address learning and development needs identified during ongoing supervision and case discussions. The performance appraisal will set goals for the coming year.  

As part of preparation for this appraisal the team manager will have directly observed the practice of the social worker, (on a home visit where appropriate), and will provide constructive feedback and record this on the appraisal documentation.

Managing Performance

Effective supervision and support, and holding practitioners to account, can substantially reduce the risk of poor or under- performance by practitioners. Where poor or under performance by the practitioner is identified, managers must seek support and guidance from their own line managers and their human resources service.


6. Standards: Service Culture and Support

6.1

All managers will lead their staff group and ensure that staff work in a professional environment that is conducive to delivering good professional practice. This includes having a staff culture that brings support, constructive challenge and professional rigour to daily practice.

All staff groups work best when there is a culture of mutual support, management leadership, good communications and clarity in defining and acting on shared understandings of professional responsibilities, standards and expectations.

Managers need to ensure there are regular team meetings so that staff understand what is happening in the organisation and the expectations of them. Managers need to model the expected standards for their teams which includes:

  • Always presenting professionally;
  • Being on time for meetings;
  • Being prepared for meetings and briefings;
  • Taking action as required in a timely way;
  • Having a good knowledge of the cases within the team; and
  • Both supporting and challenging appropriately.

In addition, staff need support from their managers that demonstrates commitment to their professional development and opportunities to innovate, that provides the practical means to work in a supportive physical environment, and gives protection so that the workload is manageable.

The Director of Children’s Services and Deputy Directors have a number of methods to support a culture of learning and listening. These will include regular open sessions visiting service areas; spending time in social work offices; attending team meetings and holding briefing/engagement sessions.

6.2

Key Practice Issues

Support

Managers will lead by example and set standards of behaviour:
  • Presentation and conduct that promotes good professional practice;
  • Managers will cultivate a staff atmosphere that is mutually supportive and draws on the professional strengths of all staff;
  • Managers will ensure that staff have manageable workloads, within the set guidelines for caseloads;
  • Managers will provide good lines of communication, ensuring that important service policy and procedures are shared, understood and acted upon;
  • Managers will provide regular supervision and meaningful annual appraisals that take account of the strengths and areas for improvement of staff, and seek to ensure that the service continues to invest in staff’s professional development; and
  • Managers will ensure that the internal administrative and information sharing systems and arrangements support professional practice.

Constructive challenge

  • Managers will monitor the quality of the service they are responsible for through regularly scrutinising practice and auditing case recording, and take steps to rectify poor quality when identified; and
  • Managers will look for opportunities to bring about improvements in practice, and support staff in delivering those improvements.

Professional rigour

  • Managers will keep up to date on research findings in practice and policy and guidance documents relevant to their area of work. They will routinely access research in practice and other materials provided through practice development websites and publications;
  • Managers will expect staff to develop their professional skills and expertise by keeping up to date with applied research; and
  • Managers will ensure that all staff adhere to the social work standards of practice, and that staff at all times conduct themselves in a professional manner in terms of their dress, language and behaviours.


Appendix 1: Management Standards, Acceptable / Unacceptable Practice

Theme Acceptable Unacceptable
Auditing practice

Evidence of regular auditing of case records to ensure that practice standards are met routinely.

Evidence of follow up of corrective action requirements arising from audits.

Little or no auditing of case records and practice.

Little or no evidenced understanding of the quality of the service.

Quality of Assessments, Plans and Reports

Evidence of managers’ signatures/electronic equivalents.

Evidence of management scrutiny of the quality of the work undertaken leading to good quality assessments with good outcomes for children.

Management sign off is tokenistic and does not show that work has been scrutinised or met required standards.

Inadequate assessments being signed off by the manager.
Addressing poor performance

Evidence that appropriate steps are being taken to address poor or unacceptable performance of practitioners to bring about improvements.

Timely use of formal procedures around improving performance.

Acceptance of practice that is below standards and an inability or unwillingness to tackle issues to bring about improvements.

Continued use of informal measures where formal processes should be displayed.
Supervision: Contracts and frequency

Evidence that regular quality supervision is taking place with all staff within the supervision policy standards.

Management advice and decisions are well evidenced and professionally sound.

Recording of supervision demonstrates reflective practice.

Supervision contract in place.

No evidence of regular supervision or it is sporadic and does not meet staff professional development needs and is not compliant with supervision policy.

Little evidence of management decisions, or advice appears confusing.

No supervision contract in place.
Annual Performance Appraisal Evidence that annual performance appraisals take place within guidance and play an active part in the recognition and development of staff skills. Annual performance appraisals do not happen, or are tokenistic and the opportunities they provide to develop staff are not utilised.
Support and Development of staff Manager has a proactive approach to developing staff professional skills. Manager acts in a way that simply reacts to service demands and gives little attention to staff development.
Acknowledging and stretching good practice Manager acknowledges and gives credit to good practice and promotes this within and outside the staff group. Good practice is not acknowledged or celebrated. Little attention is given to cultivating this within the staff group.
Policy, Research and Practice Manager keeps up to date with key policy and uses this in practice and this is evidenced in the quality of the work undertaken. Policy, guidance and research are given little or no recognition in practice.
Culture and Workloads

The manager ensures that the work demands are matched to the skills and abilities of staff members, and staff capacities and capabilities are defined and protected.

This leads to good quality social work practice.

The manager does not match work demands to capacity and skills of the staff.

This results in staff being exploited, overloaded and not working efficiently or effectively.

Communication

The manager ensures that good communication takes place within the staff group, and all staff are informed of important matters affecting their work.

Regular staff meetings take place and are properly set up, chaired and recorded.

Staff meetings have formal agendas and are fully minuted.

Communication arrangements are absent or sporadic.

Staff meetings are poorly organised.

Important developments and information are not shared with staff.

No records of staff meetings.

Staff mutual support The manager cultivates a staff group atmosphere that is mutually supportive and respectful, and an office atmosphere that is calm and purposeful, and one in which staff are focused to work. The manager oversees a staff group that is not supportive, where conflicts and disputes are allowed to fester, and where staff are unhappy working in the setting.
Challenge and professional rigour The manager sets an example as to how to conduct oneself as a professional, sets expectations of good practice that must be adhered to, and creates an atmosphere of professionalism.

The manager is inconsistent and unprofessional in their conduct and sets a poor example of conduct.

The manager does not set expectations that ensure staff work professionally.

End