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Supervision - Supporting Staff in a Challenging Social Care Environment


This policy applies to all staff employed by Specialist Services of CYPD. It reflects the principles set within the Standards of Employers of Social Workers.

This Policy is compliant with the Munro Review of Child Protection Final Report – A Child Centred System (2011).

1. Introduction

Supervision has a vital role to play in supporting staff in a challenging Social Care environment in which they work. Supervision is also one of the foundations of service governance, in that it provides opportunities for staff to be individually accountable for the quality of their practice. As such, supervision is a high priority within the Service. Supervision is a two-way process involving rights and responsibilities for both supervisors and for those they supervise.

2. Policy

This Policy supersedes that of November 2008. It provides a framework for supervision for staff working within the Specialist Services of Wirral Children and Young People's Department. The Children and Young People's Department (CYPD) is committed to improving the quality of its service delivery through the provision of regular planned and structured supervision between line managers and the staff they have responsibility for.

This Policy applies to all staff employed by Specialist Services of CYPD. It reflects the principles set within the Standards for Employers of Social Workers.

In relation to supervision, Standard 5 states that employers should ensure:

  1. Social Workers have regular and appropriate social work supervision;
  2. Social work supervision is not treated as an isolated activity by incorporating it into the organisation's social work accountability framework;
  3. Continuous learning and knowledge are promoted through which Social Workers are encouraged to draw out learning points by reflecting on their own cases in light of the experiences of peers;
  4. Regular supervision training for Social Work Supervisors is provided;
  5. There is explicit responsibility for the oversight of appropriate supervision and for issues that arise during supervision;
  6. Supervision takes place regularly and consistently;
  7. Supervision takes place fortnightly for a newly qualified social worker;
  8. Supervision sessions last at least an hour-and-a-half of uninterrupted time;
  9. Actual frequency and quality of supervision is monitored against clear statements about what is expected.

3. Supervision Framework

Supervision is designed to support a facilitative and involving management style, developed within the context of a working relationship, based on trust, mutual confidence and clear professional expectations. It should involve regular dialogue and reflection on the work being undertaken.

Through the process of supervision, it is expected that:

  1. Managers will keep up to date on casework and wider operational issues;
  2. Practitioners will be empowered to influence decisions being made which impact on the quality of services provided.

There are three components of supervision:

  1. Line Management: This is about accountability for practice and its quality within the team. This includes managing team resources, delegation and workload management, performance appraisal, absence management, duty of care, support and other HR processes;
  2. Professional Supervision for Social Workers: A key aspect of this function is reviewing and reflecting on practice issues. This may include reviewing roles, relationships and impact, evaluating the outcomes of the work, ensuring confident use of evidence based practice and up to date research and maximising opportunities for wider learning. This should be undertaken by in depth analysis of two carefully selected cases from the workers caseload and the discussion should demonstrate the appropriate competencies from The College of Social Work Professional Capabilities Framework;
  3. Continuing Professional Development: This ensures workers have the relevant skills, knowledge, understanding and attributes to do the job, and progress their careers. Constructive feedback and observation of practice should be part of the learning process for Social Workers and Supervisors. Supervision should also ensure that Social Workers are registered with the HCPC. See also HCPC, Standards of continuing professional development.

Managers are responsible for ensuring that everyone they line-manage has a designated Supervisor with whom they meet individually for direct formal supervision. All Social Workers must be supervised by a Manager who is a qualified Social Worker, registered with the HCPC.

Supervision records are owned by the Department.

4. Objectives of Supervision

The purpose of supervision is to achieve the following objectives:

  • To ensure the Department and individual employees and managers are accountable for the delivery of evidence based interventions leading to improved outcomes for children and their families;
  • To ensure all Specialist Services staff are supported in dealing with the inherent challenges of their work;
  • To ensure individual staff conduct does not fall below the standards set out in the code of practice for council employees, and for Social Workers by Health and Care Professions Council;
  • To promote the values of the Children and Young People's Department, and ensure anti-oppressive practice;
  • To provide a structured forum for the developmental needs of individuals and to ensure that they have the skills, knowledge and values needed to undertake effective work;
  • To ensure individual workers and their managers are clear about their areas of accountability and responsibility, including decision-making, risk management and resource provision;
  • To ensure that an individual's work is appropriately allocated, planned, monitored and evaluated;
  • To ensure staff are aware of relevant policies, procedures, legislation and future developments affecting their day to day work;
  • To ensure managers have a clear view of workload/resource issues to inform business planning.

5. Supervision Process

The Line Manager is responsible for ensuring that each member of staff for whom they are responsible has a Supervision Contract that is reviewed at annually. The Supervision Contract Meeting sets out the expectations in respect of the supervisor and staff member and the context of the supervision sessions. The schedule should be set to meet the needs of the individual and the standard set by the Service regarding frequency.

Supervision should be planned and be a face-to-face meeting between Manager and member of staff on a one to one basis. Records must be written and should be shared with the member of staff within 10 working days.

Other methods of supervision could be included as well as the direct one to one meeting, to help professional development

  1. Immediate, i.e. reactive: Following the management of a difficult incident, this is often of a crisis nature. The purpose here is to de-brief the member of staff; review plans for a child and/ or provide individual support;
  2. Case Consultation: This is usually supervision on a specific case. The purpose if to consider any changes/ developments in a case and agree actions. The discussion, decisions and actions should be recorded as a case consultation on ICS;
  3. Joint/Group Supervision: This may occur when more than one worker is involved with a family. Agreement must be reached with the line manager/supervisor about the role of any joint/group supervision. Supervision records should be kept.

6. Frequency Content of Supervision

The frequency and duration of supervision is dependent on a range of factors, in particular:

  • The role of the member of staff;
  • Whether the member of staff is newly qualified in their role;
  • The development needs of the member of staff;
  • The degree of complexity and risk in the work being undertaken.

There are five inter-related components of supervision which must be incorporated into the supervisory process and reflect the Framework provided by the Social Work Reform Board:

  • The support function is recognition of the stressful nature of social care work and the need for staff to be able to cope effectively with the inherent difficulties and constraints. Regular effective supervision assists in the provision of individual support, building morale, commitment to task and group cohesion;
  • The reflective function ensures workers can reflect on their own views and action regarding their work. Reflection may not be case specific but could be thematic, e.g. reflecting on improving a practitioner's direct work with children; the quality of decision-making and interventions, consideration of how families have been helped, future interventions and actions, assessing risk, giving evidence in court and discussion on practice improvement. Barriers to working with some families should be addressed, including stress and personal safety;
  • The development function focuses on the learning needs of workers to ensure they acquire the knowledge, skills and values needed to work effectively. This should include the identification of individual strengths, any gaps in knowledge or skills and how these can be addressed;
  • The communication function is a recognition that workers need to be clear about Departmental policies, procedures and legislation and future developments;
  • The management function is concerned with accountability and relates to the planning, deployment, monitoring and evaluation of the individual's work in line professional competencies. It should include an analysis of caseload and workload management according to the role and experience of the employee.

Effective supervision requires a clear agenda by both Supervisor and Supervisee. It is a 2 way process. Sessions should include the following:

  • Progress update on all current cases, with a clear record of issues raised, decisions and actions;
  • Reflection supervision on one or two cases in detail;
  • Workload;
  • Professional development and training Needs;
  • Review of attendance and absence;
  • Organisational developments;
  • Equality and diversity issues;
  • Professional and personal support;
  • Recording of decisions reached.

As a minimum each child should be discussed every other monthly supervision session i.e. once every two months. This gives supervisors and supervisees some scope to decide on the work to be discussed in a single supervision session. These decisions must take full account of the child's need for protection and it is highly likely that all children subject to Child Protection Plans and looked after children who are not yet in permanent placements will be discussed in every session. If in exceptional circumstances a monthly supervision session does not take place all children must be discussed during the next session.

7. Annual Performance Appraisals

All workers must have an annual, separately booked, performance appraisal session during June, July or August.

The focus of Annual Appraisals is on a review of the previous year, reflecting on what has gone well, what has not gone as well; and what the areas of focus should be for the individual for the forthcoming year.

8. Recording

Supervisors must ensure that they take into account the principles of the Data Protection Act 2018, i.e. any personal information held on an individual is accurate, adequate, relevant, not excessive, available to the individual, and kept no longer than is necessary.

The Supervision log sets out the dates agreed for supervision. The log should be completed in respect of each supervision session to indicate:

  • If supervision took place;
  • If supervision postponed;
  • If supervision cancelled;
  • If supervision interrupted (and reason why).

In the event of a planned supervision session being cancelled or postponed a rearranged date should be arranged. If a new date cannot be arranged a reason should be recorded on the log.

The Supervisor is responsible for ensuring that each supervision session is recorded accurately. Each case discussion, along with decisions and actions regarding families should be recorded on the standardised case consultation document within the Appendix 4: Supervision Notes. Each one should form part of the supervision file, with each separate consultation uploaded onto the respective child's electronic file.

The supervision record must be signed by both Supervisor and Supervisee. Each case consultation on individual children must also be signed by both. Where there is disagreement, the supervisor and supervisee may agree to amend the record. Where agreement cannot be reached, a note should be made on the record of the different views and signed by both parties.

Any training needs identified within supervision should be requested using the Training Request Form where relevant.

9. Records Management

Managers will keep the supervision records in the Supervisee's Supervision file. It will be the Supervisor's responsibility to maintain this file and to ensure it is located in a secure place. The Supervisee will have a copy of the supervision records for their own use, which they will need to store responsibly.

If the Supervisor changes, or if the Supervisee moves to a new service but stays in the same role, the supervision file containing the supervision records and other documents will become the responsibility of the Supervisee's new Manager.

The Manager will store all records relating to supervision according to the current corporate Records Management Retention Policy (currently 6 years after termination of employment). If the Supervisee leaves the organisation or takes a new job in another service, the Manager is responsible for ensuring that the supervision records are sent to Human Resources or Records Management to be added to the Personal File.

10. Confidentiality and Supervision Records

Each supervision session is confidential which in turn helps to ensure a trustful relationship between supervisor and supervisee.

There may be certain circumstances when Senior Managers need to access supervision records. These circumstances include concerns relating to the public interest, the law, risk to staff or families, professional conduct. Where formal performance management processes have been initiated (separate to the supervision process), it may be necessary to refer to the supervision records to demonstrate certain issues were addressed in supervision.

Inspectors also have access to supervision records and documents to ensure staff are provided with adequate, timely and good quality supervision.

Those who are providing supervision will also receive supervision which should address and monitor their effectiveness as Supervisors. This could include reviewing the style and content of notes and supporting Supervisees to develop their competencies.

Bi-monthly auditing of supervision records should take place at all levels within Specialist Services. This should involve the audit of one supervision record a month for each supervisor using the audit tool. Any issues arising from this is addressed via the Specialist Services Management Team (SSMT) on a quarterly basis. The audit tool can be found in Appendix 5: Supervision Audit Tool.

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