Supervision - Supporting Staff in a Challenging Social Care Environment


This policy applies to all Social Work qualified staff employed by Wirral Children’s Services. It reflects the principles set within the Standards for Employers of Social Workers.

This Policy is also in line with the Social Work England Professional Standards - Supervision and Reflection:

Standard 4.2

Supervision describes the support and guidance Social Workers access to critically reflect on and improve their practice. It is aimed at supporting Social Workers to consider their own values and judgements and provides a means for exploring a Social Worker’s practice, including ethical dilemmas, cultural issues and decision-making.

Supervision can look different in different workplaces and settings but should be relevant to the Social Worker’s role and take account of development frameworks that they may be working with.

Standard 4.6 and 4.8

Reflection encourages a review of a professional experience to help inform future practice. Critical reflection moves beyond this and encourages the Social Worker to examine their approach, judgements, decisions and interventions, as well as the steps taken to provide objective support, free from the Social Worker’s own values, views and beliefs.


This chapter was substantially refreshed and updated in March 2022 and includes further clarity regarding the frequency of supervision (see Section 6, Frequency and Content of Supervision); a new Section 7, Check-ins; Section 11, Case File Supervision Recording and Frequency; a new Section 12, Relevant Guidance and fresh Appendices – Defensible Decision-Making Tools.

This chapter is currently under review.

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 Wirral Children’s Services. Supervision is a two-way process involving rights and responsibilities for both Supervisors and for those they supervise. In order for supervision to be a dynamic process it needs to reflect an approach based upon ‘high support and high challenge’ where there is importance attached to the value of supervision by the Supervisor and Supervisee.

2. Policy

This Policy provides a framework for supervision for Wirral Children’s Services Social Workers, Team Managers, Independent Reviewing Officers and other staff who are in a role where they are required to be a professional Social Work qualification and registered with Social Work England. Children’s Services are 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.

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 Social Work England. See also Social Work England, 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 Social Work England.

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 Social Work England;
  • 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 annually. The Supervision Contract Meeting sets out the expectations in respect of the Supervisor and staff member and the context of the supervision sessions.

Supervision should be planned and be either a face-to-face or Teams meeting between the Manager and member of staff on a one-to-one basis. Records must be completed by the Supervisor 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. Reflective supervision: This should be regularly completed on case files to reflect upon complex situations. Team Managers and Social Workers should utilise defensible decision-making tools (see Appendices – Defensible Decision-Making Tools), where necessary for reflective case discussions;
  4. 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;
  5. Reflective group supervision facilitated by a suitably qualified practitioner: This will enable the Social Worker to freely reflect on an area of their work or specific case file. If appropriate this can be recorded on the child’s electronic file as well as the Social Workers individual supervision file.

6. Frequency and Content of Supervision

In accordance with Standard 5 of the Local Government Association Employers Standards, all employers should:

  1. Ensure that supervision takes place regularly and consistently and lasts for an uninterrupted duration of at least an hour and a half;
  2. Make sure that supervision takes place:
    • For Students on placement - as agreed with Students and programme providers;
    • For Newly Qualified Social Workers:
      • At least weekly for the first six weeks of employment of a Newly Qualified Social Worker (ASYE);
      • At least fortnightly for the duration of the first six months; and
      • A minimum of monthly supervision thereafter.
    • For Social Workers who have demonstrated capability at ASYE level and above - in line with identified needs, and at least monthly.
  3. Ensure that they have a policy in place which governs supervision, and which:
    • Locates responsibility for that policy with the Principal Social Worker or other appropriate Senior Manager;
    • Requires the actual frequency and quality of supervision to be monitored against clear expectations.

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.

Quality of supervision - All employers should:

  1. Ensure that Social Work supervision is not treated as an isolated activity by incorporating it into the organisation’s Social Work accountability framework;
  2. Promote continuous learning and knowledge sharing through which Social Workers are encouraged to draw out learning points by reflecting on their own practice in the light of experiences of their peers;
  3. Promote the use of supervision as an opportunity for Social Workers to critically reflect on, and identify their learning needs, using evidence, research and other Social Work frameworks where appropriate;
  4. Actively use the Social Work England professional standards as the basis for supervision, including evaluating capability and identifying development needs, ensuring that Social Workers are able to draw on and use additional resources such as the professional capabilities framework and knowledge and skills statements to develop their day-to-day practice and skills base;
  5. Ensure that supervision supports students and qualified Social Workers to meet Social Work England’s professional standards;
  6. Provide regular supervision training for Social Work Supervisors;
  7. Assign explicit responsibility for the oversight of appropriate supervision and for issues that arise through supervision;
  8. Provide additional professional supervision by a registered Social Worker for practitioners whose line manager is not a Social Worker.

In addition, Managers should keep prebooked supervision dates free and only cancel in exceptional circumstances.

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

  • Welfare and personal support;
  • Equality and Diversity;
  • Review of attendance, absence, and annual leave;
  • Organisational developments;
  • Professional development and training Nneeds;
  • Workload;
  • Progress update on current cases (in line with varied timescales identified in Section 11, Case File Supervision Recording and Frequency) with a clear record of issues raised, decisions and actions*;
  • Reflective supervision on one or two cases in detail, where possible using the recognised models of reflection (for example Defensible Decision Making – see Appendices).

*Case discussions to be recorded on the child’s file with a Liquidlogic Reference Number recorded on the supervision file.

Expectations for the Supervisee:

  • To keep prebooked supervision dates free and only cancel in exceptional circumstances;
  • To appropriately prepare for supervision;
  • To have a record of any issues that need to be raised during their supervision session;
  • To complete the case supervision record form on the child’s case file and send to Team Manager at least 24 hours in advance;
  • If a Supervisee has not had appropriate supervision (quantity or quality), they should raise this with their immediate Supervisor and/or relevant Head of Service.

7. Check-ins

Check-ins are the new approach to what was previously known as Annual Performance Appraisals. They have been designed by putting our people at the heart. They are about having meaningful conversations regularly, rather than the traditional yearly conversations, focused on motivating and getting the best out of your colleagues, while at the same time having a strong focus on wellbeing.

They are individually led, so this means that there isn’t one specific format or specific way to have the conversation, it’s all guided by the individual.

Check-ins are hugely beneficial for both managers and staff. Having regular conversations avoids isolation and keeps you up to date with what’s going on. Through these regular conversations you can build trust, rapport and confidence and show that you are there to support your people, which is so important during these challenging times.

There are four main topics to discuss at check-ins. It is recommended that you discuss all four at least twice a year, with the remaining regular conversations based on any of the topics. The topics are:

  • All about you;
  • Priorities and Objectives;
  • Looking Forward;
  • Our Values.

The purpose of the check-in is to:

  • Understand the needs of the individual;
  • Increase engagement;
  • Increase efficiency;
  • Help manage expectations.

Checking in with a manager means Social Workers can talk about how they are balancing work and life and what support they need so that managers can contribute in the best way they can. It’s about having regular, meaningful conversations with a manager, which are led by the Social Worker. The format allows managers the opportunity to engage with the Social Worker as a person, not just an employee, and to gain a better understanding of their passions, hopes and drivers.

For further information on Check-ins, please see the HR Guidance on the Intranet Homepage.

8. Recording

Supervisors must ensure that they consider the principles of UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR), tailored by 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).

    All supervision records should be stored electronically on Microsoft Teams.

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 supervision record within Liquid Logic and stored in the forms tab on the child’s file. The case holding Social Worker is responsible for completing the current summary and update of the case along with progress of any actions prior to supervision commencing. The Supervisor is responsible for recording the discussion within supervision and detailing any actions on the appropriate form which will then be sent to the Social Worker within the child’s file on Liquid Logic.

The Social Worker supervision record must be signed by both Supervisor and Supervisee. 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.

9. Records Management

Managers will upload the supervision records in the Supervisee's Supervision file on Microsoft Teams, where appropriate Team Support Officers may also upload supervision documents. It will be the Supervisor's responsibility to ensure that the Supervisee has a copy of the supervision records for their own use, which the Supervisee 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 and/or auditors 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.

Regular auditing of supervision records will be carried out to ensure that staff are being appropriately supervised and to identify and training needs for Supervisors.

11. Case File Supervision Recording and Frequency

Case file supervision should be recorded on the child’s case supervision record within Liquidlogic. It is the responsibility of the case holding Social Worker to complete their analysis of the current status of the case. It is the responsibility of the Team Manager to record the discussions and any actions resulting from this; progress on agreed actions should be reviewed in subsequent supervisions within the case supervision template.

Detailed below are the minimum expected frequencies for supervision linked primarily to the status of a case. However, these are minimum requirements, and as such managers need to make informed decisions about whether it should be higher for individual cases dependent on the level of risks or what is the current context of the case. Managers should demonstrate management oversight, including decision making, rationale and reflection.

Caption: Case Status
Case Status Supervision Minimum Expected Frequency
Children in Need Once every 2 months
Child Protection

Once every 2 months

Placement with Parents – Monthly

Cases in pre proceedings – Monthly

*Managers to take an informed decision where more regular supervision may be needed at key points.
Children Looked After (placement type)

Monthly for first three months in new placement.

Child in stable residential placement over 12 months duration– every 3 months.

Child in residential placement less than 12 months duration– every 2 months.
Foster Care

Monthly for first three months in new placement.

Child in stable foster placement over 12 months duration– every 3 months.

Child in foster placement less than 12 months duration – every 2 months.
Children subject to Placement with Parents Monthly
Children subject to Public Law Proceedings Monthly
Placed for Adoption Monthly