Children's Social Work Supervision Policy and Guidance Notes (Practitioners)

The Munro Review of Child Protection, Final Report, A Child - Centred System. (Professor Eileen Munro, 2011) at 6.11

 "Analytic skills can be enhanced by formal teaching and reading. Intuitive skills are essentially derived from experience. Experience on its own, however, is not enough. It needs to be allied to reflection - time and attention given to mulling over the experience and learning from it. This is often best achieved in conversation with others, in supervision, for example, or in discussions with colleagues.

Michael Oakeshott draws attention to the limitations of a 'crowded' life where people are continually occupied and engaged but have no time to stand back and think 122. A working life given over to distracted involvement does not allow for the integration of experience." 122 Oakeshott, M. (1989), The Voice of Liberal Learning, pp33, New Haven, Yale University Press.

Policy and Guidance Notes

1. Statement of Purpose

This policy will provide a framework for the one-to-one supervision of Social Work staff working for Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council in Children's Social Care services. This includes staff working in settings such as Social Work Teams, Independent Reviewing Officers and Child Protection Co-ordinators, whether on a temporary (including agency staff), permanent, full-time or part-time basis.

This policy sets out how those staff can expect to be supervised and provides Managers with the key elements needed to supervise staff effectively.

2. Definition of Supervision

Supervision is a regular one-to-one meeting between the Supervisor (e.g. Line Manager) and Supervisee in order to meet organisational, professional and personal objectives. Supervision forms a key part of individual performance management. It underpins the Induction Programme (for newly appointed workers) and is the foundation on which appraisal is built.

"Supervision is a relationship between the Manager and the worker that allows the Manager to motivate, empower, inspire, elicit information and manage risk. It gives the worker the opportunity to receive support, direction, reflection, plan work and achieve positive outcomes" - definition of supervision developed by RMBC Team Managers 2012.

3. The Aims of Supervision

The aims are to ensure staff know what is expected of them by:

  • Ensuring good practice is achieved and to challenge and manage poor practice;
  • Ensuring staff carry out their duties effectively and efficiently;
  • Providing casework supervision to ensure that targeted work is well formulated and focused and monitors case plans/care plans. This should include an analysis of what is the purpose and aim of the intervention and how its effectiveness will be measured;
  • Supporting the prioritisation and management of caseloads;
  • Allocating work to social care staff;
  • Ensuring that health and well-being at work issues are addressed;
  • Supporting and assisting in the continuous professional development (CPD) of staff;
  • Ensuring compliance with agency policies;
  • Ensuring that staff operate in an anti-discriminatory way, and in line with the Health Care Professions Council.

4. Supervision Process

4.1 Individual Supervision Agreements

On first appointment, and at any subsequent change of Line Manager, an Individual Supervision Agreement should be written and signed by both parties. This document will ensure that the worker has read and understood the related Supervision, Induction and PDR policies and guidelines and will set out the mutual expectations, roles, rights and responsibilities of the supervision relationship, including confidentiality and access to the records. Line Managers will ensure that formal supervision takes place for all staff for whom they have managerial responsibility.

4.2 Supervision History

At the beginning of a supervisory relationship, the supervisee will complete a supervision history. This will be the basis of a discussion with the new supervisor as a means of reflecting and gaining insight which will assist in the development of the supervisory relationship.

4.3 Reviewing the Agreement

The Individual Supervision Agreement should be reviewed by the supervisor and the supervisee at least annually, as part of the PDR process.

4.4 Disputes

Any disagreements should initially be dealt with by discussion between the supervisor and employee, or by reference to the supervisor's line manager if necessary.

5. Roles and Responsibilities of the Line Managers

Supervision must be conducted in accordance with this policy and guidance.

Managers will prepare prior to each supervision session and will ensure that issues to be discussed are included in the agenda. To assist with case management this will include use of the Portal / Liquid Logic (LCS) to evaluate the case file and specifically the last recorded visit.

Line managers will need to consider the four functions of supervision (Harris 1987 cited In Morrison 2005):

  • Management (competent, accountable performance/practice);
  • Development (continuing professional development);
  • Support (sharing and addressing of concerns);
  • Mediation (engaging the worker with the organisation).

6. Case Management

Good practice is promoted by ensuring that all children are considered regularly and at a frequency which ensures that the Social Work Service remains appropriate, focused and purposeful and that drift is avoided. Positive and achievable outcomes are at the core of all case planning and subsequent case management, and the child's journey must be apparent and evidenced at all points of their receiving a service.

Case Management and supervision are achieved in a number of ways.

It includes ad hoc discussions. It is normal to expect that there may be discussions and decisions being made, outside of formal supervision sessions, about casework issues, problems arising, progress being made and next steps.

Other activities, such as reviews, Team Manager/Service Manager audits, consultation/supervision between the Team Manager and Service Manager also play a role in case management.

Even when supervisees and supervisors work closely together, it does not eliminate the need for private one-to-one time together on a regular basis.

7. Frequency of Cases Being Discussed

In RMBC, services to children are delivered by teams with specific specialist function. This determines the nature of caseloads and will affect how frequently children are discussed in supervision. Managers will need to exercise professional judgement in determining when children are discussed but ensuring this is regular, timely, and takes into account the area of specialism, types of caseload, risk to the child and risks to worker.

Team Managers will ensure that all children are considered in formal supervision as frequently as is appropriate, taking into account the other ways that the case has been considered and level of risk to child or worker. Team Managers will be mindful of the possibility of drift and avoidance of reflective discussion.

A timescale for cases to be discussed can mitigate against this but this could be over prescriptive and does not promote the exercise of professional judgement by Managers.

Precedence will need to be given to regular planned discussions of children subject to a child protection investigation/plan, the subject of Court proceedings, Looked After Children in non-permanence placements or recently placed. However, all children should be discussed over a three month period.

Each supervision session will include at least one in depth reflective supervision of one case.

All children should be considered in formal supervision during the first month of allocation.

At each formal supervision, if the child is not being discussed, the Manager will record a decision as to when the child will next be discussed in formal supervision.

8. Minimum Frequencies

The minimum frequency of formal supervision for:

Newly Qualified Social Workers in their Assessed and Supported Year of Employment (ASYE) must receive reflective supervision:

  • For the first six weeks weekly for a minimum of 90 mins;
  • For the remainder of the first six months, fortnightly;
  • After six months, if this is appropriate and in line with the development and experience of the NQSW, supervision may be reduced to monthly;
  • A mentoring arrangement, from a suitably experienced, qualified registered social worker or practice consultant, may be put in place to undertake some of the reflective supervisions. In which case supervision by the Line Manager may be reduced accordingly. This will need to be specified in the learning agreement which will need to clarify the professional (undertaken by a qualified, registered social worker) and managerial roles in supervision and assessment.

For all others:

  • Supervision will take place monthly as a minimum.
The actual frequency for individuals should be agreed between the supervisor and supervisee when negotiating the terms of the Individual Supervision Agreement but will always, as a minimum, be monthly.

9. Roles and Responsibilities of Employees

It is the responsibility of employees to attend supervision sessions with their Line Manager. They should use these sessions positively to discuss their work and development and to implement agreed actions following supervision.

It is the employee's responsibility to prepare prior to each supervision session and bring a list of issues for the agenda in order to promote the two-way discussion.

10. Worker Specific Supervision Record

This record will include the reflective discussions with the worker about the impact on them of the work they are undertaking, their values and attitudes and any effect this may have on their practice. Regular effective supervision is a factor in promoting well-being and resilience in social workers.

This record will also include any discussions about training and development, leave, personal issues etc.

This record will not be included on the child's case file.

11. Child Specific Supervision Record

This will be completed for inclusion on the child's case record. This will be a summary of the discussion and the decisions and action points arising. Any Health and Safety risks to staff, as discussed, will be noted along with agreed actions.

Integral to the case discussion is consideration of the child's perspective and their journey; this will include the child's experience, their wishes and feelings and an evaluation of how the outcomes are improving for the child. All plans for children and young people should have an outcomes focus, and supervision is the point at which a practitioner and their manager review progress.

The supervision record will be associated to the child's ESCR and a case note entered on Liquid Logic (LCS).

12. Recording

When decisions have been made in between formal supervision sessions, the Manager must make sure that any decision made with regard to a service user is clearly recorded on the service user's file (as a Team Manager's Decision, Liquid Logic (LCS) case note) as they are an integral part of the narrative of the child's journey.

When decisions are made in supervision in relation to specific service users, the Manager must ensure these decisions are recorded on the service user's file.

All Line Managers will keep a record of supervision sessions for their staff.

The recording of supervision sessions is the responsibility of the supervisor. The detail included is a matter of judgement but, in general, the record should be detailed enough so that the issues can be revisited, if necessary, at a later date and still be understood.

The supervision records will reflect the supervision sessions and will be completed on the appropriate pro forma.

Records should clearly detail any decisions that have been made, the reasons for these, any agreed actions, including who will take responsibility, and the timescale for carrying out these actions. If there is disagreement as to the content of the record this should be noted by the supervisor.

All records should be typed.

13. Storage and Retention of Worker Specific Supervision

A worker's supervision file should be maintained by the Line Manager so that the record can be reviewed at appropriate times (e.g. Induction, PDR, Progression, significant case related issues).

The format of the supervision file should be standard across the service and contain the following (with the exception of Fostering & Adoption):

  • Section 1 - Checklist - Date of last DBS and Social Work England Registration & Qualifications;
  • Section 2 - Supervision Agreement & Supervision History;
  • Section 3 - Supervision Record Worker;
  • Section 4 - PDR Record;
  • Section 5 - Training inc CPD Activity;
  • Section 6 - Progression;
  • Section 7 - Health & Wellbeing (including sickness);
  • Section 8 - Miscellaneous.
Records of supervision should be seen as transferable and should follow the member of staff in the event of transfer within the service.

14. Confidentiality and Access to Worker Specific Supervision

Supervision is a private but not a confidential process. This means that the records are the property of the organisation, not the individual. From time to time supervisors will need to discuss the content of supervision sessions with others, e.g. their own Line Managers. This should always be with the knowledge of the supervisee. Access to supervision records should be controlled and all records should be retained securely. Other people may from time to time require access to supervision records. These might include:

  • Managers providing cover in the absence of line manager;
  • Senior Managers (for quality assurance purposes);
  • Investigating officers (e.g. for capability or disciplinary purposes.

15. Confidentiality and Access to Child Specific Supervision

These will be associated to the child's file and available to:

  • All who have access to the file within the organisation;
  • Any successful applicant who has made application for access to personal information held about themselves or for a child for whom they hold Parental Responsibility;
  • Managers providing cover in the absence of the Line Manager;
  • Senior Managers;
  • Investigating Officers for Serious Case Reviews/complaints/capability/disciplinary/investigations;
  • Inspectors (e.g. during Inspections);
  • Performance and Quality Assurance staff (e.g. for audit and quality assurance purposes).

Additional Practice Guidance for Managers and Staff

16. To be a good Supervisor you need to

These guidance notes may be used as a checklist to help you audit your supervision practice and help you to get the best out of the session, both as a supervisor and a supervisee.

  • Plan a joint agenda (e.g. review previous supervision notes before meeting and make a note of issues you wish to raise);
  • Clarify tasks and areas of work that the Manager expects of the staff member;
  • Encourage honest and open discussion of real issues;
  • Hold regular sessions at agreed dates and times and be on time;
  • Ensure the session is uninterrupted or any interruptions are unavoidable;
  • The venue is comfortable;
  • Praise work done well;
  • Listen, summarise and check out;
  • Be constructive and offer balanced feedback, focusing on the positives first;
  • Support staff and build on existing skills and knowledge (refer to National Occupational Standards appropriate to the post);
  • Set clear targets with action and write these down;
  • Anticipate problems and issues before they get serious, e.g. in relation to potentially violent service users;
  • Do what you say you will do;
  • Be specific in any comments you make relating to supervisee's performance;
  • Whatever the supervisee's present levels of capability/competence, convey confidence that he/she can reach new levels. Try to stretch him/her towards them;
  • Write down actions for either supervisor or supervisee;
  • Record any disagreements;
  • Make your own experience, knowledge and skills available to help the supervisee;
  • Set the supervisee's work in the context of legislative and agency requirements, signposting to relevant statute, regulations and agency policy/procedure as appropriate (e.g. Health and Care Professions Council, Rotherham Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures);
  • Acknowledge conflict and tensions openly, e.g. as between 'ideal case' interventions and resource or budget constraints;
  • Acknowledge that you do not have 'all the answers';
  • Think who else can help with the issue;
  • Give yourself time to seek further information or seek advice, if you are not sure;
  • Help staff to reflect on their practice, e.g. what worked, did not work, why and lessons for the future;
  • Give space and permission for the supervisee to express their feelings.

17. To be a good Supervisee you need to

  • Plan a joint agenda (e.g. review previous supervision notes before meeting and make a note of issues you wish to raise);
  • Openly discuss real issues and be prepared to consider how you feel;
  • Attend regular sessions at agreed dates and times and be on time;
  • Raise problems and issues before they get serious, e.g. in relation to potentially violent service users;
  • Do what you say you will do;
  • Keep up-to-date with related reading around legislative changes, policy and procedures;
  • Keep up-to-date with related reading around research and theory related to service user's needs;
  • Use supervision to reflect on your understanding and application of knowledge, theory and your skills and how this has an impact on outcomes for the service user;
  • Use supervision to reflect on how you promote the values of anti-oppressive practice and meaningful user involvement and participation.

18. Common Barriers to the Delivery of Effective Supervision

  • 'Dumping' - saving up criticisms and discussing them all at once;
  • Unplanned, rushed agenda and unfocussed sessions;
  • Inadequate preparation by supervisor or supervisee;
  • Unclear or unrealistic goals for staff members;
  • Telling rather than listening;
  • Failure to offer constructive commentary on performance;
  • Misuse of power, e.g. bullying, harassment, victimisation;
  • Allowing avoidable interruptions;
  • Running out of time;
  • Poor recording of supervision;
  • Emotional issues unaddressed;
  • Case management to the exclusion of reflective discussion.

Appendix 1: Proforma for the Recording of CPD Activity

Click here to view Appendix 1: Proforma for the Recording of CPD Activity