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Caption: Chapter Title

1.1.7 Children's Services Supervision Policy


This chapter was updated in November 2015.


  1. Policy Statement
  2. Definition of Supervision
  3. The Four Elements of Supervision
  4. Guidelines on Putting the Supervision Policy in to Practice
  5. Responsibilities in Supervision
  6. Confidentiality
  7. Frequency of Supervision
  8. Quality Assurance Framework
  9. Professional Standards for Social Workers

    Appendix 1: Supervision Pro-forma for Social Work Practitioners and Support Workers

    Appendix 2: Supervision Pro-forma for Managers

    Appendix 3: Supervision Feedback Tool

    Appendix 4: Supervision Audit Tool/Guidance

    Appendix 5: Quality Assurance Framework

    Appendix 6: DfE Knowledge and skills for child and family social work

1. Policy Statement

  • All supervision will meet good practice guidance and be to a consistent standard;
  • The Service is committed to the supervisory process and sees the quality of supervision as having a direct bearing on the quality of services and outcomes for service users;
  • Supervision has an essential role in the effective management of staff performance and practice and is a primary means by which staff are supported and held accountable;
  • Regular, planned and competent supervision is both a right and a requirement for all members of staff working for the service regardless of role or grade. This would include temporary, part or full time staff, volunteers and, where agreed, staff employed by another agency but seconded to, or undertaking work on behalf of, the service;
  • Supervision is an authority relationship in which the dynamics of power and the recognition of difference are crucial. The good practice guidelines set out in this document value people and acknowledge and work with difference. In this way, issues relating to anti-discriminatory practice and equal opportunities should become integral to good practice;
  • All staff will have a named supervisor with whom they will have an explicit arrangement regarding their supervision and a supervision agreement;
  • Supervision will usually be provided by the line manager. If not the task should be delegated to another person with suitable status and relevant experience;
  • The preferred model of supervision, which will apply to the majority of staff in the service, is that of 'one to one'. If this model of supervision is not practicable, group supervision may be acceptable providing that there is recorded evidence that supervisees are periodically offered opportunities for individual supervision;
  • The service will ensure that all supervisors have the necessary skills to supervise and will provide training as appropriate;
  • All staff will have an annual appraisal and whilst supervision and appraisal are distinct activities in their own right, they are also integral to each other and neither can be fully effective in the absence of the other.

Click here to view the Reflective Practice Supervisory Cycle.

2. Definition of Supervision

A broad definition of supervision states that:

'Supervision' is both a process and an activity by which one worker is given responsibility by the organisation to work with another worker(s) in order to achieve certain organisational, professional and personal objectives. These objectives or functions are:

  1. Competent, accountable performance/practice
    (Managerial and Accountability);
  2. Continuing professional development
  3. Personal support
  4. Building the relationship between the individual and the organisation
    (Mediation or Advocacy function).

3. The Four Elements of Supervision

Although it is not necessary to have a complete balance of the four functions in each supervision session, it is important not to let any one of them consistently dominate the supervision process. Supervisors and supervisees should monitor any tendency to concentrate on one particular function and think about why this may be happening.

3.1 The Managerial and Accountability function

This function is concerned with ensuring that the work of the supervisee is carried out to the Directorates expectations and standards by:

  • Ensuring that managers take responsibility for supervising their staff and understand it is an essential part of safeguarding practice;
  • Ensuring that the overall quality of the supervisee's work is monitored;
  • Ensuring that supervisees are clear about their roles and responsibilities;
  • Ensuring that supervisees know, understand and follow all Directorate policies, procedures and integrate changes or new developments into their practice;
  • Ensuring that supervisees act in the best interests of service users whenever possible and maintain professional standards;
  • Encouraging supervisees to review their work, establishing clear and appropriate priorities and action plans which are then evaluated;
  • Ensuring that the basis of decisions and professional judgements about practice is clear and made explicit in Directorate records;
  • Giving supervisees feedback on their performance, acknowledging and appreciating good performance and identifying and planning how to address areas of under achievement;
  • Ensuring that anti-discriminatory practice and equal opportunities are promoted and integral to the work of all supervisees;
  • Encouraging supervisees to act as positive members of the team and relate appropriately to other agencies;
  • Encouraging supervisees to deal with differences between themselves and colleagues professionally and constructively;
  • Offering professional consultation and advice, or guiding individuals to where such advice can be accessed as appropriate;
  • Identifying resource shortfalls or other constraints that may affect the ability of supervisees to do their work to the standard expected;
  • Ensuring that records are maintained according to Directorate policies.

3.2 The Development/Educational function

The supervisory process is a key element in the continuing professional development and education of staff. The role of the supervisor is to help staff reflect on their current performance, identify development and education needs and plan how these can best be met by:

  • Developing the competence of supervisee's within their role;
  • Helping supervisees identify their theoretical base skills and knowledge;
  • Encouraging supervisees to be explicit about their value base in relation to race, gender etc. and its impact on their work;
  • Encouraging supervisees to adopt a child centred and reflective approach leading to informed actions which aim to improve outcomes for children and families. Developing the skills of self-appraisal and a commitment to continuous improvement;
  • Understanding each supervisee's preferred learning style, blocks to learning and responding to these as appropriate;
  • Giving regular and specific feedback which may be positive or constructively critical, on all aspects of a supervisee's work;
  • Helping supervisees to try new approaches and methods of work as well as integrate changes in policy legislation or practice into their work;
  • Encouraging supervisees to reflect on their interaction with service users, colleagues and other agencies;
  • Identifying educational and development needs and planning a range of ways in which these might be met;
  • Encouraging the giving and getting of feedback about the supervision process itself so that both the supervisor and supervisees can develop their supervisory skills.

3.3 The Supportive function

The nature of the work carried out in Children's Services can mean that staff are faced with difficult situations, uncertainty and stress. An important function of supervision is to help staff cope with these difficulties by:

  • Valuing supervisees both as people and as professionals;
  • Creating a safe environment within supervision for supervisees to reflect on their practice;
  • Encouraging supervisees to talk about their feelings as well as thoughts and actions;
  • Helping supervisees to explore emotional blocks to their work and how the work impacts upon them;
  • Helping supervisees to explore issues about discrimination in a safe setting;
  • Supporting staff who may be experiencing abuse or harassment;
  • Monitoring the overall health and wellbeing of supervisees especially with regard to stress;
  • Encouraging supervisees to make use of the Directorate's health and staff care provision or external support as appropriate;
  • Fostering and promoting productive working relationships amongst team members;
  • Encouraging supervisees to be proactive in resolving conflict.

3.4 The Mediation/Advocacy function

This function is concerned with building the relationship between the individual and the Directorate as an organisation.

  • Representing supervisee's needs and views to senior management;
  • Briefing senior management about resource shortfalls or exercises and their impact on supervisees;
  • Ensuring that resources are allocated in ways that are efficient and equitable including access to training and development opportunities;
  • Ensuring supervisees have up to date information about developments and changes in the Directorate;
  • Involving supervisees in decision making including encouraging them to play an active part in consultation and policy formation when appropriate;
  • Mediating or advocating between staff within the team, with staff in other parts of the Directorate or with outside agencies;
  • Supporting supervisees who may be experiencing abuse, harassment or discrimination within the team, some staff in other parts of the Directorate, from service users or other agencies;
  • Dealing sensitively, but clearly and equitably, with complaints against supervisees.

4. Guidelines on Putting the Supervision Policy in to Practice

4.1 The supervision agreement

  • There should be a written agreement between each supervisee and each supervisor taking part in one-to-one supervision. The agreement should be developed jointly by the supervisee and the supervisor;
  • The supervision agreement should cover record keeping, confidentiality, expectations from each side, frequency and duration of sessions, circumstances under which supervision can be cancelled, and timescales for rearranging cancelled supervision;
  • Where supervision is done on a group basis, there should be a similar written agreement on the focus and purpose of group supervision, expectations of group members and supervisors, and confidentiality and its limits.

4.2 Planning supervision sessions

  • Supervision sessions should take place regularly, following the guidance on frequency in Section 7, Frequency of Supervision;
  • Each session should be arranged in advance;
  • The length of the sessions should be agreed in advance, making sure there is sufficient time for supervision to be adequate;
  • The supervisor and supervisee should each prepare for the session;
  • An agenda for the session should be prepared in advance.

4.3 Carrying out supervision

  • Supervision should be held in a private place, free of interruptions;
  • The supervision session should take account of the four functions of supervision described in Section 3, The Four Elements of Supervision;
  • A clear distinction must be made between supervision and capability or grievance procedures, especially when under performance issues are being addressed;
  • Staff may need to consult their supervisor over problems that cannot wait until the next supervision session. If important decisions are reached during 'informal supervision', they must be recorded. Informal supervision should not be allowed to substitute for formal supervision, as the latter covers a broader agenda, e.g. staff development;
  • Both supervisor and supervisee should explore anti-discriminatory practice in relation to the supervisee's work and in relation to the supervision process itself. The supervisor needs to be aware of how issues to do with race, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability and class can affect interaction in supervision, and should encourage supervisees to examine their own values, assumptions and beliefs.

4.4 Record keeping

  • A written record of the supervision session (supervision pro-forma) must be made by the supervisor, and signed and dated by both the supervisor and the supervisee at the end of the session. If there are any disagreements between the supervisor and supervisee about what goes in the record, these should be noted. The supervisor should make a photocopy of the record and give it to the supervisee within seven working days;
  • The supervision record remains the property of the service. Both the supervisor and the supervisee are responsible for the safe storage of these records in a suitably secure supervision folder;
  • Supervision agreements, records and evaluation forms may all be read by the supervisor's line manager and other appropriate stakeholders as part of demonstrating that staff are supervised and to what standard. They may also be used as evidence to evaluate supervisees' progress at appraisal or in the event of capability or grievance procedures;
  • Where supervision is done on a group basis, notes of the session must be taken and agreed as an accurate record of decisions made and action to be taken;
  • Decisions taken during supervision in relation to individual children/young people will either be recorded in the child's ICS record as a case management decision or uploaded onto ICS in the reflective case discussion template contained within the Supervision Pro-forma. All children on a social workers case load will be reviewed regularly in supervision and a case management decision loaded to ICS regularly at the manager’s discretion. Good practice would suggest this could be every 3rd month, even if the agreed action is simply to continue to implement the existing plan in regards to the individual child;
  • The supervision pro-forma for social workers and support workers includes a section to record detailed and reflective case discussion on a small number of cases during each supervision session. This provides an opportunity for more detailed reflection analysis and planning on complex cases (see Appendix 1: Supervision Pro-forma for Social Work Practitioners and Support Workers & Appendix 2: Supervision Pro-forma for Managers). This reflective discussion may include signposting to a range of Risk Assessment tools (Graded Care Profile/DV Risk assessment Matrix) to aid understanding of family dynamics /complex issues.

4.5 Breakdown of the supervision relationship

  • Both partners should work to establish a purposeful and effective relationship within supervision. If the supervision relationship breaks down and the problem cannot be resolved by the supervisor and supervisee, the supervisor's line manager should investigate the reasons for the breakdown, consider solutions or alternative options, and take appropriate action.

5. Responsibilities in Supervision

Supervision sessions should be based on a shared responsibility for:

  • Accepting the requirement to be supervised and accountable;
  • Giving supervision a high priority in the workload;
  • Attending at the agreed time and place;
  • Clarifying expectations of each other through a written agreement for supervision;
  • Having an agreed joint agenda and participating fully;
  • Clarifying and agreeing objectives and standards of practice based on objective outcomes and Directorate guidelines;
  • Identifying evidence that will demonstrate competent practice;
  • Listening attentively;
  • Being open and sharing information;
  • Giving and seeking feedback – praise work well done; affirm and develop skills;
  • Recognising experience and acknowledging contributions;
  • Promoting anti discriminatory practice and behaviour;
  • Reflecting, thinking through and exploring options;
  • Developing action plans;
    1. In respect of current work;
    2. To address areas of work that are not up to the required standard.
  • Timescales for action plans;
  • Implementing action agreed in supervision;
  • Discussing, agreeing and reviewing the supervision agreement at least annually;
  • Discussing feedback on Observed Practices carried out at during the previous month.

The supervisor has a further responsibility to:

  • Encourage a positive attitude to supervision;
  • Work towards creating an open and honest 'learning' environment in supervision;
  • Help the supervisee reflect and analyse any presenting problem;
  • Clarify and summarise both the content and the perceptions of the issues under discussion;
  • Deal with the situation early if there are concerns about the professional competence or behaviour of the supervisee giving specific and concrete example of these concerns;
  • Confront and challenge constructively;
  • Be aware of how issues of anti-discriminatory practice may affect the supervisory relationship;
  • Ensure that supervision does not become solely a workforce management tool;
  • Identify training and development needs and the need to consolidate practice in line with knowledge and skills statements for qualified social workers;
  • Assist with generating solutions and realistic action plans;
  • Avoid running out of time or not facing up to risks/difficult issues.

The supervisee has a further responsibility to:

  • Maintain a competent standard of practice and to seek help and guidance if unable to do so for any reason;
  • Express opinions, disagree where appropriate and to learn from mistakes and be honest if unsure of what to do;
  • Make the supervisor aware of his or her own work and development needs;
  • Be open to feedback both about good practice and areas of concern;
  • Be open to challenge and take responsibility for higher learning and professional development, ensuring he/she keeps up to date with developments in Safeguarding via training and research;
  • Explore alternatives, find solutions and make realistic action plans;
  • Make any disagreements with the record of supervision known;
  • Do what you say you will do – be reliable;
  • Keep the child at the centre of discussions about practice.

Senior managers have a responsibility:

  • To be familiar with the supervision policy and guidelines;
  • To ensure that supervisors and supervisees are fulfilling their responsibilities and that the desired outcomes are being achieved using feedback tools as appropriate (see Appendix 3: Supervision Feedback Tool).

The Children's Management Team have a responsibility:

  • To ensure that supervision is given a high work priority, demonstrating their own commitment as required;
  • To assume overall responsibility for ensuring that the process is operating in a way that achieves the desired outcomes;
  • To monitor and evaluate the standard of the supervisory process and to undertake an Annual Audit as outlined in Tameside’s Quality Assurance Framework (see Appendix 4: Supervision Audit Tool/Guidance).

6. Confidentiality

It is important for the supervisor and supervisee to be clear about confidentiality in supervision and this should be made explicit in the supervision agreement. Information from supervision may inform discussions between the supervisor and her/his manager in relation to issues that impact on the work of the Directorate, particularly where there is risk to individuals or the Directorate. The supervisor has the right to share information that arises in supervision if:

  • The supervisee's works breaches agreed standards of practice - in this case, supervision records could be used in a discussion about training and development needs or when dealing with capability or grievance procedures;
  • The supervisee's behaviour gives rise for concern - the supervisor might need to refer to the line manager or Human Resources unit;
  • The supervisee's physical or emotional health requires referral to a medical or staff care professional.

Equally supervisees have a right to discuss any concerns with their supervisor's manager. These will include concerns about complaints with the process, such as:

  • The supervisor does not keep to the agreed agreement;
  • There are concerns about the quality of supervision offered;
  • There are concerns about the supervisors' standards of practice.

7. Frequency of Supervision

Staff Frequency
Newly qualified workers Weekly for first 3 months, fortnightly for 9 months.
Social Workers with 1 yr experience Monthly
Team Managers Monthly
Residential Home Managers Monthly
Head of Service Monthly
Support Service staff Monthly
Residential Child Care staff Monthly
All other staff groups Monthly

Part time staff should receive adequate and appropriate supervision. The frequency of supervision agreed with the staff member, taking into account the individual's working arrangements and the standard set out above.

8. Quality Assurance Framework

For supervision to be effective, it must be located within an overall Quality Assurance Framework (QAF). Tameside’s QAF is a whole system approach to organisational competence which reflects continuous improvement within a learning organisation. It identifies a range of quality assurance activity including performance management, despite resolution processes, complaints, file audits and supervision/ADR appraisal processes (see Appendix 5: Quality Assurance Framework).

9. Professional standards for Social Workers

Work is underway to develop a national assessment and accreditation system for Children’s Social Workers. The system will apply to 3 levels of practice:

  • Approved child and family Practitioner (ACFP);
  • Practice Supervisor (PS);
  • Practice Leader (PL).

A review of the Professional Capability Framework (PCF) is also underway at a national level. This will be the over-arching framework for professional development for all children’s social workers. Supervision and ADR appraisals should provide an opportunity to review a supervisee’s professional development against the key components of the PCF and HCPC standards. In addition, supervision should take account of the Knowledge and Skills statement (KSS) published in July 2014 for children’s social workers (see Appendix 6: DfE Knowledge and skills for child and family social work). It clearly outlines the need for all Children’s Social Workers to know and be able to do the following:

  1. The role of child and family social work;
  2. Child development;
  3. Adult mental ill health, substance misuse, domestic violence, physical ill health and disability;
  4. Abuse and neglect of children;
  5. Effective direct work with children and families;
  6. Child and family assessment;
  7. Analysis, decision making, planning and review;
  8. The Law and the family justice system;
  9. Professional ethics;
  10. The role of supervision and research;
  11. Organisational context.

All of the above should be reflected upon within the supervisory and ADR process.

It is important to ensure that documented shared learning in Supervision sessions is entered into the social work learning logs as part of a Continuous Professional Development (CPD) portfolio. This will provide up to date evidence for HCPC professional standards.

10. Appendices

Appendix 1: Supervision Pro-forma for Social Work Practitioners and Support Workers

Appendix 2: Supervision Pro-forma for Managers

Appendix 3: Supervision Feedback Tool

Appendix 4: Supervision Audit Tool/Guidance

Appendix 5: Quality Assurance Framework

Appendix 6: DfE Knowledge and skills for child and family social work