Supervision provides a safe environment for critical reflection, challenge and professional support that operates alongside an organisation's appraisal process. It includes time for reflection on practice issues that arise in the course of everyday work, and can help social workers and their managers to do their jobs more effectively. It enables social workers to develop their capacity to use their experiences to review practice, receive feedback on their performance, build emotional resilience and think reflectively about the relationships they have formed with children, adults and families.
The key elements of effective supervision encompass:
1. Quality of decision making and interventions
This aspect of supervision provides the opportunity to focus on the challenges faced by social workers in carrying out their work. It includes reflection on what work has been done, plans for future interventions and actions, and discussions on improvements in practice. There should be a focus on protecting the public and delivering effective services, with time spent reflecting on the relationships that have been formed with children, adults and families, and the mental and physical health of the social worker. Barriers to effective working on particular cases, including levels of stress experienced by the social worker, should be identified and addressed. The supervisor should be an experienced and registered social worker, usually with expertise in the same area of practice, and should encourage shared professional decision making.
2. Line management and organisational accountability
This element of supervision provides mutual organisational accountability between the employer and the employee on behalf of the public. It is a tool for monitoring the quantity and the quality of the work being done. It involves the evaluation of the job and the organisational effectiveness of the employee, and includes appraisal. This aspect of supervision is essential for all staff in the organisation, and is carried out by the line manager.
3. Caseload and workload management
Supervision should include an analysis of caseload and workload management, and address any issues relating to the extent to the time available to work directly with children, adults and families as well as meeting other demands. There should be a focus on protecting the public, delivering effective services and identifying barriers to effective practice. This may be included in the line manager's role.
4. Identification of further personal learning, career and development opportunities
Supervision in this context is about monitoring and promoting continuing professional development, including maintaining social work registration. This could include career development advice and time to explore professional development opportunities such as further qualifications. This can be included in the line manager's or professional supervisor's role.