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1.1.5 Social Work Supervision Policy

This chapter was added to the manual in May 2014.


  1. Introduction
  2. Scope
  3. Definition of Social Work Supervision
  4. Purpose and Functions of Supervision
  5. The Conduct of Supervision
  6. Supervision Contract
  7. Anti Discriminatory Practice
  8. Observation of Practice
  9. Recording of Supervision and the Status of Supervision Records
  10. Potential Disagreement and Resolution
  11. Confidentiality
  12. The Relationship Between Supervision and the PDRs
  13. Rights and Responsibilities

    Appendix 1: Children's Services Contract

    Appendix 2: Supervision Record Sheet

    Appendix 3: Observation of Practice

1. Introduction

Supervision is regarded as a key means of ensuring management accountability including casework planning, the allocation of cases and monitoring and evaluating the individual’s work in line with Children’s Services and London Borough Of Havering policies. It is supported by the organisational structure and a positive learning environment. A learning environment requires:

  • Clear organisation values and goals – a vision statement and plan – in Children’s Services this is the Children and Young People’s Plan (CYPP) and the statement “Doing the right thing for children and young people”;
  • High quality leadership;
  • Strategic planning and review systems;
  • Clear policies, procedures and standards – available to everyone – which in Children’s Services are being developed with our partners, tri.x;
  • Clear thresholds and eligibility levels for service;
  • A robust Performance Management framework;
  • Effective workforce development;
  • Structures for interagency and partnership working; and
  • Embedded methods of consultation with staff.
“The combination of effective supervision arrangements, together with a suitable working environment, manageable workloads, supportive management systems and access to continuous learning, will help to ensure that social workers are able to provide good and responsive services for children, adults and families. By creating these conditions, employers will help to provide a setting in which social workers choose to work and remain.”
(Social Work Reform Board, 2010)

Supervision is a two way process involving rights and responsibilities on the part of both supervisors and those individuals that they supervise. This Policy helps to identify what good quality supervision looks like, how supervisors and managers can use supervision to develop resilient practitioners and teams. It is also in line with the “Standards for Employers of Social Works in England and Supervision Framework” developed by the Social Work Reform Board. See Social Worker Standards - Social Work Reform Board.

The Standards state that employers should:

  • Ensure that the social work supervision is not treated as an isolated activity by incorporating it into the organisation’s social work accountability framework;
  • Ensure that Social Workers are encouraged to reflect learning and knowledge with peers;
  • Provide regular supervision training for the oversight of appropriate supervision and for issues that arise during supervision;
  • Provide additional professional supervision by a registered social worker for practitioners whose line manager is not a social worker;
  • Ensure that supervision takes place regularly and consistently – monthly for experienced practitioners and more frequently for new recruits and Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSWs) completing their Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE);
  • The frequency and quality of supervision is monitored.

2. Scope

This Policy applies to all Social Worker’s employed by London Borough of Havering whether permanent or temporary (including locum or agency staff) and on a full time or part time basis. Students and any trainees on placement may have separately negotiated contracts but the same principles apply.

In the context of this Policy, supervision is a formal process between an individual member of staff and their immediate manager in which workload, objective setting, performance monitoring and learning and development of the staff member is discussed and reviewed so that guidance can be provided and learning and change can take place. It is recognised however that in more general terms supervision is an ongoing process and can take place in many forms. Other methods include group supervision, unplanned or ad hoc supervision and peer supervision but it must be noted that these methods cannot replace formal supervision.

3. Definition of Social Work Supervision

"Professional supervision is “a process by which one worker is given responsibility by the organisation to work with another worker(s) in order to meet certain organisational, professional and personal objectives, which together promote the best outcomes for service users.”
(Morrison, 2005)

“Supervision is an accountable process which supports and assures and develops the knowledge, skills and values of an individual work or team. The purpose is to improve the quality of their work to achieve agreed objectives and outcomes. In social care and children’s services this should optimise the capacity of people who use services to lead independent and fulfilling lives. Supervision should be open and supportive, focusing on the quality of decisions, good risk analysis and improving outcomes for children rather than meeting targets.”
(Laming, 2003)

4. Purpose and Functions of Supervision

Supervision, as per the four functions model (Morrison and Wonnacott, 2010) covers the following:

4.1 Management Function

The aims of the management function are to ensure:

  • The quality of performance;
  • That Council’s policies and procedures are understood and followed;
  • That the Health and Social Care Council (HCPC) Professional Standards for Social Workers are adhered to; see Standards of Proficiency - Social Workers in England.
  • That staff are consulted and briefed about organisational developments;
  • The supervisee understands her/his role and responsibilities;
  • The supervisee is clear as to the limits and use of their personal, departmental and statutory authority;
  • Work is reviewed regularly in accordance with any statutory requirements and any risks assessed and managed;
  • The basis for decision making is clear to the supervisee and made explicit in agency records;
  • Both supervisors and supervisee’s records are maintained in accordance with the Policy;
  • The supervisee knows when the supervisor expects to be consulted;
  • The supervisee is given an appropriate workload;
  • Appropriate time management by the supervisee;
  • The supervisee acts as a positive member of the team;
  • Recognition of the supervisee’s achievements;
  • Clarity with regard to the relationship between supervision and other formal departmental procedures which may from time to time need to be invoked in order to address issues relating to the supervisee’s performance, discipline and competence;
  • Health and Safety guidance and information;
  • The supervisee is performance managed via the Corporate Competency Framework, with a Performance Review (PDR) every six months.

4.2 Support Function

The aims of the supportive function are:

  • To create a safe climate for the supervisees to look at their work and its impact on them personally, including the maintenance of professional boundaries with service users;
  • To debrief the supervisee and give them permission to talk about feelings, and cope with the emotional demands of work across all agencies and to help the supervisee explore emotional blocks to their work;
  • To explore in a safe setting issues about discrimination;
  • To support supervisees who are subject to any form of abuse either from service users or from colleagues, whether this be physical, psychological or discriminatory;
  • To monitor the overall health and emotional functioning of the supervisees, especially with regard to the effects of stress;
  • To help the supervisee reflect on difficulties in colleague relationships, to assist the supervisee in resolving conflict;
  • To clarify when the supervisee should be advised to seek external counselling; and
  • To provide appropriate feedback, recognition and praise.

4.3 The Learning and Development Function

The aims of the learning and development function are to monitor:

  • The competence of the supervisee in relation to the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) for Social Workers and assessment of their professional development against this Framework. See Professional Capabilities Framework for Social Workers, The British Association of Social Workers.
  • Social Workers will need to self assess against the PCF in Supervision and on a yearly basis to be discussed at part of their PDR. The PCF is linked to the Core Competency Framework (CCF). A tool for this can be found in the online procedures manual linked to this policy;
  • Additionally, Social Workers can self assess against the PCF using The College of Social Work e-portfolio.

Assessment will include:

  • The supervisee’s theoretical base, skills, knowledge and individual contribution to the organisation;
  • The supervisee’s value base in relation to race, gender, disability and its impact on their work;
  • Access to consultation and development opportunities in areas outside the supervisor’s knowledge/experience;
  • The extent to which practitioners are thoughtful, flexible and critical and have the capacity for self-appraisal, critical reflection and the ability to rethink and reformulate their professional approach to each situation and case;
  • How evidence has informed practice, research and the role of the practitioner’s ‘gut feelings’; and
  • The impact of regular and constructive feedback to the supervisee, on all aspects of assessment.

4.4 Mediation Function

The aims of the mediation function are to:

  • Highlight resource deficits and implications to the line manager;
  • Negotiate the use of resources in the most efficient way;
  • Represent staff needs to higher management;
  • Negotiate and clarify the team’s remit;
  • Initiate, clarity or contribute to service provision;
  • Involve staff in decision making;
  • Deal sensitively, but clearly, with complaints about staff;
  • Assist and coach staff, when appropriate, through complaints procedures;
  • Management of partnership relationships.

5. The Conduct of Supervision

It is a requirement of CPS Managers or supervisors to hold supervision sessions with the staff that they manage. Supervision sessions will take place at least monthly or the equivalent of one month’s work for workers who work on a part time basis. Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSWs) undertaking the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) Programme will be supervised weekly for the first six weeks and then fortnightly for the first six months and thereafter monthly.

The dates and times of supervision should be arranged in advance by agreement. Any arrangements will only be changed by mutual agreement and a new arrangement will be made for the earliest possible time and date available. When cancelled due to sickness, supervision must take place within five working days of return to work.

Supervision sessions will take on average one and a half to two hours although this may vary according to need.

Physical arrangements for supervision sessions will ensure as much privacy as possible and prevent interruptions from visitors or the telephone. Where the supervisor is not based at the same place as the supervisee the supervisor should usually travel to the supervisee’s base for the session. This will give them an opportunity to see the supervisees work environment. Additional supervision activities can take place in different settings e.g. ad hoc, via the telephone etc. or in Team groups. However, these are in addition to the formal monthly meeting.

6. Supervision Contract

Every supervisee will have an individual supervision contract (see: Appendix 1: Children's Services Contract) with their supervisor which will be reviewed at least annually. The process of developing this contract is as important as the existence of the completed written document itself.

The purpose of a contract is to establish the basis for which the supervisor and the supervisee will work together during their supervision sessions. This should be done through negotiation and should clarify the rights and expectations on both sides to create a secure and effective supervisory relationship.

The following should be discussed and included in the supervision contract:

  • The purpose of supervision;
  • The frequency of supervision;
  • The venue;
  • Any specific responsibilities of the supervisor or supervisee;
  • The recording of supervision;
  • The arrangements for ad-hoc supervision;
  • The complaints and review process;
  • The practical arrangements for setting dates/cancelling and rearranging sessions;
  • The arrangements for agenda setting.

The completed supervision contract should be signed by both the supervisor and the supervisee and placed on the supervisee’s personal supervision file.

7. Anti Discriminatory Practice

Although a supervisee is accountable to the organisation through their supervisor consideration must be given to the power balance in supervision and the needs of supervisees who could be the subject of discrimination through race, gender, disability and sexuality. The supervisee may need additional support and/or guidance outside of supervision for example through a mentor or appropriate staff network. Supervision sessions should always consider whether the supervisee’s work with service users is firmly based on anti-discriminatory practice.

8. Observation of Practice

The supervisor will observe the supervisee’s practice on at least two occasions per year in line with and to inform the performance management process. These sessions should be planned and agreed in advance and relevant permissions sought from service users or professionals who may also be part of the observed session. The observation report will kept in the supervisee’s personal folder for discussion at subsequent supervision sessions. A random sample will also be sent to the Quality Assurance Team for audit purposes and assessment of themes that might be occurring. Guidance for these sessions is set out on the Observation of Practice Template (see Appendix 2: Supervision Record Sheet).

Other independent observation sessions may take place as needed in line with or to assess the developmental needs of the supervisee and can be carried out by a suitably qualified and experienced external observer or a manager from another area within Children’s Services.

9. Recording of Supervision and the Status of Supervision Records

Supervision is made up of two components:

1. Personal Supervision

Personal supervision considers:

  • Review of previous minutes;
  • Current issues: Management, Personal Support, Learning/development, Organisational matters, Generic Practice issues and evidence of Critical Analysis;
  • Challenges posed;
  • Learning/Actions/Strategies.

Personal supervision should be signed by both supervisor and supervisee. The supervisee will keep one copy and the other will be placed on the supervisees supervision file to provide a record of the discussion and an action plan for both the supervisor and the supervisee to carry out between sessions. Whilst it is recognised that many members of staff prefer to keep records electronically in the case of supervision records hard copies must be put in supervision files to safeguard both the supervisor and supervisee in the case of investigations (e.g. disciplinary and complaints investigations and to ensure that records are not altered in any way.

2. Case Management

The recording of supervision for individual cases is made on CCM and is the responsibility of the supervisor although the supervisee is advised to make their own contemporaneous notes.

The format for this Supervision is as follows:

  • Case Update;
  • What are we worried about/why?
  • What is working well? Barriers to progress;
  • Impact on Child;
  • What needs to happen and when.
Screenshot pf CCM
Click image for larger view

Cases should be discussed on a monthly basis. If it is not possible to discuss all cases at every supervision, The Manager and Supervisee should agree on those that require management attention with children subject to a child protection plan being discussed at least every two months. Every three months, Quarterly Supervision takes places to discuss:

  • Key issues relevant to the case;
  • The objectives;
  • Progress;
  • Impact and planned actions.
Screenshot pf CCM
Click image for larger view

All case notes are entered into the system against the supervision date, and not when the update is made in CCM.

Case Management records must be entered in CCM within 2 working days of the supervision session.

Any decisions requiring Management oversight will be sent as an action to the relevant Manager’s task list. The Manager can agree or disagree with the action, or request more information before signing off.

Maintaining proper records is a professional requirement and where there is a repeated failure to do so managers are required to take firm and prompt action using performance management and disciplinary procedures where appropriate. Supervision notes (i.e. notes kept in an individual’s Personal file) are the property of the LB Havering Children’s Services. Where a member of staff moves to a different part of Children’s Services, their supervision notes will be transferred over to the new supervisor.

Records will be kept for three years after a staff member has left Children’s Services. After this time they should be shredded.

10. Potential Disagreement and Resolution

If there are difficulties and disagreements it is expected that in the first instance the supervisor and supervisee take personal responsibility for making every effort to resolve the issues within the supervision session. Areas of disagreement between the supervisor and the supervisee will be recorded on the supervision records. Areas of disagreement that can not be resolved should be referred to the supervisor’s line manager. This will be done with the knowledge of both parties.

11. Confidentiality

Supervision is a private but not confidential process. This means that supervision records are the property of the organisation not the individual. Personal issues which affect or have the potential to affect the supervisee’s performance or service users will need to be recorded and may need to be raised with the supervisor’s line manager following discussion and with the knowledge of the supervisee.

Access to supervision records should be controlled and all records must be locked away so that others who do not have a legitimate right to see them can not access them. They must not be held on shared drives. From time to time supervisors, with the knowledge of the supervisee, will need to discuss the content of supervision sessions with others. Examples might include:

  • Senior managers for quality assurance purposes;
  • Investigation Officers e.g. for complaints;
  • Ofsted Inspectors;
  • Quality Assurance Officers in relation to audits;
  • Workforce Development Team for learning and development planning.

12. The Relationship Between Supervision and the PDRs

Supervision is a monthly one to one meeting between the supervisor and the supervisee in order to meet organisational, professional and personal objectives. It will inform the PDR Process the aims of which are for the individual and their team manager to:

  • Identify what has gone well and what hasn’t gone so well over the past six months;
  • Set measurable objectives in line with the team’s objectives for the coming year;
  • Have the opportunity to identify learning and development to help the individual carry out their roles better now and in the future.

Training and development and the Performance management processes are not a replacement for good supervision.

13. Rights and Responsibilities

13.1 Key messages for Supervisors

Being a supervisor is a significant responsibility and one which needs to be taken seriously.

London Borough of Havering and the individuals you supervise expect you to provide supervision that is:

  • Based on a written and signed contract;
  • Planned well in advance and only changed in exceptional circumstances;
  • Well structured, allowing both you and the supervisee to contribute to the agenda and listen to each others point of view;
  • Provided in an appropriate setting and free of interruptions;
  • Properly and promptly recorded with notes copied to the supervisee;
  • SMART – all actions are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely;
  • In accordance with this policy.

As a supervisor, you will be expected to have completed suitable training and also to attend refresher training as required. Details on available training and supervision resources can be provided by contacting CYPSLearning&

13.2 Key messages for Supervisees

Supervision is an important right and benefit for all those working in social care in the London Borough of Havering. It is the main way in which your work is monitored and reviewed. It also ensures that you are properly supported and continue to develop your skills. It is therefore important that you are fully involved and make the most of opportunities that supervision offers. In particular you should:

  • Prepare for each supervision session meeting by reviewing notes from the previous meeting and thinking about anything you want to raise and discuss. You may find it helpful to make a note of the issues you wish to discuss;
  • Bring to each supervision session all significant contacts since the last supervision which have not been discussed with your supervisor. Significant contacts will include issues that may have implications for elected members, attract media attention or have budgetary implications;
  • Bring to each supervision session all incidents of alleged harm which have not been discussed with your supervisor and contact from partners agencies who are escalating concerns;
  • Be ready to share your thoughts and ideas in the meeting. It is a two way process;
  • Be open about what has gone well and what you have found difficult;
  • Be ready to plan and undertake training and other developmental opportunities as agreed with your supervisor;
  • Check and read the notes of your meeting and make sure you follow through and complete any actions agreed.

13.3 Key message from Children’s Services

In order to be effective the supervision process requires monitoring and quality assurance arrangements. This process will ensure that:

  • The standards of supervision as outlined in this policy are being followed;
  • Individual supervision contracts are being developed, reviewed and used;
  • Supervision sessions are being recorded in the appropriate timescales;
  • Actions agreed in supervision are SMART;
  • The supervision process promotes equal opportunities and an anti discriminatory practice.


Appendix 1: Children's Services Contract.

Appendix 2: Supervision Record Sheet.

Appendix 3: Observation of Practice.