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GloucestershireChildren's Social Care Procedures Manual

Supervision Policy


This Supervision Policy is for all practitioners working with children and young people in Gloucestershire, and has been written following a working party including Jane Wonnacott - Director In-Trac, Fiona Walker - Prospects and Sarah Holtom - PSW Children's Services.

This chapter describes Gloucestershire's Children Services arrangements for the effective supervision of all social work practitioners and managers and service leaders and guidance for the supervision of other professionals and non social work practitioners and managers. Purpose, method and standards are described within the supervision framework and links provided to the Supervision Standards (Appendix 1: Supervision Standards), Supervision Agreement Templates (see Appendix 3: Supervision Agreement) and to the Record of Supervision Template (see Appendix 4: Record of Supervision). This policy was agreed in October 2016 and was added in January 2017. You may also find useful supervision resources on the Research in Practice (RIP) website.


  1. A Framework for Effective Supervision in Gloucestershire
  2. The Objectives of Reflective Effective Supervision
  3. Gloucestershire's Supervision Standards
  4. Principles of Effective Supervision
  5. How we do Supervision in Gloucestershire
  6. How to Structure Supervision Reflective Discussions
  7. Recording of Supervision
  8. Training of Staff for Effective Supervision
  9. Appendix 1: Supervision Standards
  10. Appendix 2: The 4x4x4 Model of Supervision
  11. Appendix 3: Supervision Agreement
  12. Appendix 4: Record of Supervision
  13. Appendix 5: Issues that have Arisen from Case / 1:1 Discussions

1. A Framework for Effective Supervision in Gloucestershire

Introduction We know that good social work/practice involves the ability to develop and maintain relationships, to manage the emotional demands of the work and to make judgements and decisions, often in the light of conflicting information (Wonnacott 2012). This is demanding work and will only be effective if social workers/practitioners are encouraged and supported to reflect critically on their practice and to continue to develop their knowledge and skills.

Supervision is a fundamental task that managers will undertake to support the development of their staff's skills and practices in work with children, young people and families and the safeguarding of those in their care. Following the inquiry of Victoria Climbie Lord Laming stated that:

"All staff working directly with children must be regularly supervised"
(Lord Laming Victoria Climbie Inquiry Report 2003)

It is important that supervision provides support, challenges practitioners to critically reflect on their cases and develops an inquisitive approach to their work, and is based on a good understanding of the key elements of effective supervision, as well as the evidence and research that underpins good practice.


There are different types of supervision, e.g. informal and formal, group supervision, peer supervision. This framework specifically addresses 'formal supervision' i.e. one to one supervision between line manager and supervisee. However, the expectations, principles and purpose of supervision outlined in the policy are relevant to all types. Informal supervision is often on-going in teams, as staff members seek advice and help in situations that they deal with on a continuing basis. This is good practice but should NOT replace a formal supervision session. Significant issues discussed through informal supervision should be clearly recorded immediately and revisited at all formal sessions.

Supervision is a partnership between the supervisee, the supervisor and the organisation.

The model of supervision in Gloucestershire Children's Services is based upon Wonnacott's (2012) 4x4x4 model and is designed to be a practical tool which helps to promote reflective supervision.

The framework includes:

  • The four stakeholders in supervision:
    • Service users;
    • Staff;
    • The organisation;
    • Partner organisations.
  • The four functions of supervision:
    • Management;
    • Development;
    • Support;
    • Mediation.
  • The four elements of the supervisory cycle:
    • Experience;
    • Reflection;
    • Analysis;
    • Action.

The way of thinking about social work supervision recognises the interdependence of each element, and therefore moves away from a static, function-based approach. Whilst the functions of supervision are part of the model, it promotes a dynamic style of supervision that puts relationships at the heart of the process by using the reflective supervisory cycle to fulfil the four functions and promote positive relationships with key stakeholders.

The four stages of the supervision cycle promote reflective practice, critical thinking and defensible decision making. Using it as a basis for discussions can therefore be considered optimum for effective supervision on casework and other opportunities for learning.

2. The Objectives of Reflective Effective Supervision

Professional supervision is a process in which the supervisor enables, guides, and facilitates the social care worker's/practitioner's development and need for support, in meeting certain organisational, professional and personal objectives. This occurs during formal prearranged meetings and in less formal day to day case discussions, termed here as informal supervision. Development and support needs of supervisees should be addressed. The records of supervision should enable a child/young person to understand the reason for provision of services if s/he accesses his/her file.

These objectives are:

  • To continually improve the quality of services to, and outcomes for, children, young people and families;
  • To ensure the supervisee is clear about roles and responsibilities;
  • To recognise the impact of what can be emotionally demanding work with children, young people and families on the supervisee and agree ways to manage these pressures/demands;
  • To debrief and offer support following significant events that have impacted on the supervisee;
  • To consider the supervisee's personal safety when undertaking his / her work and take action;
  • To identify the supervisee's learning and development needs and arrange to meet them through the use of self-directed learning, courses, coaching, mentoring, job shadowing, research and literature, peer learning sessions;
  • To signpost the supervisee to useful literature and research, and the policy and procedures, to support evidence informed practice;
  • To maintain a record of the supervisee's learning and development as in the Performance Management Development Scheme (to maintain a record that tracks the supervisee's learning and development, and evaluates how this is impacting on their practice);
  • To provide feedback to the supervisee on his / her practice and performance and identify any actions for improvement/development, and acknowledge evidence of professional development and competence. (See paragraph 6.41 of The Munro Review of Child Protection: Final Report (2011);
  • To monitor the supervisee's progress in meeting the continuing professional development requirements for registration as a social worker (if applicable);
  • To put in place appropriate safeguards as necessary to ensure work is carried out safely e.g. social work visit by manager, involvement of further professionals;
  • To consider the resources the supervisee has available to do their job and discuss issues arising where they are not adequate;
  • To provide a safe environment in which practice can be discussed and reviewed. Professional challenge about casework practice, assessment, analysis and decision making between the supervisee and supervisor is an essential part of effective supervision and should take place in a respectful and child/young person focused manner;
  • To ensure the worker's practice accords with the Standards of Proficiency for Social Workers in England and Standards of Conduct. Performance and Ethics, issued by the Health and Care Professions Council (the regulatory bodies and standards laid out by the YST);
  • To ensure that the employer's practice accords with the Standards for Employers of Social Workers in England and Supervision Framework developed by the Social Work Reform Board and held by the Local Government Association (for YST, this could be merged with statement above);
  • Professional supervision is the key process for balancing professional autonomy with responsibility to the service user, professional ethics and standards, along with accountability to Children, Schools and Families and society as a whole.

3. Gloucestershire's Supervision Standards

In order to achieve the objectives outlined above, we have developed 8 Standards to ensure effective supervision (Appendix 1: Supervision Standards):

  1. The relationship between the supervisor and supervisee is strong and effective;
  2. Supervision is organised and evidenced through good recording;
  3. Supervision is a planned and purposeful activity and ensures that work/tasks are completed to the required standard;
  4. Supervision facilitates effective social and emotional support;
  5. Supervision facilitates critical reflection and analysis;
  6. Supervision promotes a commitment to diversity in all aspects of work;
  7. Supervision supports continuing professional development;
  8. Supervision facilitates a continued improvement in the quality of services to, and outcomes for, children, young people and their families.

4. Principles of Effective Supervision

All social care workers/practitioners will have a written supervision agreement which is consistent with this professional supervision policy. It should be reviewed at least annually and at each change of supervisor. (Please see Appendix 3: Supervision Agreement).

All social workers will have access to professional supervision provided by a registered social work supervisor where their line manager is not a qualified social worker.

All social care workers in Gloucestershire Children Services/practitioners will receive formal supervision sessions at least weekly during the first six weeks of their employment. This includes part time and agency staff. The frequency of supervision will then revert to a minimum of once per month, with the exception of newly qualified social workers, who will receive fortnightly supervision from their line manager and allocated consultant SW/PSW as agreed. The frequency may also be increased if the job they undertake requires it. For example workers in an Assessment Team may require more frequent supervision because of the short timescales involved (this example would probably not be relevant for YST).

Supervision will take place within the supervisor's and supervisee's paid hours of employment.

Supervisees and supervisors will select which priority cases will be discussed in each session; it is not necessary to discuss every allocated child/young person each session, but each child/young person (that continues to receive a service from Gloucestershire Children Services/YST) must be discussed at least once every 12 weeks, and that discussion must cover the developments, against the Care Plan, for that whole period. Supervision should promote continuous learning and knowledge sharing through which the supervisee should be encouraged to draw out their learning through reflection and analysis.

Supervision will take place in a quiet area where case details can be discussed without being overheard and where interruptions can be kept to a minimum. Access to ICS/electronic databases and other electronic records should be available.

Both supervisee and supervisor must be prepared for formal supervision session. For example supervisees must be able to give an update on children identified for discussion in the previous supervision.

Workers must know in advance which priority cases to discuss -

Supervision should reflect understanding and commitment to diversity and equalities issues. To ensure equality of opportunity it is necessary to have an understanding, and to work sensitively and knowledgeably, with diversity to identify the particular issues for a child and his / her family, taking account of experiences and family context.

If the supervisor is absent from work for a period longer than four weeks alternative formal supervision arrangements should be put in place within the following week. In any urgent situation a staff member should feel free to approach a manager for directions or support.

Any supervisee who is concerned about the quality or quantity of supervision received should discuss this with the supervisor and, if this does not resolve the matter, with the supervisor's line manager.

Gloucestershire Children Services /YST will undertake a Supervision Audit, against the Supervision Standards, every year and the findings shared with all staff members.

5. How we do Supervision in Gloucestershire

  1. All staff to have Supervision Agreement on file and for this to be reviewed annually or when supervisors change;
  2. Supervision committee to be established with representatives from all parts of the service (January 2017);
  3. 1-1 sessions with line manager every 4 weeks;
  4. Informal discussions with peers /manager;
  5. Reflective group supervision in teams based upon self reflection, analysis and planning (Senior practitioners to lead).

  6. Learning Circles – multi-disciplinary restorative space for reflection and continuous learning to support development in the Restorative Approach and BASE;
  7. BASE 2-1/3-1 meetings – support and challenge groups that are intended to focus on the development of competencies and practice application of the Restorative Approach and BASE;
  8. Practice Leader Meetings – learning/development, support and reflection group intended to focus on the development of leadership competencies and application of the Restorative Approach and BASE.

6. How to Structure Supervision Reflective Discussions

Discussions should start with an update from the worker as to their perception of any progress made.

Reflection on Experience – What happened/is happening?:

The discussion should cover what has prompted the need for learning or discussion, and an overview of what the worker has seen and done to contribute to their understanding of the child's situation. It is an opportunity to bring together what the child has said, what the worker has observed and what significant others have told them about the child. Some examples of questions that can be asked are:

  • What did you do?
  • What did you observe?
  • What did you find out? Where from?

Investigating the Experience through Reflection – restorative questions:

When workers make assumptions or get caught up in problematic dynamics with service users it can prove harmful for children and families. Reflection on the worker's experience is a crucial mechanism for revealing any potential dangerous areas of practice that are hidden from a worker's view. This takes courage and requires skilled and supportive supervisors. Some examples of questions that can be asked are:

  • What were you thinking at the time (and since)?
  • What were you feeling at the time (and since)?
  • Who has been affected and how?
    E.g. How did that emotional experience affect how you behaved? What you think/thought?
    How do you think the child/young person and/or their family feel? How do you know? What else might they be feeling? Any assumptions made?
  • What needs to happen now?
    E.g. Any missing information to be obtained?
  • Who/what can you call on to help with next steps?

Various resources on reflection and reflective practice are available from the Practice Education Team to support this dimension of casework supervision.

Understanding the Experience through Analysis – why are things the way they are?

Analysis integrates information from observations and reflection into professional evidence. Information needs to be interrogated to identify discrepancies so that meaning and significance can be elicited. Working hypotheses need to be mapped and located and tested against an external body of knowledge and theory. Questions to be asked include:

  • What is your understanding of the child's/young person's lived experience now having had the opportunity to stop and reflect?
  • What is your hypothesis about why the family are experiencing the difficulties that have led to professional involvement?
  • What is your hypothesis about why the child/young person/family are behaving the way they are – what needs are their behaviours fulfilling?
  • What is your evidence?
  • What are the discrepancies that refute the hypothesis?
  • What research backs or refutes this?
  • What don't we know?
  • What are the alternative explanations?
  • If your understanding is accurate what does this mean for the child?

Consideration should also be given as to whether learning from the discussion can be applied to other situations.

What next:

Actions that lead from the reflection and analysis should be clear, SMART and recorded with an explanation of how outcomes for the child and family will be improved as a result.

They are agreed between the supervisor and the supervisee, clearly noting what will be done, by whom, and by when.

7. Recording of Supervision


The contract between a supervisee and a supervisor should clearly outline the expectations, support and challenge in relation to both parties as outlined above. This should be discussed, agreed and signed off at the beginning of the supervisory arrangement. The contract should form part of the supervision records and should be reviewed annually (see Appendix 3: Supervision Agreement).


The Supervision Agreement is the initial record between both parties.

All supervision sessions must be recorded by the supervisor (see Appendix 4: Record of Supervision).

Records of supervision should be signed off and dated by supervisor and supervisee. All records of supervision are confidential and should be stored securely by the supervisor. They will/could be subject to inspection and audit.

Records should ensure case management decisions of individual cases through supervision are recorded on the individual CYP and family records held by the organisation. Hand written records must be eligible.

The standard format supplied in the appendices should be used as a framework for recording purposes.

8. Training of Staff for Effective Supervision

It is mandatory for all supervisors (managers) that provide supervision to staff to undertake the 3 day supervision training, currently run by Intra. It is mandatory for all social workers (supervisees) to attend the 1 day supervision training, to know what good supervision looks like.


Appendix 1: Supervision Standards

Appendix 2: The 4x4x4 Model of Supervision

Appendix 3: Supervision Agreement

Appendix 4: Record of Supervision

Appendix 5: Issues that have Arisen from Case / 1:1 Discussions