SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter describes Gloucestershire’s Children Services arrangements for the professional and children’s case supervision of social work practitioners and managers at all levels.
In January 2023 this policy was extensively re-written to accommodate the implementation of Systemic Practice within Children’s Services.
The purpose of this document is to ensure a consistent approach to supervision throughout Children's Services in support of the Vision, Values and Principles that we are working to. Supervision is central to effective social work and is held up in the Post-Qualifying Standards (PQS) for child and family practitioners, and the PQS for practice supervisors.
Supervision is a respectful, reflective, accountable, and reciprocal process that facilitates the following outcomes:
- Good practice that impacts positively on children, young people, and families;
- Psychological safety and support for staff;
- Continuing professional development and progression.
It is recognized that most supervision happens in less formal day-to-day discussions and meetings, but good supervision must include regular (at least monthly) protected space and time. It takes a number of shapes, and we trust our managers and practitioners to use these proportionately to arrive at the outcomes noted above. That is, we expect supervision to offer greater attention, emphasis and grip to those areas where need is apparent, and to bring a lighter touch where progress is evident and self sustaining. We acknowledge in this approach that there can be a risk of missing emerging need, and so managers are expected to use effective evaluation tools to calibrate the right levels of supervision needed for children/young people, supervisees, and service areas.
Formal and informal supervision offers one of the strongest ways of modelling our culture and being congruent with the key systemic concepts that we are incorporating at all levels. “Reflective supervision can be the space where a learning culture takes root, from the bottom up. When the right building blocks are in place, and opportunities for critical reflection are provided at all strategic levels, reflective supervision seems to offer both supervisors and supervisees the chance to take a step back from process and procedure, to explore what is shaping practice and support supervisees to develop and apply professional judgement” (RiP, 2017) .
 Earle, F., Fox, J., Webb, C., Bowyer, S. (2017) Reflective Supervision: Resource Pack. Research in Practice.
2. Different Forms of Supervision
2.1 1:1 Supervision
As noted above, 1:1 supervision can cover tremendously valuable unplanned day-to-day conversations, along with formal protected times when supervisor and supervisee come together. Both are expected to work towards the 3 outcomes listed above, and do so through the following 4 key elements, all of which involve the supervisor and supervisee being reflective and reflexive:
Practice supervision and management oversight:
In this the participants discuss ongoing work with children, young people and families and issues arising from this. The nature of these discussions will follow the supervisor’s lead, but we do expect to see good use of the following:
- The Essentials 2.0 prompts for Management Oversight, the Anchor Principles, and the Risk Principles;
- Four simple systemic supervisory prompts:
- Purpose: why are we involved?
(what do we think this is?)
(what does the family think this is and does it make sense to them?);
- Reflexivity: what do we bring to this situation?
(how does the family relate to the key issues?)
(how do we relate to the key issues?);
- Our relationship:
(how do we understand the relationship between us and the family, including our history together?)
(what are relationships like across the professional network?);
- Impact: what kind of impact are we making and how can we make this even more positive?
- Purpose: why are we involved?
- The use of systemic practice principles that are relevant to the child/young person and family. This can include, (but is not limited to), circularity and circular questions; curiosity; hypothesizing and how meaning is made in the family and professional system; safe uncertainty; and family scripts, narratives and patterns;
- Equality, diversity, inclusion, and participation of children, young people and families will be prominent in our supervisory discussions. The systemic practice concepts of reflexivity and the Social GRACES will be evident in this respect.
These discussions will give rise to key decisions which need to be recorded on the child’s record and reviewed in future supervision discussions. These key decisions need to be captured as Child-focused SMART actions to maintain grip and progress. It is the manager’s responsibility to ensure accurate and timely recording of their Management Oversight;
- Building psychological safety and support:
Children’s social work and early help is a demanding area to work in. “‘Workers’ state of mind and the quality of attention they can give to children is directly related to the quality of support, care and attention they themselves receive from supervision, managers and peers” (Ferguson, 2011). 
It is essential that supervision supports us to feel safe and contained in our practice and supported in ourselves. Effective practice discussions, attending to CPD and progression, and clear and consistent management all contribute to a sense of safety and support.
Supervision also needs to bring challenge; this should involve clear accountability-based discussions, providing opportunities to stretch and grow. It should also be open to where discussion is needed around the coming together of people’s personal and professional lives;
- Continuing professional development and progression:
Supervision needs to provide a space for learning. Every conversation about children, young people and families can foster learning for both the supervisee and the supervisor. Specific attention to the supervisee’s continuing professional development and progression should be incorporated into supervision. This will focus on the developmental priorities identified in appraisal and any other relevant progression/support plans, alongside those areas for learning that arise in unplanned ways.
It must enable, challenge and support workers to build effective professional relationships, develop good practice, and exercise both professional judgement and discretion in decision making.
There are many models, approaches, tools and techniques recommended for supervision. In GCC, our supervisors will continuously improve their supervisory skillset by investing in ongoing learning in this area and will bring this to bear in helpful and accessible ways that focus on the 3 supervisory outcomes. To see RiP’s resource on supervision, click here.
Attaching additional supervisory materials (e.g., Systemic Practice tools used to support supervisory discussions) to the child’s record, is good practice.
In line with the service’s Quality Framework, we encourage the regular use of the following 3 questions under the CPD element of supervision:
- How am I doing?
- How do I know this?
- What am I doing to improve?
- Management supervision:
Management supervision covers a wide array of areas including, but not limited to: leave and flexible working arrangements; following up on actions relating to key performance indicators; managing performance; responding to compliments and complaints; closing the loop on audit actions; allocations and workloads; and so forth. Whilst much of this is done in everyday conversations it is important that where needed this is discussed in protected 1:1 time.
Without which, the necessary planning and organization that contribute to a sense of safety and containment become compromised.
 Ferguson, H. (2011). Child Protection Practice. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
2.2 Group Supervision
All teams will hold monthly group reflective supervision. As a minimum this will align with team leaders’ (team manager and advanced practitioner) responsibility, under the QA Framework, to review the team’s audit from the previous month, through a thorough and reflective lens such that it builds shared learning.
Team leaders will add to this minimum in line with their self-evaluation and improvement planning for their teams. In this respect, the 3 Ofsted ILACS prompts (paraphrased) can prove particularly useful:
- How are we doing?
- How do we know this?
- What are we doing to improve?
Whilst group supervision offers a tremendous learning opportunity, it must be differentiated from other forms of Quality Improvement work delivered within/between teams. We therefore expect to see the prompts outlined in Section 2.1, 1:1 Supervision (Practice supervision and management oversight) above tailored to the preferred group supervision model employed by the supervisor(s).
More on group supervision, including models and tools can be found here.
In any one year (April 1st - 31st March), the supervisor should arrange to undertake two practice observations for all staff working with children, young people and families. Some examples of which may include a home visit, presentation at conference/meeting, attendance at Court or direct work with families. Supervisors/managers should ensure that the date of observation, as well as feedback and learning from this, are recorded within the supervisee’s supervision record.
2.4 Clinical Supervision
With the introduction of Systemic Practice, GCC is investing in clinical leadership to support supervisors and supervisees to increasingly incorporate systemic thinking, language, and practice into our services for children and families. This clinical leadership will also support the internal progression routes for staff looking to advance within Systemic Practice to levels 2 and above. These further qualified staff will be expected to add to the offer of clinical supervision in their teams’ group supervision and with any staff that they may be supervising.
3. Preparing for formal Supervision
Both supervisor and supervisee have a responsibility to fully prepare for formal supervision meetings. This begins with agreeing the terms of the supervision agreement (Appendix 1: Supervision Agreement).
Preparation for 1:1 supervision for the supervisor involves:
- Identifying any particular children/young people to be discussed; reviewing them as needed and notifying the supervisee to enable them to prepare for these discussions;
- Using all relevant management and team information to scope relevant areas for discussion with the supervisee;
- Securing the protected time and space needed for supervision by gaining cover from a colleague manager wherever needed;
- Clearly revisiting agreed CPD, progression and improvement planning, to cover any key items in supervision.
For the supervisee this will involve:
- Identifying all children/young people needing to be discussed within the forthcoming supervision and preparing for these discussions by updating the selected children/young people’s case summaries with the four systemic prompts in Section 2.1. This creates an ease of reference within supervision and to anyone accessing the file (as these are updated following the supervisory discussion);
- To close the loop on actions from the previous supervision and bring this to the meeting;
- To update on progress against identified CPD and progression activities or raise self-defined areas for development.
Supervision should be booked into both parties’ Outlook calendars by the supervisor and should be planned, so that both parties are aware of the dates for the year ahead. Sufficient time will be allowed to enable a quality supervision to take place. Should the supervision need to be unavoidably changed, it is then the responsibility of the person needing to change the meeting, to re-schedule this in as near a date as possible.
It is perfectly appropriate for the supervisee to challenge the supervisor about the frequency, quality and availability of the supervisor. Where this is not leading to a resolution, the supervisee and supervisor should together approach the supervisor’s line manager to discuss and agree a resolution.
4. Frequency of Supervision
The frequency of formal or informal supervision relates to the needs of the child/young person and/or the supervisee. The following indicators therefore relate to minimum timescales which should be accelerated or decelerated in line with the presenting needs. To facilitate this, GCC will provide supervisors with accessible and agile recording processes (see Section 6, Recording below).
In all cases it is the responsibility of the supervisee to bring to the attention of the supervisor any significant changes in circumstances, where frequency of supervisions may need to be increased or where an ‘ad hoc discussion or decision’ is needed.
Formal practitioners’ 1:1 supervision should take place monthly (no more than 25 working days apart) as a minimum. Group supervision with practitioners should also take place monthly as a minimum. Supervision with operational managers of practice (at all levels) should also take place monthly as a minimum. Supervision with non-operational staff and managers should take place every 2 months as a minimum.
A set of minimum timescales for key supervisory tasks is available in Appendix 2: Timescales for Key Supervisory tasks.
For children/young people where more than one member of Local Authority staff is involved with them, joint supervision can be considered where it is helpful and effective to do so.
5. Special groups
5.1 Students and Social Work Apprentices
Students are offered supervision on a weekly basis, for a minimum of 90 minutes per week. Week 1 is with their Placement Supervisor with a focus on ‘casework’, and week 2 is with their Practice Educator, which reviews an overview of ‘casework’ and also considers wider learning (linking theory and legislation to practice and critical reflection). They will have supervision contracts and supervision agreements with the Supervisor and Educator.
Students are also offered a peer reflective group once a month, facilitated by the Academy.
5.2 Newly Qualified Social Workers
During the Assessed and Supported Year of Employment (ASYE), the supervision for newly qualified social workers will be tailored to their needs, but there will be increased supervision alongside protected time dedicated to learning and development. Newly Qualified Social Workers will also have a reduced case load as set out in the ASYE handbook.
5.3 CP Chairs & children on lengthy plans
CP Chairs and IROs receive 4-weekly supervision; and every child approaching 9 months subject to a ‘Child Protection’ plan will be discussed in supervision six weeks prior to the Review Child Protection Conference at month 9.
Where concerns have been raised and not been resolved, the conference chair’s Team Manager may invite the allocated social worker and team manager to this discussion, to jointly review the child’s case.
The focus of this dedicated supervision is the following:
- Is the Child Protection plan effective in safeguarding the child/ren? If not, what needs to change?
- What are the family’s views?
- What is working well?
- Is any immediate action required / case escalation?
- Is there evidence that the Core Group is driving the plan? If not, what needs to be addressed at the forthcoming Review Child Protection Conference (RCPC) and how should the plan be developed? The Child Protection Conference Team Manager and conference chair should agree how these issues will be addressed at, or prior to, the forthcoming RCPC;
- Are family solutions (e.g., FGC) being used?
- Is there evidence that PLO or care proceedings should be considered?
- Is there evidence that it may be possible to end the child protection plan?
- Are there any issues regarding practice that need to be raised with the operational Team Manager, Service Manager and Head of Service?
- Are there any issues regarding multi-agency working that need to be addressed at the RCPC and /or raised with the Head of Quality Assurance and Safeguarding?
The Child Protection chair will ensure any issues of concern are addressed with the relevant Team Manager, Service Manager and Head of Service in advance of the RCPC to enable effective decision making and progression of the case within the RCPC.
Discussions about children and young people’s cases needs to be recorded directly onto the child’s record. Management oversight and decisions need to be recorded by the supervisor; and the practitioner will update the 4 systemic prompts in the child/young person’s case summary, in line with the supervisory discussion. Supervision notes (by both supervisor and supervisee) are expected on the child/young person’s record within 1 working day from the date of the discussion.
These reflective supervision sessions must be captured and recorded by the supervisor on Liquid Logic as a case note. The actions from these sessions should be incorporated into our service to the child.
All CPD, progression and management discussions in formal 1:1 supervisions should be recorded on the professional supervision template (Appendix 3: Template for Professional Supervision – Social Workers). Given this may hold confidential information this should be typed up by the team manager, signed by both parties and kept in their respective P: drives. Names of personal details of children and their families will not be recorded in Professional Supervision notes, however ID numbers may be used. Disagreements should be recorded together with proposed activities to resolve or escalate as required.
6.1 Confidentiality and Retention
The supervisor must share a copy of the 1:1 supervision record with the supervisee and, unless the supervisor raises points to add/amend this record, this is accepted as an agreed record of the discussion. The e-mail trail serves in lieu of a signature.
It is the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that all supervision records are transferred to the new manager if they, or the supervisee, move (Business Support will assist). It is good practice to have a 3way hand over supervision when there is a change of manager within a team, to share strengths, areas of development and any other important information that needs handing over. This should be a transparent and open discussion with the supervisee present.
There are circumstances where it may be necessary for supervisors to discuss information gained from supervision with senior managers. Supervision records may be released for the purpose of monitoring the quality of supervision, or used as documentation in disciplinary or legal proceedings. Supervision records are the property of Children's Services. Where issues of a sensitive nature are contained within a supervision record, the confidentiality of such material should be protected in line with the Data Protection Act (2018).
Appendix 2: Timescales for Key Supervisory tasks (can be done via formal, group and/or informal supervision)