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1.1.8 Supervision Policy


  1. Introduction
  2. Policy Statement
  3. Scope of this Policy
  4. Definition of Supervision within the Performance Management Framework
  5. General Principles of Supervision for all Staff
  6. Frequency of Supervision
  7. Individual Supervision Agreements
  8. The Allocation of Supervisors
  9. Supervision Records and Case Allocation
  10. Quality Assurance
  11. Complaints
  12. Supervision Arrangements relating to Specific Teams or Circumstances
  13. Useful Information and Documents

    Appendix 1: Practice Standards for Supervisors

    Appendix 2: Guidance on the Recording of Clinical Supervision and Management Oversight within the Post Adoption Support Service

1. Introduction

The aim of this policy is to provide a framework for the professional supervision of all staff working in Kent County Council Specialist’s Children’s Services. The policy is in line with the recommendations of the Children’s Workforce Development Council(1) and the work of Eileen Munro(2). The principle aim is to ensure that it meets the needs of the service, the staff and their supervisors regardless of the area in which they work. The policy document should be read in conjunction with the related guidance document and practice standards.

2. Policy Statement

Kent County Council Families and Social Care Directorate are committed to ensuring that every member of the Social Care workforce receives good quality effective supervision on a regular basis. It recognises that the delivery of Social Care Services is a complex and demanding task and that staff are the key asset within the organisation in delivering high quality services that make a meaningful difference to service users lives. Professional supervision is critical to the way in which this can be achieved. This policy sets out how staff should be supervised and provides managers with the key elements needed to supervise staff in all relevant settings effectively.

3. Scope of this Policy

This policy applies to:

  • All staff employed by Kent County Council Children’s Social Services whether on a temporary (including agency staff), permanent, full time or part time basis. This includes any other professionals working within Children’s Social Services e.g. Occupational Therapists;
  • Supervisors employed by other agencies or Directorates with Kent County Council with responsibility for the supervision of Children’s Social Services staff.

4. Definition of Supervision within the Performance Management Framework

Individual performance management within Kent County Council Families and Social Care involves three interconnected elements:

  • Supervision - a regular one to one meeting between the supervisor and the supervisee in order to meet organisational, professional and personal objectives;
  • Appraisal - an annual meeting (reviewed six monthly), the aim of which being the review of objectives set the previous year, to set measurable objectives and/or targets in line with the teams objectives and/or targets for the coming year and to have the opportunity to identify future learning and development needs;
  • Development Plans - this forms part of the appraisal process and aims to encourage the supervisee to identify and evaluate learning that has taken place during the previous year and plan for learning and development opportunities for the coming year. A six monthly review will be conducted to ensure that the plans are still relevant and up to date in accordance with any changes, e.g. in working practices.

5. General Principles of Supervision for all Staff

The Social Work Reform Board(3) identifies four key elements for effective supervision. They suggest that supervision should:

  1. Improve the quality of decision making and intervention;
  2. Enable effective line management and organisational accountability;
  3. Identify and address issues related to caseloads and workload management;
  4. Help to identify and achieve personal learning, career and development opportunities.

With this in mind Kent County Council recognises and acknowledges that supervision is an implicit and explicit element of all social work discussions and should be considered as such. It is important to recognise that supervision does not occur only as a stand-alone event but as a continuum of daily social work practice. The supervision process is a key part of the performance management framework, and the recognition and understanding of the extensive sources of performance feedback will serve to enrich and strengthen formal supervision (see Quality Assurance Framework Procedure). Discussions held and recorded during supervision will form part of the appraisal process.

Formal one to one supervision will be explored in the following text, however there are two other methods for supervision which occur in addition to this. For the majority of staff, group and ad hoc supervision have a place but cannot and should not replace planned formal supervision.

Group supervision - This should be viewed as complementary to formal supervision. It will involve a group of staff all with the same, or similar tasks, meeting with a supervisor to discuss issues about their work or the way they work together as a team. This may be done in the context of a regular team meeting or as a separate session to look at specific issues.

Group supervision should be considered for staff from all levels of experience as an additional method of delivering professional development and learning. NQSW’s and SWA’s in particular are likely to benefit from this type of peer learning group, and supervisors in a District should consider how this could be jointly delivered.

Case Progression

Case Progression meetings are held once a week to discuss cases using the Signs of Safety format. There will be a QA tool sitting alongside the Case Progression process which will quality assure the effectiveness of the Case Progression Meetings

Unplanned or “ad hoc” supervision - The pace of work and the infrequency of supervision means that staff often have to “check something out” with a supervisor, obtain a decision or gain permission to do something in between formal supervision sessions. In addition, staff who work closely with their supervisor will be communicating daily about issues, problems arising, and changes in policies and procedures.

This form of supervision is, of course, a normal and acceptable part of the worker/supervisor relationship. There are however, three points to be borne in mind when considering unplanned or ad-hoc supervision:

Any decision made with regard to a child or family should be clearly recorded in the form of a case note. Information relating to more than one child in the family should be copied to all the children’s LIBERI records so that each child has a contemporary record of any decisions made which affect the whole family.

Any decision made by senior staff with regard to a child or family in which they are not the named supervisor for that case worker must also be clearly recorded in the child’s LIBERI record in the form of a case note. The designation and role of the senior staff member on that day must also be clearly recorded.

Where supervisees and supervisors work closely together this does not negate the need for one to one time together on a regular basis. However it is likely that the main focus of those sessions will be on the individual, their development, performance and any issues arising from their work that do not arise on a day to day basis.

The responsibility for recording unplanned supervision rests with the supervisor. Written notes may be provided to an administration officer for input; however the record must be checked and signed off by the responsible manager.

6. Frequency of Supervision

Kent County Council remains committed to providing regular planned supervision to all staff employed within Children’s Social Services, recognising supervision as a core mechanism to help social workers reflect on their practices. As such the frequency of supervision should reflect:

The minimum requirements as recommended by the Social Work Reform Board consider the supervisee’s level of experience and competence. Any particular circumstances that apply to the supervisee that means they may require more frequent supervision (e.g. a difficult piece of work, the level of risk associated with work, personal difficulties or relationships, performance issues of levels of stress).

The minimum frequency for supervision within Children’s Social Services is as follows:

Newly Qualified Social Workers must have fortnightly supervisions for the first six months of their professional practice, this may become three weekly for the remainder of their first year of practice. It is the supervisor’s responsibility to judge the worker’s level of competency; the decision should take into account how well the NQSW is progressing against their development plan. Supervision should not be adjusted to be less frequent if the supervisor has not observed at least one direct piece of work and judged it to be at an adequate level.

During this first year it will be important for the supervisor and supervisee to ensure that they record information which can be used as part of the record of achievement that will help to evidence that the NQSW has fulfilled the requirements of their probationary period.

It will be important to recognise that workers at the early point of their career will require additional care and support and as such this maybe offered utilising ad-hoc supervision between formal supervision sessions.

Social Workers, Senior Social Workers, Senior Practitioners, and Team Managers must have at least monthly supervision. In the case of experienced sessional social work staff working for the Out of Hours Service supervision may take place at a maximum of every six weeks.

Social Workers appointed from outside the UK should be offered supervision as NQSW’s for their first three months of their appointment regardless of how experienced they are or how long they have been qualified. Supervision frequency should only be adjusted when the supervisor is satisfied, via observed practice, that the worker is meeting the required standard of practice.

Social Work Assistants and other Parenting Support Staff employed by Specialist Children’s Services (non administrative) must have at least three weekly supervision by an experienced qualified Social Worker or Senior Practitioner for their first three months of employment. Supervision may become monthly thereafter, if the supervisor judges this appropriate. Group supervision is recommended to take place at least every three months. It is the responsibility if the Preventative Services Manager and the District Manager to ensure that this takes place.

Where more than one member of staff works with a child/family or across a sibling group, for example siblings in different placements or held by different teams, regular group supervision should be undertaken. The frequency of this can be arranged at a local level but all relevant supervisors must ensure that they and their supervisees are familiar with the plans and case work decisions being taken across all aspects of their children’s care and interventions with the family.

The supervision of part-time staff should follow the same frequency patterns as for full time staff and should not be scheduled on a pro rata basis. Local arrangements can be reached for staff who work for 15 hours or less per week, but these must be agreed by the relevant Service or District Manager.

Agency and temporary staff should receive supervision in the same way as permanent staff.

Supervision sessions for all staff should be at least one and a half hours long.

Agreed supervision time must be given priority over other activities and should not be cancelled unless there are exceptional circumstances which affect the core business of the organisation.

If a supervisor is absent from work for a long period (over one month) the senior manager must ensure that effective arrangements are in place for the supervision of the staff in that team. It is the overall responsibility of the District Manager to ensure that appropriate alternative supervisors are identified to cover for any long term absence.

Any deviation from the recommended frequency detailed, as a permanent feature, should be by agreement between both parties in the first instance. The reason for the decision should be clearly recorded in the Individual Supervision Agreement and agreed and signed by the District Manager or Service Manager as well as the supervisor and supervisee.

7. Individual Supervision Agreements

The process of developing Individual Supervision Agreements is as important as the written document itself. This process should begin at the first supervision session though may take more than one session to complete.

The purpose of the Individual Supervision Agreement is to establish a basis for which the supervisor and supervisee will work together during one to one supervision. This establishment of “ground rules” should be through negotiation and should clarify the rights and expectations on both sides to create a safe, secure and effective supervisory setting.

When establishing the supervision agreement the following issues should be discussed and set out in the agreement:

  • The purpose of supervision;
  • The frequency of supervision;
  • The duration of supervision;
  • The venue for supervision sessions (note: this should always be in a private room where others cannot easily overhear);
  • Any specific responsibilities of both supervisor and supervisee;
  • An arrangement by the supervisor to observe practice i.e. joint visits to families, observing meetings;
  • The recording of supervision should set out the recording of case discussion on case notes and separate recording of professional development and non case work related issues, including where records will be kept to safeguard confidentiality;
  • The arrangements for unplanned and ad-hoc supervision, and the responsibilities for case recording;
  • The complaints and review process;
  • An agreement of how and when information will be shared with others e.g. line managers;
  • The practical arrangements (e.g. the process if supervision has to be cancelled/re-arranged, an agreement that supervision will be uninterrupted, the anticipated length of each session);
  • The arrangements for agenda setting (e.g. both parties to submit agenda items before the session, or at the start of the session);
  • An expectation of the preparation required by both parties prior to supervision;
  • An acknowledgement that supervision sessions will be observed in order to promote the supervisors skill and expertise with a view to enhancing the supervision experience.

Each Individual Supervision Agreement will be different and should be regarded as a “living” document that is updated according to the changing needs of the supervisee. An example of this maybe where the frequency of supervision has been initially set and this subsequently changes as the member of staff develops professional competence, confidence and authority in their role. As a minimum it should be reviewed annually.

In some circumstances, staff employed by Children’s Social Services provide regular professional advice, support and consultation to community based staff employed by other agencies, Directorates or Divisions of Families and Social Care. In all such cases, a supervision agreement should be drawn up which accurately reflects the line management accountability for the individual’s work including any case work decisions taken.

8. The Allocation of Supervisors

All qualified front line social workers will be supervised by a Team Manager or Service Manager.

All senior staff will be supervised by a supervisor who is at least one level higher than them in the line management structure.

All staff appointed into a supervisory position should undertake appropriate training to enable them to fulfil their supervisory responsibilities.

All Social Work Assistants will be supervised by an experienced member of their team. For staff working in statutory social work settings that will mean an experienced social worker or senior practitioner

In line with the recommendations of the Children’s Workforce Development Council and the Social Work Task Force, the least experienced social workers should be supervised by the most experienced supervisors. Newly Qualified Practitioners should not be supervised by newly promoted and inexperienced supervisors, however extensive their social work experience is.

The high frequency of supervision for NQSW’s will ensure that supervisors are able to make informed decisions at an early stage about the development needs of the worker before the end of the six month probationary period. Any such concerns must be relayed to the worker, and senior managers, at an early stage to enable an appropriate action plan to be put into place. All NQSW’s can expect that a Personal Development Plan will have been drawn up within the first month of starting in their role, which will include areas of future development highlighted in their final placement report.

The figure for supervisor to supervisee is considered to be 6-8 supervisees per supervisor. It is the Service Managers responsibility to ensure that supervisors have adequate time and capacity to fully satisfy the embracing nature of supervision in its truest sense and they must assure themselves of both quantity and quality requirements.

It is the responsibility of the Team Manager to ensure that the appropriate level of supervisory experience is matched with the experience, knowledge and skills of the individual members of staff. In the event that the allocation aspect of the supervision policy is not followed, this should be clearly recorded in the individual’s supervision file and agreed by the Service Manager.

9. Supervision Records and Case Allocation

The recording of formal supervision sessions is the responsibility of the supervisor. The discussion will be conducted using a Signs of Safety approach and will consider -

  1. What we are worried about;

    The causes for concern, past harm, future danger and complicating factors;
  2. What’s working well;

    Existing strengths, people, plans and actions;
  3. What needs to happen – future safety and safety goals.

The recording of case allocation within the Children’s social work and CIC Teams are the responsibility of the allocated worker’s supervisor.

The allocation process must be undertaken for all cases in a face to face meeting between the supervisor and the social worker during which the required actions, including the assessment planning, will be discussed and agreed. As a minimum a short summary set out in a Signs of Safety Format, will record any case discussion, decisions and action points arising. This record must be placed on the child(ren)’s LIBERI record in the form of a Case Note by the Supervisor.

Recording Standards

  • The detail included in the formal supervision record is a matter of judgement for the supervisor. In general the record should be detailed enough so that the issue, including the rationale for any decisions taken can be revisited at a later date and still be understood;
  • All case work decisions must be recorded on LIBERI case supervision form and a copy made for each of the children in the family discussed within a maximum of one week. Decisions affecting only an individual child of a family should be recorded as such and only included in their personal LIBERI record. For case decisions in the fostering service, any matter relating specifically to a child in the placement should be forwarded to the allocated social worker for inclusion as a supervision record on their LIBERI record;
  • Supervision records relating to the individual’s professional development, line management and any personal issues should always be typed and two copies made. The typing of supervision notes can be completed by the supervisor, or delegated to an identified administration officer, although this will need careful consideration in respect of any personal information that should not be shared and should be with the agreement of the supervisee;
  • Signed paper copies of an individual’s personal supervision records must be kept by the supervisor and should be kept by the supervisee. This is to both safeguard the supervisor and supervisee in the case of investigations (e.g. disciplinary or complaints investigations) and to ensure that records are not altered in any way. Both parties may also choose to keep electronic copies of each document but this should be clearly recorded in the Individual Supervision Agreement;
  • Supervisors should aim to give a copy of the record to the supervisee for signature within two weeks. This should form part of the Individual Supervision Agreement;
  • All records should clearly detail any decisions that have been made, and the reasons for these, any agreed actions including who will take responsibility and the timescales for carrying out these actions;
  • All personal supervision records should be signed and dated by both parties. If there is disagreement as to the content of the record this should be recorded by the supervisor.

Confidentiality and Access

  • Supervision is a private, but not confidential process. This means that the records are the property of the organisation, not the individual. From time to time supervisors will need to discuss the content of supervision sessions with others e.g. their own line managers;
  • Access to supervision records should be controlled and all records should be filed and locked securely so that others who do not have a legitimate right to see the records cannot access them;
  • Supervisees should be aware, however, that other than themselves and their supervisor others will, from time to time, access records, these might include:
    • Senior Managers(e.g. for quality assurance purposes);
    • Investigating officers (e.g. for disciplinary purposes);
    • Inspectors (e.g. Ofsted Inspectors);
    • Performance Management and Quality Assurance Staff (e.g. for audit and quality assurance purposes).

Storage and Retention

  • The Individual Supervision Agreement and the personal supervision records will be kept on the supervisee’s file held by the supervisor, in a secure cabinet. It is a matter for the supervisor what other documents are held with the supervision records. These may include appraisal documents, sickness documents and correspondence;
  • When a supervisee transfers to another team, District or Service Section within the Directorate their records should be passed onto the new supervisor;
  • When a supervisee transfers to another supervisor within their existing team, their records should be passed on accordingly;
  • Personal supervision records should be kept by the supervisor for a minimum of two years. Individuals may keep records for as long as they wish. The supervisor should develop a process to review the back dated records to consider, in consultation with the supervisee, destroying any which are more than two years old;
  • When a supervisee leaves Kent County Council, their supervision records for the previous two years must be forwarded to the Employee Services Centre at Kings Hill for archiving in their personnel records. These will be kept for a further two years and then destroyed.

10. Quality Assurance

This section should be read in conjunction with the Quality Assurance Framework which identifies the quality assurance tasks for all managers with regard to the social work task.

In order to be effective, the supervision process requires that monitoring and quality assurance arrangements are in place.

The quality assurance process ensures that the standards of supervision as outlined in this policy and the quality assurance framework are being followed and that:

  • All staff are being supervised professionally and effectively;
  • All supervision sessions are being recorded;
  • Individual Supervision Agreements for all staff are being developed, reviewed and used;
  • The supervision process promotes equal opportunities and anti-discriminatory practice.

Quality assurance arrangements should involve:

  • The Service Manager and Team Manager auditing one supervision file per month. This should include cross referencing with case files to quality assure decision making;
  • A discussion between the Service Manager and Team Manager about the Team Managers’ practice in supervising their staff. This will be supported by the review of specific supervision records and any developmental needs identified thereafter;
  • The random auditing of supervision records by staff from the Quality Assurance and Performance Monitoring Unit as part of the overall programme of yearly audits.

11. Complaints

Supervisees should be clear about whom they should contact if they feel the terms of their supervision agreement are not being met. How supervisees make a complaint to their work place “Grandparent” should be included in the Individual Supervision Agreement. Work place Grandparents are manager’s two levels above the member of staff. E.g Social workers - service manager.

Supervisees should always discuss any complaints or dissatisfaction in the first instance with their supervisor and endeavour to reach an agreement within the normal supervision process. If the complaint cannot be resolved by discussion with the supervisor, the supervisee should raise the issue with the supervisor’s manager.

In some cases, there may be dissent between the supervisee and the supervisor concerning casework decision making. In the event that this disagreement cannot be resolved by discussion, the supervisee should raise the issue with their supervisor’s manager and the Area Practice Development Officer according to the Alerts Procedure for a Category 2 alert.

12. Supervision Arrangements relating to Specific Teams or Circumstances

Serious Incidents, including the Unexpected Death of a Child

This section should be read in conjunction with the overall Families and Social Care “Guidance for Managing staff following a Child’s Death or Serious Incident”, contained within the Serious Incident Reporting Protocol.

Serious incidents, including the unexpected death of a child on a social worker’s caseload is a traumatic event, and may require additional support being provided to the case worker.

On hearing of a serious incident, involving a child on a social worker's caseload, the Team Manager (or in their absence, the most senior member of the team) should undertake to make contact immediately with the social worker to inform them of the incident and to arrange to meet them as soon as possible on that day. Workers must be treated with empathy and an acknowledgement made of the likely impact of the event on their feelings.

The support requirements of the worker need to be carefully considered, this may include an opportunity to remain office based for a period or for the social worker to be offered compassionate leave, a careful return to work plan would need to integrated. If there is a disagreement between the supervisor and the social worker as to the appropriateness of them staying in the work place, the final decision and recommended actions will rest with the Service Manager.

The Team Manager should agree with the social worker what level and type of support they might wish to receive following the serious incident. This might include the identification of a “team buddy” not directly associated with the case. The agreement of any such support should be recorded in the social worker’s personal supervision notes and its ongoing appropriateness regularly reviewed.

The allocated worker must also be signposted to Support Line in the event that they wish to receive confidential support from outside the team.

The allocated social worker should be kept informed of the progression of any investigations relating to the case within reason, including if a Serious Case Review is initiated by the Kent Safeguarding Children’s Board (see Kent and Medway Safeguarding Children Procedures, Serious Case Review (SCR) Procedure).

In the event that the social worker remains off work due to ill health following a serious incident, the Team Manager must ensure that regular contact is maintained with the worker. This should include any appropriate support provided through the identified buddy or named supervisor.

Returning to Work: It is sometimes helpful to arrange a visit back into the office before the employee comes back to work. For some people, returning on a part-time basis for the few days can be helpful. It is natural for the employee to be less productive at first, and the manager should ensure that any health and safety considerations are dealt with in situations where reduced powers of concentration could put the employee or others at risk.

Central Duty Team and Out of Hours

The nature of work within this team does not lend itself easily to the traditional model of one to one supervision as workers within the team do not case hold. Management oversight is captured onto Liberi with a Managers Comment Case Note to give an initial view of the actions and direction required. Subsequent case discussion between the worker and the Team Manager should be captured on a Managers Discussion case note. Team Managers in addition, audit cases when the work has been completed and a case note is added to Liberi to reflect this. If further work is required this is recorded onto Liberi by the Team Manager with clear directions of what work is needed.

Formal supervision between a worker and their supervisor is carried out on a six weekly basis and will include discussion regarding the workers decision making and case recording highlighting any concerns that have been raised. Group reflective supervision focusing on current practices takes place on a six weekly basis, this is recorded and a copy placed onto the workers supervision file.

Children’s Social Work /CIC/AST Teams

Supervisors should regularly review the workers caseload and ensure that there is appropriate management oversight on the implementation of the plans. It is acknowledged that it may not be possible to review a worker’s entire caseload during each supervision, however every case should be discussed within a maximum of a three month period, and it will be the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that this takes place.

The supervisor is responsible for ensuring that the worker is meeting the appropriate service standards and thus must adhere to the quality assurance framework, this may be achieved by observing the workers ability to engage in a change promoting home visit or undertaking observed direct work with a child. The use of video technology may be helpful in this regard.

Any NQSW who is appointed must be given supervision, and must be available to attend all training, mentoring and support groups along with their peers. The Team Leader is responsible for ensuring that these arrangements are in place and adhered to during the workers first year of practice.

NQSW’s appointed into Children’s Social Work, CIC and AST Teams should be offered the opportunity of shadowing an experienced social worker in CDTas part of their professional development, but should always remain the responsibility of their home team and allocated supervisor. Social workers employed within the Childrens Social Work, CIC, and AST Teams undertaking investigations and Child and Family Assessments on their own should be able to demonstrate an agreed level of professional competence in accordance with the skills, knowledge and competency levels of a Maturing Practitioner, including an ability to work autonomously and undertake complex decision making.

Supervisors should be sufficiently experienced and should receive appropriate development support prior(4) to undertaking the role.

The case work supervision of social workers in the CSWT’s will be evidenced through the following element:

Case Allocation - The allocation of cases to social workers will be by the team manager. As a minimum, a short summary of any case discussion and the decisions or action points arising from it must be recorded on the child (ren)’s LIBERI record in the form of a Case Note by the manager, including the name of the allocated worker.

Child and Family Assessments - A Child and Family Assessment must be completed within 45 working days of the receipt of the referral. The assessment will be deemed to have been completed when it has been written up, discussed with the child (ren) and family (or care givers) and the social worker’s own supervisor has viewed and authorised it. This process will form part of the supervision record of the social worker and will serve as a formal record of case work decision making for the purposes of case file auditing. Whilst it is not necessary to additionally record the outcome of the Child and Family Assessment on a LIBERI supervision form on the child’s record, it is important to capture the discussion and guidance offered during the process.

Strategy Discussions - In cases where a Strategy Discussion is deemed appropriate by the Team Manager to consider whether enquires under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 should be undertaken, the completion of the strategy discussion document, in addition to the completion of the case allocation record and the Child and Family Assessment, will form a further element of the supervision record. The outcomes and agreed actions arising from any Strategy Discussion should be entered onto the relevant LIBERI form within 24 hours of the meeting. It is not necessary to additionally record the outcome or actions arising from the Strategy Discussion on LIBERI supervision form.

Initial Child Protection Conferences - When considered necessary an Initial Child Protection Conference should be held within 15 working days of the Initial Strategy Discussion. The social worker’s report for the initial conference must be discussed with the child and family (or care giver) before the conference, having been viewed and authorised by their supervisor. This process will contribute to the recording of the supervision of the social worker. The records of each child in the family must contain an authorised copy of the social worker’s report

Performance and Capability Issues

On occasions there will be concerns that individuals consistently fail to meet reasonable standards of work or behaviour, this may be in relation to either performance or associated to health issues. In these instances reference should be made to the department’s Performance and Capability Procedures.

13. Useful Information and Documents

(1)Providing effective supervision, Skills for Care and Induction Standards for Children's Workforce 2007


Click here to view Appendix 1: Practice Standards for Supervisors.

Click here to view Appendix 2: Guidance on the Recording of Clinical Supervision and Management Oversight within the Post Adoption Support Service (found in the Forms/Signs of Safety Practice Guidance section of this manual).