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W3C Compliance

9.2.2 Social Worker Supervision: Information and Guidance


Supervision is recognised to be a key aspect of providing a skilled, confident and knowledgeable staff group, able to provide a service that is fit for purpose.

This chapter fully details a range of issues with regard to supervision and explores a range of models and respected theoretical texts. It acknowledges that interactions within supervision are important and emphasises mutual respect as being key. The chapter provides a practice based approach with suggested supervision agreements and contains the Merton ‘Practice Standards’.


Supervision Policy and Procedure for Registered Social Workers Employed by London Borough of Merton

Observation of Practice Model Guidance

Quality Assurance Framework


This chapter was reviewed in May 2015.

This chapter is currently under review.


  1. Introduction
  2. What is Supervision?
  3. A Professional Framework for Supervision – The 4x4x4 Model (Morrison, 2005)
  4. Supervision and the Promotion
  5. Learning Styles
  6. Emotionally Intelligent Supervision
  7. Types of Supervision
  8. The Role of the Social Work Supervisor
  9. The Authoritative Supervisor
  10. The Supervision Environment
  11. The Merton Supervision Standards
  12. The Supervision Agreement
  13. The Discussion in Supervision
  14. Supervision/Interviewing Techniques
  15. Observations of Practice
  16. Management Oversight
  17. Recording
  18. The Cancellation and Rescheduling of Supervision
  19. Working with Difficulties in Supervision
  20. Using the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF)
  21. The Links Between Supervision and Appraisal
  22. Social Worker Capability, Competence and Performance – HR issues
  23. References

    Appendix 1: Formal and Informal Supervision

    Appendix 2: Merton Children, Young People and Families Practice Standards

    Appendix 3: A Five Stage Approach to Developing and Maintaining the Supervision Agreement

    Appendix 4: Supervision Games

1. Introduction

The quality of supervision and the relationship between the supervisor and supervisee and can have a profound influence on the social worker themselves, the quality of the workforce and outcomes for service users.

Following the death of Peter Connelly, Lord Laming (2009, para 3.15) stated:

Supervision should be open and supportive, focussing on the quality of decisions, good risk analysis and improving outcomes for children rather than meeting targets.

Primarily, supervision should encourage social workers to reflect on practice in a deeper and meaningful way to inform their continuing professional development. Additionally, from a managerial/organisational perspective it should also cover case management.

Good supervisors should show respect and demonstrate empathy for those they are supervising. They should take an inquisitive, questioning approach and have good listening skills.

Gibbs (2001) found that the quality of supervision is one of the key factors affecting the retention of social workers who work in child protection – social workers need to be enabled to understand the value of their work; they need to explore the link between feelings, thoughts, and action, the impact of emotion on ‘self’ and promoted good practice and professional learning; and they need to use critical reflection in supervision to frame their practice and their continuing personal and professional development.

Continuing Personal & Professional Development and Supervision

Continuing Personal & Professional Development and Supervision

2. What is Supervision?

Merton Definition (as stated in Merton Supervision Policy, p3).

Supervision should be based on a rigorous understanding of the key elements of effective social work supervision, as well as the research and evidence which underpins good social work practice. Supervision should challenge practitioners to reflect critically on their cases and should foster an inquisitive approach to social work’ (Social Work Reform Board, Standards for Employers of Social Workers in England and Supervision Framework, 2012).

Sector Definition

Supervision is an accountable process which supports, assures and develops the knowledge, skills and values of an individual group 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' (CWDC/Skills for Care, July 2007).

Academic Definition

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, p32).

Supervision should be a constructive, empowering process, not an event. Supervision can help organisations deliver high quality, targeted services to those who use services – children, young people, adults and families. High quality supervision is vital in supporting and motivating social workers who undertake stressful, demanding jobs and should therefore inform retention strategies. Supervision should also focus upon casework and contribute to meeting performance standards for the individual and the organisation.

Supervision should also enable, motivate and support social workers to build effective professional relationships, develop good practice and encourage their professional judgement and decision making.

The Aims of Supervision

  • To improve the knowledge, skills and practice of the social worker;
  • To enable the continuing personal and professional development (CPPD) of the social worker;
  • To ensure safe, robust ‘best practice’;
  • To improve service delivery;
  • To improve outcomes for service users – children, young people and their families/carers;
  • To encourage the social worker to reflect (Kolb) and critically think about their practice and their cases;
  • To offer the supervisee emotional and practical support when needed;
  • To effectively and safely manage workloads;
  • To manage cases and caseloads;
  • To determine case priorities;
  • To assess vulnerability and risk;
  • To link theory to practice;
  • To promote Evidence Informed Practice (EIP).

The Functions of Supervision (Kadushin, 1976)

The Administrative or Managerial Function

  • Quality Assurance/Control;
  • Ensuring agency policies and practices are understood and adhered to;
  • Prioritising and allocating work/cases – caseload management;
  • Line management including managing the workload;
  • Setting objectives and evaluating the effectiveness of what is done;
  • Focussing on the quality of the work undertaken – the social workers capability, competency and ethics.

The Educational Function

  • Helping staff to continue to learn and develop – focussing on the ‘personal self’ and ‘professional self’, and leading to a greater sense of self awareness and emotional intelligence;
  • Focussing on skills, knowledge and practice development and also covering the social worker’s attitudes and values to their work and profession;
  • Helping staff to understand their service users better;
  • Helping staff to become more aware of their own reactions and responses to service users;
  • Helping staff to understand the dynamics of how their service users are interacting;
  • Helping staff to look at methods of interaction and their consequences;
  • Helping staff to explore other ways of working.

The Supportive Function

  • Enabling staff to cope with, and manage, the stress that work entails;
  • Helping to minimise ‘burn out’/ill health;
  • Responding to how social workers may be affected by the distress of their service users;
  • Covering emotional responses to situations and people - particularly important when challenging/threatening situations arise;
  • Providing affirmation of good practice/critical reflection;
  • Enabling staff to think about their Continuing Personal and Professional Development (CPPD).

As an integral part of the supervisee’s CPPD social workers should complete the Merton ‘Knowledge, Skills and Practice Audit’ at least once a year – this audit tool/form is available from Paul Lawrence. The results of this audit should be brought to the next supervision session where strengths and ‘areas of development’/ learning needs should be openly discussed. The CPPD needs of the social worker should be embedded into their Personal and Professional Development Plan (PPDP) with their learning needs anticipating any future changes in the service and with the department providing developmental opportunities to address these needs (dependent upon resources).

The functions of social work supervision should not only contribute to the continuing professional development of social workers but should also contribute to building an effective, competent, knowledgeable workforce.

A Sector Framework for Supervision (Social Work Reform Board 2010, p20) (CWDC/Skills for Care, July 2007, p4)

There are four key elements to this particular framework. Supervision should:

  • Improve the quality of decision making and interventions – this should explore outcomes for the service users, social worker and the organisation;
  • Enable effective line management and organisational accountability – this is about accountability for practice and quality of service and includes delegation and workload management, performance appraisal, duty of care, support;
  • Identify and address issues related to caseload and work load management – this includes the prioritisation and delegation of tasks (which other professionals should undertake what tasks and when);
  • Help to identify and achieve personal learning, career and development opportunities – this is achieved by constructive feedback and observation of the social worker’s practice.

3. A Professional Framework for Supervision – The 4x4x4 Model (Morrison, 2005)

This is a practical tool which should promote reflective supervision and locate supervision within the context in which it takes place. This model recognises the interdependence of each element and 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’. (Wonnacott, 2012, p53)

Morrison (2005) proposes that the Supervision Cycle is the ‘glue ‘that holds the above cycle together, with the cycle itself evolving from the Kolb (adult) learning cycle - it is therefore based in learning theory ensuring supervision is a developmental process.

The objectives and functions of supervision have been described by Morrison as:

  • Competent accountable performance (managerial function);
  • CPD (developmental or formative function);
  • Personal support (supportive or restorative function);
  • Engaging the individual with the organisation (mediation function).

The 4x4x4 model

The importance of this definition is that supervision can be seen as an integrated activity and case discussions address all four functions. Morrison has developed the 4x4x4 model - this model acknowledges the interdependence of all four functions of supervision, their impact on key stakeholders and the four stages of the supervision cycle. The supervision cycle is a process for delivering supervision which ensures a focus on all four functions.

Four Stakeholders in Supervision Four Functions of Supervision Four Elements of the Supervisory Cycle
People who use services Management Experience
Staff Support Reflection
The Organisations Development Analysis
Partner Organisations Mediation Action Planning

The Supervision Cycle helps the supervisee to understand the experience of the service user and their own experience of the case and working with the service users and allied professionals attached to the case. It allows emotional responses to the case and helps explore the social workers intuition and ‘gut feeling’ about what might be happening. The cycle allows both forward and backward movement between the stages.

4. Supervision and the Promotion of Reflection

Schon (1983) suggests there are two types of professional reflection:

  • * Reflection ‘in action’ (in the moment);
  • * Reflection ‘on action’ (after the event).

Both types of reflection could follow the Kolb ‘Reflective Cycle’:

Reflective Cycle

Ref: Kolb's Learning Cycle.

5. Learning Styles

It is useful for both the supervisor and supervisee to know their preferred leaning style(s) as this will enhance their supervision relationship. Honey and Mumford (2000) identify four learning styles:

  • Pragmatists, who learn best when they can see the relevance of what is being suggested, will prefer a problem-solving approach and need to understand how things will work in practice;
  • Reflectors, who are thoughtful, thinking before taking action. They will evaluate alternative possibilities and like to make decisions in their own time;
  • Theorists, who are logical and like to understand why a particular course of action is being suggested. They feel at home with concepts and models and enjoy being intellectually stretched;
  • Activists, who learn best through trying things out and feel comfortable thinking on their feet.

6. Emotionally Intelligent Supervision

Wonnacott (2012, p89) states:

The emotionally intelligent supervisor could be described as a supervisor who is attuned to the emotional impact of social work, and able to recognise and manage their own emotional responses so as to be able to recognise and respond to the emotional content of the discussions with supervisees’.

7. Types of Supervision

Supervision, and on-going case, professional and personal support can take many forms for a social worker and can take place in various settings:

  • One-to-One;
  • Group;
  • Peer-to-Peer;
  • Action Learning Sets;
  • Case discussions (e.g. at team meetings);
  • Formal;
  • Informal;
  • Ad-hoc.

These different types of supervision are summarised in the diagram contained in Appendix 1.

Formal supervision is generally regarded as one-to-one supervision and this guidance specifically focuses on this type of supervision.

Informal supervision also plays an important role in moving cases forward and in supporting the social worker in their day-to-day practice. Informal supervision could be regarded as ad-hoc supervision and include those conversations which take place between the supervisee and supervisor outside of the scheduled one-to-one supervision. These occasions are important for the social worker/supervisee, the case and the organisation and they should be recorded by the supervisor/manager if they specifically involved case decisions or relate to issues about social worker capability and performance.

8. The Role of the Social Work Supervisor

Supervisors should inspire, motivate, act as leaders of good social work practice and promote positive outcomes for service users. They will have a high level of self awareness and ensure they have supervision, consultation and support mechanisms of their own (Wonnacott, 2012, p30). The supervisor needs to engender a supervision style which pays attention to the quality of the relationship between themselves and the supervisee – supervision should not just be a ‘tick box exercise’.

At heart of supervision is the relationship between the supervisor and supervisee and this relationship must be grounded in an environment of respect and validation of the supervisee which then facilitates a position of empowered support for the individual.

9. The Authoritative Supervisor

The supervisor should promote authoritative practice from the social worker and deliver authoritative supervision. The authoritative supervisor will enable the social worker to be clear and secure in their role and be engaged in problem solving. The authoritative supervisor will also:

  • Clarify and explore expected practice standards and ensure these met (this links to the nine Merton Children, Young People and Families Practice Standards (detailed in Appendix 2);
  • Use the tools they need to effectively supervise – procedure documents, theory, research, literature;
  • Show interest in the supervisee and their practice and enable their critical reflection and critical analysis;
  • Provide a safe supervision environment (see below);
  • Acknowledge and work with the supervisee preferred learning style and tailor supervision to ensure the supervisee has the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values to effectively carry out their role;
  • Recognise the emotional impact of the job on the supervisee;
  • Use their own supervision to reflect on the dynamics of their supervisory relationship(s).

10. The Supervision Environment

Supervision should be carried out in a safe, quiet, comfortable uninterrupted environment. For supervision to be effective there should be a high level of trust between the supervisee and supervisor. The ‘safe space’ should promote appropriate ‘self disclosure’ by the social worker, although this is the supervisee’s choice. Supervision is governed by the general principles of confidentiality – information will only be disclosed to others/senior managers if the social workers/service users are at risk or there are severe concerns around the social workers professional conduct and/or practice.

11. The Merton Supervision Standards

The Merton Supervision Standards follow recommendations laid out in the Standards for Employers of Social Workers in England and Supervision Framework, 2012:

  • A registered social worker (RSW) should only be supervised by another registered social worker;
  • Supervision should take place at least once a month, for at least 90 minutes and take place in confidential, uninterrupted room/environment – there are different and very explicit expectations for a Newly Qualified Social Worker;
  • If a session is delayed or cancelled another date/time/venue should be set as soon as possible.

12. The Supervision Agreement

The Supervision Agreement is a contract between the supervisor /organisation and supervisee – it lays the foundations for all the supervision sessions and it should be meaningful and purposeful – it should give the supervisee a say in their supervision and therefore be jointly owned by both parties. This ‘professional partnership’ should create a supervision environment of trust, respect, openness, facilitation and safety, thereby also developing a ‘psychological contract’ between the supervisor and supervisee (Carroll & Gilbert, 2005).

The Supervision Agreement should be framed by organisation and operational demands and also meet the ‘Standards of Employers of Social Workers in England and Supervision Framework’. The agreement should be revisited every six months and any agreed updates made.

Morrison (2005) states that a good Supervision Agreement should:

  • Reflect the seriousness of the activity;
  • Represent a positive modelling of partnership behaviour;
  • Make roles and responsibilities clear;
  • Provide clarity about authority and accountability;
  • Provide a basis for reviewing and developing the supervisory relationship;
  • Act as a benchmark against which supervision can be audited by the organisation.

Points which should be considered when negotiating the Supervision Agreement can be found in Appendix 3.

The Merton Children’s Social Care Supervision Template should be used for all formal supervision sessions. This should generally be completed by the supervisor, unless previously agreed by the supervisor and supervisee. This Supervision Agreement should be completed during the first supervision session, be typed by the supervisor and ready for the second supervision session to review and amend if necessary. This agreement should then be signed by both parties.

The Supervision Agreement should be reviewed on an annual basis by both the supervisor and supervisee. Additionally, if a new supervisor comes into post the Supervision Agreement should be reviewed at their first meeting with the supervisee.

13. The Discussion in Supervision

The supervisor and supervisee should prepare for supervision and each share their agendas at least one day before the supervision session in order for any pre-information to be sought by both parties. The supervisor also needs to remind themselves of the actions from the last session in order that these can be reviewed.

This gives the supervision session structure and the ‘gravitas’ it deserves.

Supervision should be constructive and supportive for the supervisee. Supervisors should be systemic in their delivery of supervision – they should take a series of ‘positions’ about case management and progression and about the social workers practice linked to the case. Supervision should not be procedural and ‘matter of fact’. Supervisors should be curious in supervision, promote meaningful engagement between supervisee and supervisor and ‘ask the questions which need to be asked’.

Supervision discussion should involve discussion, and questions should be asked by the supervisor, about the following:

  • Cases – prioritise cases and case discussion. Not all cases need to be covered in every supervision session;
  • What has gone well in the management and progression of the case and/or the social worker’s practice – recognise (and celebrate) success;
  • What could have gone better in the working and management of the case and/or the social worker’s practice;
  • What, if anything, is particularly worrying you about this case – from the children’s perspective or your professional practice perspective;
  • The supervisee’s CPPD which includes training recently attended, training identified, post qualifying development, career progression, any ‘intent to leave’.

Specific areas of discussion about cases (children, adults, families) should include:

  • When was the child/were the children last seen and for how long by the social worker?
  • Which other professionals have seen the child/children since the last supervision session?
  • Were the child’s ‘ascertainable wishes and feelings’ sought by the social worker and recorded on the case notes?

It is useful in supervision to make use of the Herzberg (1959) two-factor theory (also known as motivation-hygiene theory and dual-factor theory). Herzberg states that there are certain factors in the workplace that cause job satisfaction and encourages an enthusiastic, conscientious social worker, whilst a separate set of factors cause dissatisfaction and a ‘laissez-faire’ social worker.

John Dudovskiy (02.03.13) describes the two factor theory:

Motivators cause the employees to enhance the level of their performance and effectiveness in the workplace and include career growth, responsibility, achievement etc. Hygiene factors, on the other hand, are essential in the workplaces in order for the employees not to be dissatisfied, at the same time, when these factors do not cause satisfaction.

Hygiene factors include job security, financial compensation, the quality of management etc., whereas motivator factors are recognition of contribution by management, personal and professional growth opportunities, status associated with the position etc.

It is important for managers/supervisor to be able to make clear distinction between motivators and hygiene factors. This is because while the provision of hygiene factors may lead to greater level of employee satisfaction, it does not necessarily contribute to the level of employee motivation. Therefore, apart from ensuring the provision of hygiene factors in an effective manner, managers need to invest in motivational factors as well’.


14. Supervision/Interviewing Techniques

Supervision works best if the supervisor has good ‘people’ skills, a high level of emotional intelligence and can use specific techniques and processes to make supervision robust, interesting and engaging for both the supervisee and the supervisor.

The Supervisor should be skilled in mixing and matching various methods, theories and approaches to make the session mutually inclusive and interesting. For example:

  • Solution focussed approaches to supervision can open up discussion and bring out positives, recognising that ‘small steps’ in the case and the social workers practice can be significant in moving forward. The supervisor could use ‘scaling questions’ to open up discussion – for example, “On a scale of one to ten where one is - - - and ten is - - - -“;
  • Neuro linguistic programming (NLP);
  • Mindfulness on behalf of both the supervisee and supervisor can place each of them ‘in the moment’.

15. Observations of Practice

Merton expects that, in addition to regular supervision sessions, supervisors should carry out at least three direct observations of practice per year. These observations should use the Merton Observation Pro Forma which is based on the widely used and robust ‘York Model of Observation’. A record of these observations should be placed on the individual’s supervision file.

At least two observations per year should be completed by the social worker’s line manager/supervisor. Suitable colleagues and other professionals can carry out additional observations.

16. Management Oversight

Good, robust social work management involves management oversight of the social workers performance and the cases they hold. This requires the supervisor (and line manager if different) to focus upon:

  • The service to the service user (child/young person/family);
  • The assessment and management of risk;
  • Case planning and care planning;
  • Child in need/child protection issues;
  • The progress, or lack of progress of cases;
  • The timeliness of actions in the case (previous, present and future);
  • The case recording.

17. Recording

In Merton, supervision notes/recordings should be made on the Merton Supervision Record template (see Supervision Policy and Procedures for Registered Social Workers Employed by London Borough of Merton – February 2014).

Recordings of supervision should generally be taken by the supervisor and should be clear, accurate and concise. Once agreed by both parties the notes should be signed off by both parties. If differences still remain these should be noted and signed off.

Supervision records must distinguish between:

  • Case decisions to be recorded on the service user’s file. These should set out both the decisions and the reasons for the decision
  • The supervisee’s individual supervision record. This will include the discussions in supervision regarding general issues relating to the supervisee. Issues may include support, learning and development (training) needs, continuing professional development, performance issues and any relevant personal issues which affect performance.

Wonnacott (2012, p52) summarises the above points about supervision records:


  1. Service user names should not be included on the individual supervision record, as this is a document that will follow the worker from team to team and may be accessed by others (e.g. HR);
  2. Any actions to be carried out by the supervisor or supervisee should be recorded on the relevant file;
  3. Ad hoc discussions between formal sessions should not be lost. Case decisions will be recorded in the case file and both supervisor and supervisee will need to note any other issues that should be fed into the supervisee supervision record (e.g. if a debriefing after a visit/critical incident identified some support or learning/training needs, these will need to be recorded);
  4. Supervision records need to be kept in a confidential folder on the IT recording system and hard copies given to supervisee in line with organisation policy.’

18. The Cancellation and Rescheduling of Supervision

Cancelling supervision should always be a ‘last resort’ and the decision taken by either party for this should be communicated as soon as possible. Cancelling a session can prevent the timely review of cases and the supervisee’s practice and if parties are not careful, there can be a ‘domino effect’ with sessions being constantly cancelled or rescheduled - this can create anxiousness and angst in one or both parties and vast amounts of time and energy are expended in this process, with little or no actual supervision happening over weeks or months, (thus contravening the principals enshrined in ‘Employers Standards’).

Supervision should only be cancelled in dire emergencies or illness. A session should be rescheduled as soon as possible.

19. Working with Difficulties in Supervision

Both parties in the supervision need to recognise conflict and disagreement in supervision and they need to act in an ‘adult manner’ in managing and resolving this.

Karpman (2007) devised the ‘Drama Triangle’ as a model to explain unhealthy relationship dynamics – it is based on the theory of Transactional Analysis which describes ’the games that people play’. These ‘games’ are often played in repetitive cycles and take up a huge amount of time and emotional energy for those involved. This model describes the role that individuals assume in conflictual relationships - it does not focus on the ‘whole person’. The model should promote self awareness and thus prevent ‘battles’ and the ‘scoring of points’ between the supervisor and supervisee.

The drama triangle consists of three roles:

The Victim (V): treated as, or accepts the role of, the victim. The individual feels powerless, oppressed, vulnerable and ‘hurt’ often because of the behaviours (conscious or not) of the persecutor (the individual or organisation). Despite this, the Victim abdicates any responsibility for their situation and blames the persecutor for their position, thereby not taking responsibility for their position and ‘blaming others’.

The Persecutor (P): pressurises, coerces or persecutes the Victim. Acts in their own interest and may want to ‘scapegoat’ and/or punish the victim for their failure to meet expectations or for a situation they do not want to be in. The Persecutor also denies their responsibility for the situation. The Persecutor can use their power and authority to their advantage in their persecutory tactics.

The Rescuer (R): intervenes to help/rescue the situation or the victim. The Rescuer shows responsibility and views the Victim as a worthy cause and powerless and takes over and saves them from the Persecutor. The Rescuer blames the persecutor for the situation and does not hold any clear boundaries or empower the Victim.

All these three roles are fluid and interchangeable and in such cases the ‘drama’ may never be resolved. The drama triangle can also be played in a ‘dyad’ (between two people) and an analysis of interactions can show how an individual can move through all three roles as the discussion becomes more tense, enmeshed and intractable.

Drama Triangle

Relationships become ‘stuck’ in the Drama Triangle as it is difficult to find a way out and to find alternatives and this situation is self-propagating as time passes and the relationships embed themselves. A willingness to change and the principles of conflict management can break this cycle and only one person’s ‘game’ needs changing to break the cycle. Emotional intelligence is needed by one or all of the players in order to promote and effect change.

The ‘Winners Triangle’, (Choy, 1990 cited in Burgess, 2005) changes hopelessness to hope and failure into winning:

Winners Triangle

Individuals involved in the ‘Winners Triangle’ assume appropriate responsibility for change. A change in the position of any individual can lead to options for change in relationships and create constructive, meaningful dialogue.

The Persecutor is replaced by the Assertive position. This individual is still acting in their interests but is taking responsibility for what they want instead of punishing others. Hence they are making clear requests whilst acknowledging others involved in the relationship.

The Rescuer is replaced by a Caring position. This individual remains in touch with their own needs and no longer attempts to solve the problems of others. They are aware that the other person in the relationship is responsible for themselves and will keep to appropriate boundaries – this can be motivating and empowering rather than smothering and disempowering the other.

The Victim is replaced by the Vulnerable position. This can be a powerless and unpleasant position and should be avoided by the individual. By becoming vulnerable the individual accepts responsibility for themselves and becomes aware of their needs. Acknowledging that they can be hurt and vulnerable means that this individual is no longer a victim and therefore not open to manipulation of a persecutor or rescuer.

Appendix 4 (Howe & Gray, 2012, p86-87) gives examples of games played in supervision and these examples can be linked to the Drama Triangle.

20. Using the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF)

Reference to, and use of, the PCF nine domains should be integrated throughout all supervision sessions. The domains can be focussed upon individually and be linked together holistically to give the supervisor and supervisee a clear picture of the social worker’s capability at that moment in time (using the concept of ‘mindfulness’).

The PCF is a useful tool to link capability to the career grade/level of the social worker – each domain links to various level descriptors and these should be borne in mind by both supervisor and supervisee during supervision. It might also be useful for the supervisor to link capability and the PCF to the relevant job description and person specification for their supervisee. These tools can then be used to actively promote CPPD and career progression (using the Merton Social Worker Career Progression Policy).

Click here to view Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) chart.

21. The Links Between Supervision and Appraisal

Supervision and issues connected to the supervisee’s knowledge, skill and practice should inform their Personal and Professional Development Plan (PPDP) and be integrated into their Continuing Personal and Professional Development.

The supervisee’s professional progress (or lack of it) should be clear and easy to track in the on-going supervision notes. Cumulative learning from these sessions should then inform the formal annual appraisal with these two processes/documents ‘talking to one another’ (and certainly not contradicting each other).

22. Social Worker Capability, Competence and Performance – HR issues

Providing supervision is a management function and within this the supervisor should always be conscious about the supervisee’s capability, competence and performance. Working with these issues is challenging for any supervisor. However, the longer concerns are left the more complicated they become to deal with. Concerns need to be ‘unpicked’ by the supervisor and should be clearly evidenced and recorded, along with any action plan that is devised to address these concerns. For example the plan should identify gaps in skills and knowledge and detail how training and other developmental processes might address these gaps. If there are gaps in practice skills the social worker could be mentored/coached by a more experienced/senior social worker, Experienced Practitioner or social work manager.

Morrison (CWDC, 2007, Chapter ‘Nipping it in the Bud), stresses the need to work effectively with early, low level concerns in order to prevent escalation, which is unfair and possibly dangerous for the supervisee, organisation and service users.

Using a model developed by Yuki (2006) the following steps can be followed to identify and mutually work with capability, competence and performance issues in supervision:

  • Gather information about the performance problem;
  • Make fair and transparent judgments based on evidence;
  • Give feedback to the supervisee;
  • Explain the adverse impact of ineffective behaviour and practice;
  • Mutually identify the reasons for inadequate performance;
  • Ask the supervisee to suggest remedies;
  • Express confidence in the supervisee;
  • Reach an agreement on specific action steps;
  • Summarise the discussion and verify the agreement.

These steps are described in more detail in Howe and Gray (2013, pp92-93).

Capability, competence and performance issues must be framed in the context of the individual and their role and any assessment and judgements of this must take the domains and level description of the PCF and the HCPC ‘Standards of Performance, Conduct and Ethics.

If the supervisor has concerns about their supervisee’s capability and competence they should contact Lynn Blindell in HR (ext. 3908) as soon as possible.

23. References

Click here to view References.

Appendix 1: Formal and Informal Supervision

Click here to view Appendix 1: Formal and Informal Supervision.

Appendix 2: Merton Children, Young People and Families Practice Standards

Click here to view Appendix 2: Merton Children, Young People and Families Practice Standards.

Appendix 3: A Five Stage Approach to Developing and Maintaining the Supervision Agreement

(Adapted and Developed from Morrison, 2005 by Jane Wonnacott, 2012, Mastering Social Work Supervision, pp48-48, London, Jessica Kingsley Publications).

  1. Establishing the Mandate (issues to discuss):
    • What does Merton’s supervision policy say about the nature and purpose of supervision?
    • What is Merton’s definition of supervision/?
    • What is non-negotiable in the supervision process?
    • What is negotiable?
    • What does the supervisor have a right to express from the supervisee?
    • What does the supervisee have a right to expect from the supervisor?
    • What responsibilities do we both have?
    • What are the boundaries to, and limits of, confidentiality?
    • What records are to be taken and by whom; where are the records kept; for what purposes can the records be used.
  2. Engaging the Supervisee (issues to discuss):
    • What have been the supervisee’s previous experiences of supervision?
    • How is the supervisee best motivated/managed in light of their previous experience?
    • What are both parties’ expectations around the handling of authority – particularly, though not exclusively, in relation to race, culture, gender, sexual orientation and disability?
    • What beliefs do the supervisee/supervisor have about the nature and purpose of social work, particularly in relation to the use of authority with service users?
    • What is the preferred learning style (Honey and Mumford, 2000) of the supervisee and how far is this similar or dissimilar from the preferred learning style of the supervisor?
    • How does the supervisee react when anxious or stressed? How is the supervisor likely to know the supervisee is anxious or stressed?
  3. Acknowledging Ambivalence (issues to explore):
    • How will you know when the supervisee is experiencing strong emotions as the result of the work they are undertaking?
    • What is the role of supervision in exploring uncertainties and feelings of discomfort or anxiety about the work?
    • Is it OK to not always be in control and feel competent in doing the job?
    • How will you resolve any difficulties in working together that cannot be managed within supervision?
  4. The Written Supervision Agreement (issues to discuss):
    • Who is responsible for completing the written supervision document?
    • Where will the Supervision Agreement be stored and how?
    • When will the Supervision Agreement be reviewed and by whom?
  5. Reviewing the Supervision Agreement:
    • What has gone well in supervision since the last agreement?
    • Are there any areas where we have not adhered to the Agreement? If so, what was the reason for this?
    • How can supervision be improved? What can we both do to achieve this?

Appendix 4: Supervision Games

Click here to view Appendix 4: Supervision Games.