Supervision Policy


In July 2018, this policy has been updated throughout and should be re-read.

1. Introduction

Hull Children and Family Services is committed to the effective support of all social care staff so that they can provide excellent services to vulnerable children and their families.

Supervision is generally recognised as one of the ways in which effective support can help with the process of delivering high-quality services. It is also recognised as an integral element of staff motivation and wellbeing as well as a means of furthering staff development. Supervision is essential to effective safeguarding and should operate at all levels with the overriding priority being the safety and welfare of children and young people who use the service.

High quality, supervision helps practitioners to reflect on their work with families, improving the identification of harm or the risk of it, for the protection of children. It can help practitioners to prepare for their engagement with families and establish strategies to help parents and carers to do the best they can and prevent drift and delay for children. Sometimes work in Children and Families Services can be emotionally difficult. Supervision has a role to help alleviate this type of stress, but it should also play a role in analysing information emerging from emotional experiences generated by engagement with children and families. This 'emotional' information can sometime be lost without opportunities to reflect on, and analyse, experience.

This policy provides a framework for supervision so that workers can understand what support they can rely on and the authority has a systematic approach to ensure work is of the highest possible quality and outcomes for children and families are achieved. It should be read in conjunction with the Social Work Practice Standards which set out key practice expectations in respect of supervision.

Hull Children and Families Services adopted a systemic model of practice in 2014. Key elements of the model involved weekly Reflective Discussions. These provided a reflective model for case supervision which included all members of a pod. Reflective Discussions became an integral part of the supervision process; they were designed to promote systemic practice generating a diversity of perspectives along with shared responsibility for case management.

As Reflective Discussions have evolved there have been examples of local variations in carrying out individual supervision but the model has not proved sufficiently adaptive to the requirements for management oversight of practice. Evidence from audits suggests that not all cases are regularly reviewed in supervision potentially leaving some children without sufficient managerial scrutiny. This revised policy responds to these issues by re balancing expectations to ensure that all children known to the authority have the most appropriate managerial oversight for their circumstances and so that workers have the best opportunity to think about how to carry out their work.

These changes also compliment changes to pod/team structures from April 2018.

2. Definition of Supervision

Carpenter, et al (2013) [1] indicate that most definitions of social work supervision include the following functions:

  • Administrative case management; including holding to account;
  • Education, through reflecting on and learning from practice;
  • Personal and emotional support;
  • Mediation, in which the supervisor acts as a bridge between the individual staff member and the organization; and
  • Professional development.

    The authors go on to say:

    The ultimate goal of professional supervision should be to provide the best possible support to consumers in accordance with the organization's responsibilities and accountable professional standards. (p3)

In the context of Hull Children and Families Services, this means that supervision is the primary support mechanism available to practitioners and others to enable the authority to carry out its statutory functions. Whilst the authority has specific duties to some children, (those looked after or recently looked after and those coming before the youth justice courts), the authority also has wide ranging duties to significant numbers of children in need and those in need of protection. In this context, service priorities are unlikely to remain static and therefore supervision will play a role in ensuring that the authority's business processes enable the swift processing of cases. That said, supervision should offer the opportunity for workers to analyse their work and to prepare their on-going involvement with children and families.

Supervision practice will involve two processes:

  • Individual supervision; and
  • Reflective Case Discussions.

[1] Carpenter, J. S. W., Webb, C. M., & Bostock, L. (2013). The surprisingly weak evidence base for supervision: findings from a systematic review of research in child welfare practice (2000-2012). Children and Youth Services Review, 35(11), 1843-1853

3. Individual Supervision

Individual Supervision provides the opportunity to bring together organisational and individual objectives, including:

  • Enabling practitioners to be best prepared to deliver quality services to those engaging with Children and Families Services;
  • Ensuring accountable performance in the context of legislative and agency requirements, policies and procedures;
  • Providing continuing professional development and personal support;
  • Thanking, motivating and providing feedback to practitioners and to support and respond to stressful events. This could include responding to and supporting individuals with personal difficulties and seeking appropriate support;
  • Monitoring absence from work and any other management related functions such as conduct and performance and complaints;
  • Promoting critical analysis and professional curiosity.

The most important objective for individual supervision is the first one that is, enabling practitioners to provide a high quality and appropriate services. To do this supervision sessions should be reflective and enabling, and this will require a trusting relationship between supervisor and supervisee. Trust is developed over time particularly when both supervisor and supervisee do what they say they are going to do and where both can speak openly.

Effective reflective supervision is above all a learning process in which the supervisor engages with the supervisee to:

  1. Explore a supervisee's practice and factors influencing their responses;
  2. Develop a shared understanding of the knowledge base informing their analysis and the limitations of their thinking;
  3. Use this understanding to inform next steps. Flood et al [2] therefore describe the six principles of reflective supervision as:
    1. To deepen and broaden workers' knowledge and critical analysis skills;
    2. To enable confident, competent, creative and independent decision making;
    3. To help workers build clear plans that seek to enable positive change for children and families;
    4. To help staff feel valued, supported and motivated to support the worker's emotional resilience and self awareness;
    5. To promote the development of a learning culture within the organisation.

The supervisor needs to be able to listen to the emotional content of the practitioner's narrative, as this is likely to provide valuable information about the family and the nature of the work being carried out. Supervisors will need some insight in recognising their own emotions as well as in understanding and perceiving the emotions of their supervisees and putting this information to effective use to improve the analysis about, and progress of, each case.

There is growing evidence to show links between skills, parental engagement and family outcomes. When the following skills are used in practice, parental engagement increases which can lead to improvements in family outcomes[3].

[2] Flood S (Ed) Reflective Supervision: Resource Pack, Research in Practice, Dartington 2017
[3] Bostock, L., Forrester, D., Patrizo, L., Godfrey, T., Zonouzi, M. with Bird, H., Antonopoulou, V. and Tinarwo, M. (2017) Scaling and deepening Reclaiming Social Work model: evaluation report [PDF] London: Department for Education.

Practice Domain Description
Child focus The extent to which the practitioner ensures that the child is meaningfully integrated into discussion to enhance the family member's understanding of the child's needs.
Clarity about concerns The extent to which the practitioner is clear about the reasons for professional involvement and can engage in meaningful dialogue with the service user about issues or concerns.
Purposefulness The extent to which the practitioner sets out and maintains a focus for the session whilst demonstrating flexibility in response to the client's agenda.
Collaboration The extent to which the worker behaves as if the session is occurring between two equal partners, both of whom have knowledge that might be useful in the problem under consideration.
Autonomy The extent to which the worker supports, and actively fosters, service user perception of choice, as opposed to attempting to control the family member's behaviour or choices.
Empathy The extent to which the worker understands, or tries to grasp, the family member's perspective and feelings – and communicates this effort.
Evocation The extent to which the worker conveys an understanding that motivation for change, and the ability to move toward that change, reside mostly within the service user and therefore focuses on efforts to elicit and expand it.

Overall, the supervisory conversation should be an exchange of information about case work. Supervisors should read through case notes prior to the start of supervision so that they can be informed about both historical and contemporary issues. Social workers may be asked to do some preparation, for example following a case audit, or an observation of practice may have taken place. The conversation should then explore the purpose of the social work task(s) and, critically, how the practitioner is carrying them out and any barriers to engagement and change for the child.

Individual supervision should not focus solely on case work and/or case management issues. The professional development of the practitioner should also form part of the supervisory discussion particularly when learning needs arising from case work have been identified. Other matters concerning time management, the management of annual leave and any health concerns should also be discussed, when necessary.

In support of individual supervision, informal supervision should still be available and prioritised as this supports decision-making in real time, can avoid delays for families and importantly, promotes effective working.

Frequency and Attendance

All practitioners should expect to receive supervision as a minimum once a month Consistency and commitment to planned supervision need to be evidenced by supervisee and supervisor.

The supervision requirements for Social Workers in Training and Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSWs) are different. Social Workers in Training are required to have 1.5 hours of individual supervision per week. This may be a combination of both formal and informal supervision, although the ratio must be in favour of formal supervision.

NQSWs, undergoing their Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE), will receive weekly individual supervision for the first six weeks of employment, then fortnightly up to six months and monthly thereafter.

Social workers who have undertaken a major change of role in transferring to a different team and practitioners returning to work following a career break or other long term absence should also receive supervision fortnightly for the first 3 months and then a minimum of monthly as for other staff.

The frequency listed is the minimum, in any instance. Individual supervision may be required at a greater frequency. This will be agreed at an individual level and reflected in the Supervision Contract. All supervision sessions are likely to last between one and 2 hours.

If for whatever reason supervision has to be cancelled, it should be re-scheduled to take place within 5 working days. If the cancellation is due to sickness leave, then the session should be arranged to take place within 5 days of the individual's return to work. If the supervisor is absent from work for more than 2 weeks on unplanned leave, it is the responsibility of the supervisee to report to the supervisor's line manager for alternative supervision arrangements to be made.

When arranging supervision, consideration should be given to time and place, aiming to eliminate possible interruptions wherever possible.

Roles and Responsibilities

Supervision is the responsibility of both the supervisor and supervisee, below are list of the minimum expectations of both parties.

Responsibilities of the Supervisor

  • Establish the relationship through a written contract. Click here to view a blank copy of the Supervision Contract;
  • Undertake appropriate supervision training and attend continuing professional development events related to supervision;
  • Ensure that supervision is scheduled well in advance and an appropriate room booked;
  • Ensure that all team members are aware that supervision is a private reflective space that should not be interrupted, unless for an immediate emergency;
  • Prepare for supervision by reading relevant case notes, compiling audits/observing practice;
  • Listen, explore, summarise, check out and challenge;
  • Ensure that the agenda is jointly agreed with the supervisee at the beginning of the supervision session;
  • Deal sensitively and confidentially with any personal information shared by the supervisee;
  • Ensure that supervision is a constructive process and use performance information to give supervisee feedback about their performance. Recognise and commend hard work and excellent practice and build social workers' confidence in their practice. Conversely challenge complacency with a commitment to continued improvement and confidently hold poor practice to account;
  • Ensure that decisions and actions agreed regarding a child / young person are recorded on the service user's case record, and reviewed/completed;
  • Ensure that a supervision record is completed, agreed and signed by the supervisee;
  • Make direct contact with the supervisee should a supervision meeting need to be cancelled and arrange a further date to take place within 5 working days.

Responsibilities of the Supervisee

  • Prepare for each meeting and identify issues which require attention;
  • Ensure that any actions from the previous supervision have been completed;
  • Share thoughts and ideas and be open about what has gone well and what has been difficult;
  • Be prepared to reflect on, scrutinise and evaluate work that has been carried out, and to be challenged on practice;
  • Identify areas for development / training needs;
  • Maintain confidentiality within the process as appropriate;
  • Speak openly and honestly about the role, the service users and impact upon self;
  • Make direct contact with the supervisor should a supervision meeting need to be cancelled and arrange a further date to take place within 5 working days.


All individual supervisions sessions will be recorded in two ways. When individual children or young people have been discussed, any decisions taken, or actions agreed, should be recorded by the Supervisor on the Child's record in Liquidlogic. When a decision or agreed action has been identified and recorded in this way, it is helpful to offer a brief explanation so that the reader can understand the rationale. Supervisors are required to ensure that all cases are subject to their regular oversight.

All other recordings should be made on the supervisees Personal Supervision Record. The purpose of the Personal Supervision Record is to maintain an account of the practitioner's on-going professional development arising from the case work with which they are engaged. The completed form should be signed by both the Supervisor and the Supervisee as a correct summary of the supervision discussion. If the record is made electronically then electronic signatures may be used. It is advised that the Supervision Record is completed within 5 working days of the supervision taking place.

In addition to the Supervision Record, an individual's Supervision Log should also be completed. These can be completed within the supervision session.

Storage and Retention of Supervision Records

The Supervisor should store records securely in a supervision file. The Key documents that should be kept in each Supervisee's supervision file are:

  • Supervisee Personal Details;
  • Supervision Contract;
  • Supervision Records;
  • Supervision Log;
  • Training Log;
  • Job Description.

There are a number of other documents relating to employment which may be kept in the Supervision File. For a list of these and other location information see Location of Supervision and Other Related Documents.

The supervision file can be a paper file, stored securely in the building where the member of staff is located. Alternatively, an electronic file may be used. Electronic supervision files should contain the same documents as paper files. The same principles of confidentiality apply to paper and electronic supervision records. The only persons that should have access to these files are the Supervisor, their line manager and the Supervisee, unless required for one of the purposes described in below.

If a member of staff moves to a different team within Hull Children and Young People's Services, the supervision file will be transferred from the previous supervisor to the new supervisor. This file will then form a sub section within the new supervision file and should be entitled Previous Supervision and state the name of the previous supervisor.

If a member of staff leaves their employment with Hull Children and Young People's Services the supervision file should be archived with Human Resources where it will be retained for seven years after employment has ceased, following this time the file will be destroyed. The file should be stored with Human Resources within one month of the supervisee's termination of employment, and should clearly state the date for destruction.

It is advised that supervisee's store their own copies of supervision records securely.


Although supervision is private, it is ultimately a management process; as such absolute confidentiality cannot be assured. The records that are created are the property of the organisation, not the individual.

There will be times / situations when a supervisor needs to discuss the content of supervision with their own line manager. This ensures appropriate oversight and line of sight from senior management to frontline practice.

Supervisees should also be made aware that from time to time their supervision records may be accessible to others for purposes, including:

  • Inspectors (i.e. Ofsted);
  • Workforce Development Staff (i.e. for audit and quality assurance);
  • Investigating Officers (i.e. for disciplinary investigation).

Resolving Difference

It is important that supervisees receive quality supervision and that developmental needs are identified and met. If a supervisee feels that this is not the case, then in the first instance a discussion should be held with the supervisor during which perceived difficulties should be shared. If, for any reason, the supervisee feels that they cannot approach their supervisor, then their alternative contact should be the line manager of the supervisor.

If initial discussions have been held between supervisee and supervisor and suitable solutions have not been found, then a further meeting should be held to also include the supervisor's line manager. The line manager may achieve resolution through discussion or may decide to take other action such as observing a supervision session. It will be the responsibility of the supervisor's line manager to ensure that any difficulties are satisfactory resolved in a satisfactory manner.

High quality, regular supervision is key to ensuring that, where an employee's capability is causing concern, the problems can be tackled openly and in a timely way. Feedback should provide specific examples, and appropriate support and action planning put into place to help the employee to improve to the required standard. Supervisors should refer to the Council's policy and procedure in relation to Improving Employee Performance, if there are continued concerns about a supervisee's performance.

Reflective Discussions

A Reflective Discussion provides an opportunity for a group of professionals to explore their work with a family. This can be particularly helpful, for instance, where cases are newly allocated or where workers feel 'stuck' with making progress or where it is evident that repeat patterns of behaviour in a family continue and interventions have negligible impact in changing these patterns. Reflective Discussions can also be useful to prepare teams when cases require escalation involving statutory involvement, such as the Public Law Outline.

Frequency and Attendance

Reflective Discussions should take place in each team on a monthly basis as a minimum. The duration of the meeting is not determined but will normally last for two hours. Reflective Discussions should be attended by team members and attendance should be prioritised. Absence from a Reflective Discussion should only occur in exceptional circumstances, for example; if the individual is on annual leave, sickness leave, attending court or on approved training.

Clinician input into Reflective Discussions is recognised to be helpful and it is expected that a Clinician regularly attends each team's Reflective Discussions.

The aim of Reflective Discussions is to explore the professional narratives which have developed about a case. Narratives, including professional ones, are a product of historical and social contexts. Narratives are shaped by the meaning given to them by those involved and this meaning can organise professional behaviour, sometime unconsciously. Reflective Discussions are useful to help professionals recognise meaning generating processes and to subject these processes to critical scrutiny. In doing this, every member of the team should be enabled to learn and develop their practice.

A Reflective Discussion should utilise a full genogram which should be easily seen by all. If information is missing from a genogram, such as father's details, then it should be made clear what steps have been made to obtain this information and/or any plans to try to obtain this information.

Reflective Discussions should identify where the child fits in the family and, where applicable, placement. Equally, other influences on the child/family such as friends; peers; school; community should be considered. Developing and testing a hypothesis should also form part of the Reflective Discussion and may lead to exploration of how to enable the practitioner to engage the family in new conversations to test the hypothesis and plan appropriate interventions.

Reflective Discussions should always be generative, that is, they should lead to a definable plan considering the analysis of risk of significant harm and actions to reduce that harm.

Some valuable additional questions for Reflective Discussions may involve some or all of the following:

  • If a case has been discussed previously, has the hypothesis been tested and what was the outcome?
  • Is there any difference in opinion within the group – is there an alternative hypothesis?
  • What is the plan going forward and who needs to do what and when? What are the family goals? Is there a clear purpose to practice?
  • What systemic tools might support the case? How can systemic tools help the practitioner prepare for the next discussion with the family?

Roles and Responsibilities

It is the responsibility of all team members to attend Reflective Discussions each month.

A nominated person should be responsible for recording the case discussion, including key points and actions, which should be approved by the Team Manager. Details of decisions and actions should be recorded on the child's case file on Liquidlogic, including the rationale for those decisions. Additional brief records of the Reflective Discussion should be kept on a team basis. It would be particularly useful to note in these additional records the usefulness of methodologies in generating reflection on practice and the impact of the model in bringing about change.

4. Quality Assurance

It is important that the expectations set out in this policy are met. The practice of supervision requires constant regular attention and supervisors will need feedback on their performance if that practice is to be consistently of high quality. Peer observations of supervision sessions are recommended to occur for each supervisor and each team, in respect of Reflective Discussions, at least bi-annually.

Quality assurance arrangements are that:

  • The frequency and quality of individual supervision and reflective discussions on individual cases will form part of the quality audit of cases process;
  • The frequency of individual supervision and reflective discussions will be collated through the department's performance monitoring system;
  • Findings from case audits and peer observation reports should be reviewed bi-annually by an officer nominated by the Director of Children's Services. The bi-annual report should be scrutinised by the Senior Management Team and action taken where necessary to promote high standards of practice. The purpose of the bi-annual report is to assess the quality of supervision and Reflective Discussions in supporting the outcomes for children.

Trix procedures

Only valid for 48hrs