Supervision is an accountable process which supports, assures and develops the knowledge, skills and values of an individual, group or team. The purpose of supervision is to improve the quality of work to achieve agreed objectives and outcomes. Effective supervision is an integral part of adult social care and adult safeguarding practice; it is also an essential element of the performance management framework. It should support staff in developing and maintaining effective working relationships with adults and their carers and with other professionals, whilst simultaneously exercising professional judgement, effective decision making and carrying out other duties associated with their individual role. It should also tie the overarching strategic objectives of the adult social care directorate with the individual personalised objectives of each member of staff.
The Local Government Association has produced standards for employers of social workers in England. This chapter outlines those standards.
The purpose of the Standards is to sustain high quality outcomes for adults, their families, carers, and communities in three focal areas:
- enabling employers to provide a well led, professional environment;
- enabling social work professionals to maintain their professionalism;
- enabling them to practice more effectively.
3. The Standards
There are eight standards, as outlined below.
- Standard 1: clear social work accountability framework – employers should have in place a clear social work accountability framework informed by knowledge of good social work practice and the experience and expertise of adults, carers and practitioners.
- Standard 2: effective workforce planning – employers should use effective workforce planning systems to make sure that the right number of social workers, with the right level of skills and experience, are available to meet current and future service demands.
- Standard 3: safe workloads and case allocation – employers should ensure social workers have safe and manageable workloads.
- Standard 4: managing risks and resources – employers should ensure that social workers can do their jobs safely and have the practical tools and resources they need to practice effectively. Assess risks and take action to minimise and prevent them.
- Standard 5: effective and appropriate supervision – employers should ensure that social workers have regular and appropriate social work supervision.
- Standard 6: continuing professional development – employers should provide opportunities for effective continuing professional development, as well as access to research and relevant knowledge.
- Standard 7: professional registration – employers should ensure social workers can maintain their professional registration.
- Standard 8: effective partnerships – employers should establish effective partnerships with higher education institutions and other organisations to support the delivery of social work education and continuing professional development.
Some of the standards set out above relate to the wider organisation.
Standard 3, Standard 5 and Standard 6 relate to practice of supervision for frontline staff and managers. More detail is provided below.
4. Standard 3 – Safe Workloads and Case Allocation
The objective is to ensure social workers have safe and manageable workloads.
This standard is about protecting employees and service users from the harm caused by excessive workloads, long waiting lists and unallocated cases.
All employers should:
- use a workload management system which sets transparent benchmarks for safe workload levels in each service area;
- ensure each social worker’s workload is regularly assessed to take account of work complexity, individual worker capacity and time needed for supervision (Standard 5) and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) (Standard 6);
- ensure that cases are allocated transparently and by prior discussion with the individual social worker, with due consideration of newly qualified social workers on Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE);
- ensure that a social worker’s professional judgment about workload capacity issues is respected in line with the requirements of their professional registration (Standard 7);
- take contingency action when workload demand exceeds staffing capacity; report regularly to strategic leaders about workload and capacity issues within services;
- publish information about average caseloads for social workers within the organisation (Standard 1).
4.1 Useful information
Local Government Association: workload management systems
Unison: workload management guidance
5. Standard 5 – Effective and Appropriate Supervision
The objective is to ensure that social workers have regular and appropriate social work supervision.
This standard is about making high quality, regular supervision an integral part of social work practice. This should start with students on placement, and continue through ASYE and throughout the individual’s social work career. Supervision should be based on a rigorous understanding of the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF). Supervision should challenge students and qualified practitioners to reflect critically on their practice and should foster an inquisitive approach to social work.
5.1 Frequency of supervision
All employers should make sure that supervision takes place:
- regularly and consistently and last at least an hour and a half of uninterrupted time;
- for students on placement – as agreed with student and higher education institution;
- for newly qualified social workers – at least weekly for the first six weeks of employment of a newly qualified social worker, at least fortnightly for the duration of the first six months, and a minimum of monthly supervision thereafter;
- for social workers who have demonstrated capability at ASYE level and above – in line with identified needs, and at least monthly;
- monitor actual frequency and quality of supervision against clear statements about what is expected.
5.2 Quality of supervision
All employers should:
- ensure that social work supervision is not treated as an isolated activity by incorporating it into the organisation’s social work accountability framework;
- promote continuous learning and knowledge sharing through which social workers are encouraged to draw out learning points by reflecting on their own practice in the light of experiences of peers;
- ensure that the PCF, at an appropriate level, is used as the basis for evaluating capability and identifying development needs;
- ensure that supervision supports students and qualified social workers to meet the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) standards;
- encourage social workers to plan, reflect on and record learning activity, using recording tools such as an e portfolio;
- provide regular supervision training for social work supervisors;
- assign explicit responsibility for the oversight of appropriate supervision and for issues that arise through supervision;
- provide additional professional supervision by a registered social worker for practitioners whose line manager is not a social worker.
5.3 Useful information
Bedford Supervision Policy
Local Government Association: Guidance for providing supervision in different settings
Effective supervision in a variety of settings, SCIE
BASW supervision policy
SCIE Research briefing 43: Effective supervision in social work and social care
6. Standard 6 – Continuing Professional Development
The objective is to provide opportunities for effective continuing professional development, as well as access to research and relevant knowledge.
This standard is about social workers being able to build a robust and up to date knowledge and skill base through effective CPD and access to research, evidence and best practice guidance. Employers should facilitate career long learning and empower social workers to work confidently and effectively with the children, adults and families they have been trained to support. Employers should also understand the statutory requirement for social workers in England to undertake CPD, as outlined in the HCPC’s standards for CPD.
6.1 Supporting staff development
All employers should:
- have effective induction systems and put in place tailored support programmes for ASYEs, including protected development time, a managed workload, tailored supervision and personal development plans;
- have an appraisal or performance review system which assesses how well professional practice is delivered and identifies a learning and development plan to support the achievement of objectives;
- provide time, resources and support for CPD;
- have fair and transparent systems to enable social workers to develop their professional skills and knowledge throughout their careers through an entitlement to formal and informal CPD, including practice educator and / or specialist training as appropriate;
- encourage social workers to plan, reflect on and record CPD activity, using recording tools, such as an e portfolio.
6.2 Promoting research based practice
All employers should:
- support their social workers to make decisions and pursue actions that are informed by robust and rigorous evidence so that service users can have confidence in the service they receive;
- enable social workers to work with others engaged in research and practice development activities in universities, professional bodies and trade unions to develop the evidence base for good practice;
- ensure that practice educators are able to contribute to the learning, support, supervision and assessment of students on qualifying and CPD programmes.
6.3 Useful information
ASYE Information, resources and case studies
BASW: Continuing Professional Development Policy
Skills for Care: continuing to develop social workers
Health and Care Professions Council: standards for continuing professional development
Health and Care Professions Council: information and resources on continuing professional development
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