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4.24 Staff Supervision, Performance Management, Training and Development


This chapter was fully revised in September 2015 and references key links and documents that support and enhance the supervision process and seek to build knowledge and skills.

The chapter contains a number of Appendices, many of which are tools and checklists, and have been amended from the previous chapter.


1. Introduction
2. What is Supervision?
3. Supervision Appropriate to Task and Role
4. Policy and Standards
  4.1 Standards for Social Workers and Social Work Managers
  4.2 The Role of Senior Managers
  4.3 Standards for Other Qualified and Registered Professionals
  4.4 The Role of Service Users
5. Frequency of Supervision (and newly qualified social workers) 
6. The Working Context
7. Equal Opportunities
8. Group Supervision
9. Individual Supervision
10. Process of Supervision
11. Content of Supervision / Agenda
12. Career Development & Career Progression for Social Workers
13. Workloads
14. Expectations of the Supervisor
15. What does an Effective Supervisor look like?
16. The Social Work Supervisor as Practice Leader
17. The Supervision Agreement
18. Work Plans, Performance Management and Appraisal
19. Learning and Development
  Appendix A: Example Supervision Agreement for Social Workers
  Appendix B: Example of Supervision Agreement for Staff (not social workers)
  Appendix C: Group Supervision Record Template
  Appendix D: Case Presentation Guidance Checklist
  Appendix E: Recording 1:1 Casework Supervision
  Appendix F: Recording Non-casework Supervision
  Appendix G: Direct Observation Tools
  Appendix H: Work Planning and Performance Management
  Appendix I: Performance - Work Plan and Review for February/March (Annual Review Meeting)
  Appendix J: Questions for Supervisors on Responding to Emotion
  Appendix K: Learning and Development Opportunities
  Appendix L: Learning & Development Needs: Plan Template

1. Introduction

This policy and guidance document on supervision and its link to performance management, learning and development updates and refreshes earlier procedure and guidance. This is to take account of the transformation in Children’s Services to systemic working practice and organisation and affirm commitment to reflective supervision. Whilst not all staff are social workers, the primary task of Children’s Services is to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and all supervision should have this as the central objective. It aims to put the best interests of children at the heart of practice and to promote renewed focus on:

  • Relationship based social work;
  • Reflective supervision;
  • Group reflection as a key opportunity for staff to learn from and support each other.

It acknowledges the multi-disciplinary and team approach to work with children and families in taking account of:

  • Clinical input;
  • Involvement of Practice Co-ordinators;
  • The role of consultation and additional supervisory input to meet learning needs.

2. What is Supervision?

“Supervision is a process by which one worker is given responsibility by the organisation to work with another worker in order to meet certain organisational, professional and personal objectives which together promote the best outcomes for service users.”

Morrison, T (2005) Staff supervision in social care. Brighton: Pavilion

Supervision involves:

  • A helping relationship within which a supervisee becomes more effective in their work;
  • Task assistance (work-related guidance, clarification of expectations and workload management);
  • Emotional support (including responding to stress);
  • Learning and development (including reflection and effective feedback from supervisor to supervisee to support confident and safe practice).

Research suggests that good supervision has the following features:

  • It occurs regularly in a safe environment;
  • It is based on a respectful relationship;
  • The process is understood and valued, and is embedded in organisational culture.

The purpose of supervision is therefore to improve the service, exercise a duty of care to staff, and support good morale and staff retention. Effective supervision should results in positive outcomes both for people who use services and for the staff who provide those services. Essentially, supervision is a work-focused discussion and/or activity that should provide structure and feedback on day-to-day work, improving practice by critical reflection and fostering an inquisitive approach to work with children and families.

The principles of supervision within Children’s Social Care are that:

  • The best interests of the child must always come first;
  • It promotes anti-discriminatory practice;
  • It is mandated by the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) and Departmental policy;
  • It is a shared responsibility, based on negotiated agreement in writing and trust;
  • It is regular and uninterrupted;
  • It promotes competent, accountable and empowered practice.

3. Supervision Appropriate to Task and Role

Supervision may have a particular focus depending on the role of supervisees

  • Professional supervision is focused on the work being carried out with people who use services;
  • Management supervision is task-orientated to deliver specific organisational outcomes;
  • Clinical supervision is focused on professional support and learning which enables individual practitioners to develop knowledge and competence and assume responsibility for their own practice.

See Effective supervision in a variety of settings, SCIE Guide 50.

4. Policy and Standards

Southwark Children’s Social Care is committed to providing a comprehensive framework of managerial support, reflective supervision and learning opportunities to promote continued practice and professional development with access to research and relevant knowledge. In this way we aim to achieve excellence in the service we provide for children and families.

Line managers are required to develop with supervisees:

  • A supervision agreement which is reviewed annually;
  • An annual work plan based on priorities for service planning;
  • An annual learning and development plan based on learning needs and service priorities;
  • Mid-way (September) performance appraisal;
  • End of year (March) performance appraisal.

(See templates in the appendices).

Supervisees should be aware of the role of supervision via:

  • Induction;
  • This policy and guidance;
  • Learning opportunities and should take an active part in the process of developing the agreement and plans, supervision and appraisal.

All staff in Children’s Social Care are expected to be active in the process, to take responsibility for their own learning and development and managers expect to support you in this.

Good and outstanding work should be acknowledged at all levels and used to set expectations and provide an example of what good looks like. PRAISE WORK WELL DONE. There is rich learning from what works well (which tends not to get attention and may even be taken for granted) and what has not worked so well (which tends to get a lot of attention and highlighted as a requiring improvement or inadequate).

4.1 Standards for qualified social workers and social work managers

Social workers and managers should refer to:

These standards require social workers to:

  • Keep knowledge and skills up-to-date and commit to career-long professional development and learning;
  • Be able to critically reflect on practice and record the outcome of such reflection appropriately;
  • Recognise the value of supervision, case reviews and other methods of reflection and review;
  • Be able to use supervision to enhance the quality of their practice;
  • Contribute to processes designed to evaluate individual and service outcomes;
  • Engage in evidence-informed practice, systematically evaluate practice and participate in audit procedures.

Employer Standards require supervision to:

  • Be regular and consistent;
  • Involve learning consistent with the PCF and at an appropriate level;
  • Evaluate capability and provide appraisal using the PCF (and knowledge and skills);
  • Identify development needs using PCF and knowledge and skills statement.

The knowledge and skills statement (page 14 on in the document linked above) for children & family social worker expects an ability to:

  • Reflect on the emotional experience of working relationships with parents, carers and children, and consciously identify where personal triggers are affecting the quality of analysis or help;
  • Identify strategies to build professional resilience and management of self.

Employer standards also mean supervision training should be available for social work supervisors/line managers and this might include:

  • Training in generic and specific supervision skills and techniques, such as analysis of practice with specific people, critical thinking, group supervision feedback and reflection;
  • ‘Learning laboratories’ to improve supervisory skills in a cycle of improvements;
  • Staff watching their supervisory performance in audio-visual recordings and reflecting on it;
  • Group supervision for supervisors to model supervision skills;
  • Training in performance management, appraisal, coaching, supervising a diverse workforce, conflict management and action learning;
  • Supporting safe practice – an awareness of how supervisors can offer support to supervisees which takes account of effective safeguarding in case management;

“Effective supervision in a variety of settings” (Social Care Institute for Excellence Guide 50).

4.2 The Role of Senior Managers

Senior managers have a responsibility to promote good supervision by:

  • Leading a culture with values and behaviour that promotes and prioritises relationship based social work and supervision;
  • Providing a reflective space where decisions can be properly thought through;
  • Makes sure those providing supervision are trained for the task;
  • Ensuring this policy and guidance is communicated and understood;
  • Monitoring compliance with standards via feedback from supervisees, auditing and feeding back the learning from audits to supervisors;
  • Modelling good supervisory practice to the supervisor of practitioners including their records of supervision discussion and decisions are visible on electronic social care records. This is particularly important where APs are lead social workers and PGLs need to demonstrate management oversight of work as APs are otherwise signing off group supervision on their own work;
  • Outlining what good looks like, commending good examples and sharing good examples of practice with the Service and Practice Group.

4.3 Standards for Other Qualified and Registered Professionals and Managers

Refer to the appropriate registration and professional standards to check any additional requirements. Supervisors should understand the professional role, framework, language and values of supervisees or other professional disciplines. In the case of health professionals, clinical supervision will need to be provided by a person of the same profession. Similarly qualified social workers will require professional social work supervision if they are supervised by a line manager who is not a social worker by discipline.

4.4 The Role of Service Users

Evidence available indicates that people who use services are rarely involved in supervision. Service User feedback about their perceptions of good and poor practice could be sought via feedback with direct observation (see Appendix F: Recording Non-casework Supervision) or via contact or questionnaires as part of auditing. Compliments and complaints can be helpful in this process and review meetings and conferences can provide an opportunity to obtain feedback. Service users should be regarded as “experts by experience”. This is most likely to contribute to reflection and task assistance aspects of supervision.

5. Frequency of Supervision and Newly Qualified Social Workers

Every member of staff is entitled to formal supervision and the frequency will be determined when negotiating the supervision agreement. Employer standards state that for newly qualified social workers this should be:

  • Weekly for the first 6 weeks of employment;
  • Fortnightly for the duration of the first six months;
  • Minimum of monthly supervision thereafter.

For social works post-ASYE, the frequency should be monthly.

These standards of frequency refer to 1:1 supervision generally whereas the organisation of social work within Children’s Services into Practice Groups with clinical input means that all casework supervision (except urgent/emergency situations) will occur within weekly reflective group supervision. Therefore, the frequency and duration of 1:1 supervision (in addition to group supervision) will vary from person to person post-ASYE. In this context the 1:1 supervision will be based on the Supervision Agreement, work and learning and development planning as well as individual performance management and appraisal.

6. The Working Context

Children’s Social Care is part of the Social Services Department of Southwark Council and staff are employees and subject of corporate policy and procedures. The Council exists to provide the best possible service to residents and service users. Work is allocated through line managers and is accountable to line managers through Heads of Service to the Director. There is an expectation of staff that they will structure their work in the most cost effective manner in providing a quality service.

Staff time is the most valuable and expensive resource. Managers therefore expect staff to account for how time is used and in what activity at work makes a difference in terms of service delivery. Please see TheSource/The Council for further information about the Council, the Council’s plan for a Fairer Future for All and TheSource/Tools and Resources for The Business Manager’s Handbook which outlines in detail, all the policy and procedures including performance management.

Children and family social work in the context of local authority statutory functions can be challenging. Supervision is part of the Council’s duty of care and links to sickness and absence, flexible working, health and wellbeing, whistleblowing, (see Whistleblowing Policy Procedure) complaints, capability. Good supervisory practice is associated with job satisfaction, career or job retention, emotional health and practice skill. Appropriate emotional support can buffer against anxiety, stress and high workloads. Evidence suggests long term professional development is important to supervisees. Planning, preparation and supervision time is part of workload and valued as part of a commitment to achieving excellence in service delivery.

7. Equal Opportunities

Supervision should be conducted in accordance with the Equal Opportunities Policy. Please see TheSource/Human Resources/Equality & Diversity and Respect at Work Policy. All staff, whether part-time, full-time, or out of hours will receive supervision. Similarly, irrespective of the responsibility they hold, all staff should have access to supervision on a planned basis. Recognition needs to be given to the power imbalance that may exist between supervisor and supervisee and the possible barriers to understanding that can arise. Different life experiences should be valued and attention paid to issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age and disability. This is why it is important to have a discussion at the start when negotiating the supervision agreement.

8. Group Supervision

It is expected that regular casework discussion (except urgent and emergency situations) will take place within group supervision to provide:

  • A systemic theoretical foundation for discussion with clinical input as appropriate;
  • Utilisation of strengths-based/risk assessment approach via “signs of safety” where there are safeguarding issues;
  • SMART outcome-focussed planning for children based on needs assessment.

This should include reflective discussion, decision-making, allocation, transfer or closure of cases. Practice Group Handbooks developed within Service areas will specify who will record this discussion but generally it is expected that Practice Co-ordinators will make a record and Advanced Practitioners will sign them off.

9. Individual Supervision

Regular 1:1 supervision meetings will enable staff to:

  • Develop agreement, work & learning and development plan;
  • Review work and practice including for social workers planning and feedback for direct observation of practice (4 per annum for ASYE and 2 per annum post ASYE;
  • Assess and agree priorities within the workload and plan;
  • Manage absence through toil, leave or other authorised absence;
  • Be supported with the emotional impact of work and management of stress;
  • Improve knowledge and skills in agreed areas with task assistance;
  • Identify learning and professional development needs.

The line manager may not be able to meet all the support and development needs of the supervisee at all times and in these circumstances the supervisor is expected to make available other processes as necessary such as additional professional supervision, specialist consultation, mentoring or coaching.

10. Process of Supervision

Whether undertaken individual or in a group, supervision meetings should be:

PLANNED: Supervision meetings are a planned activity and not to be used only when there is a ‘problem”. Both the staff member and the supervisor should actively seek supervision. Both should ensure they are adequately prepared for supervision meetings. This should be the heart of supervision with commitment and involvement on both sides. There may be times when arrangements are made to meet following work which is anticipated to be difficult.

There may be times when supervision is unplanned but delivered in response to a crisis. This provides a timely response for task assistance and/or emotional assistance. Informal and unplanned, “corridor supervision” should be avoided because reflection and critical thinking may be absent and discussion may not be recorded.

REGULAR: Supervision meetings need to happen regularly. Agreement on frequency should be established at the outset, given priority and booked in the diary/outlook calendar well in advance. If an emergency necessitates the postponement of supervision, a further time to meet must be arranged with minimum delay. See minimum frequency for ASYE newly qualified social workers as above.

RECORDED: For 1:1 supervision, notes need to be taken by the line manager to record agreements or disagreements, decisions made, who agreed to ‘do’ what, items for future discussions and any learning needs identified. The record should be shared with the supervisee and filed electronically and some templates to assist are in the appendices. It is good practice for the supervisee to keep their own notes however a record should be agreed and signed by both parties to reflect the issues discussed and what has been agreed (or not). Any issues about the accuracy of the record should be discussed at the following supervision. See Section 8, Group Supervision on recording group discussions which should be recorded on electronic social care record.

Only the supervisor and staff member should keep the electronic notes relating to matters other than group supervision discussion of casework. 1:1 supervision records may be subject to scrutiny by line management in the case of an enquiry. Managers within line management structures are responsible for monitoring the quantity and quality of supervision, and for this purpose they may need to access 1:1 supervision records. There are exceptional circumstances when senior managers at Director level may need access to supervision records on a need to know basis, for example where there are concerns relating to the public interest, the law, risk to staff or users, professional conduct or where the supervisee agrees that someone outside the line management structure may be given access to certain information arising from supervision.

Any significant discussion or decision about a child and family discussed in 1:1 supervision must be recorded by the manager on the electronic social care record. This is to ensure that the user is able to request access to any recorded information that is relevant to them from their record and not from employee supervision records in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998.

Personal information must be:

  • Accurate;
  • Adequate;
  • Relevant;
  • Not excessive;
  • Available to the subject;
  • Not kept longer than necessary.

SENSITIVE: A supervisor needs to be sensitive, constructive and challenging. Both parties need to have respect for each other and an acceptance of differing value bases where this is not discriminatory. Personal information shared during 1:1 supervision would only be communicated to others on a need to know basis (see above).

STRUCTURED: Supervision meetings need to be structured with an agenda (see below).

11. Content of Supervision / Agenda

The agenda should reflect the purpose of supervision as outlined above and could therefore, over time, include:

  • A supportive function, which aims:
    Within a helping relationship a supervisee to become more effective in their work.
    • Positive feedback;
    • Health & safety – provision of a safe environment in which to work including policy and procedures and specific support to staff who are subject to any form of abuse either from service users or from colleagues, whether this be physical, psychological or discriminatory;
    • Monitor overall health and emotional functioning of the staff member, especially with regard to the effects of stress;
    • Stress management and reduction including de-briefing with permission to talk about feelings, especially fear, anger, sadness, repulsion or helplessness arising from work;
    • Reflection on emotional impact of work on self recognising that children’s social care and social work often involves difficult and distressing work;
    • Exploration of any emotional blocks to work;
    • Exploration in a safe setting issues about discrimination;
    • Reflection on difficulties in colleague relationships, to assist the worker in resolving conflict;
    • Clarify when supervisee should be advised to seek external counselling.
  • A management function, which aims to ensure:
    Task assistance (work-related guidance, help with difficult work, teaching new knowledge & skills, clarification of expectations and workload management).
    • Recognition of achievements;
    • Governance (work in line with legal requirements, policy & procedure around reviews);
    • Accountability in terms of time management (leave, toil or other absence), basis of decisions are clear, explicit in the record and followed through;
    • Quality of work (in line with role and responsibility of JD, work plan, PCF) evaluation of practice (performance management and appraisal, boundaries);
    • Recording is maintained according to HCPC standards & departmental expectations;
    • Workload issues are discussed and resolved;
    • Contribution to set, group, service, enabling others is positive and acknowledged.
  • An educational function, to develop:
    Practice via promoting learning and professional development (including reflection and a relationship in which regular/constructive feedback from supervisor to supervisee and from supervisee to supervisor can support confident and safe practice)
    • Competence assessed against the PCF & knowledge and skills;
    • Assessment of learning and development needs and how they can best be met in line with PCF and K & S statement;
    • Ensuring maintenance of post registration record of CPD and registration;
    • Preparation and feedback for direct observation of practice;
    • Understanding of the theoretical base, skills, knowledge and individual contribution to the organisation in line with Knowledge & Skills statement;
    • Understanding of the supervisee’s value base in relation to race, gender, etc and its impact on their work in line with HCPC standards and PCF domains;
    • Access to consultation and development opportunities in areas outside the supervisor’s knowledge/experience via professional experts and/or clinical input;
    • Supervisee’s ability to reflect on their work and interaction with service users, colleagues and other agencies;
    • Supervisee’s capacity for self appraisal;
    • Specific teaching/coaching input to develop knowledge, QUA, audit or other feedback on practice, consideration of relevant research, implementation of learning into practice;
    • Career development.
  • A mediation function:
    Two-way communication so that supervisees can be consulted about organisational developments and have a chance to influence the way any changes which effect their work are implemented:
    • Brief higher management about resource deficits or implications;
    • Allocate resources in the most efficient way;
    • Represent staff needs to higher management;
    • Negotiate and clarify the group/team’s remit;
    • Initiate, clarify or contribute to policy formulation;
    • Consult and brief staff about organisational developments or information;
    • Advocate between worker, or set/group/team, and other parts of the agency or with outside agencies;
    • Represent or accompany staff in work with other agencies;
    • Involve staff in decision-making;
    • Deal sensitively, but clearly, with complaints about staff;
    • Assist and coach staff, where appropriate, through complaints procedures.

12. Career Development & Career Progression for Social Workers

Career development should form part of discussion within the education function and for social workers will relate to the level descriptors in the Professional Capabilities Framework (TCSW) and career progression scheme.

Social Work Career Progression Scheme (November 2014)

Discussion should flow from feedback on direct observation (see Appendix F: Recording Non-casework Supervision), audits and performance appraisals but should:

  • Identify individual strengths;
  • Provide challenge to achieve personal and professional growth;
  • Identify areas for development in order for supervisees to carry out their job to the required standard and objectives;
  • Identify development opportunities and agree training and other learning opportunities e.g. shadowing more senior staff, participating in service evaluation and development workshops, linking to special projects, researching areas of specialism and best practice;
  • Feed the learning and development plan;
  • Evaluate the impact of the development opportunities supervisees have received.

13. Workloads

Work allocated should have regard to level of experience, knowledge and qualifications. This should build up from first week of appointment to allow for induction in the early weeks. Newly qualified social workers on the ASYE will build up to 90% of that expected of post ASYE to allow for twice monthly professional development days. Subsequent development of workload will be managed in group supervision and in keeping with the priorities identified in the work plan. The workload for each set of 5 staff within the Practice Groups is 60 children. (5 staff = 1 x AP, 1 x CP, ESW x 1, SW x 1 ASYE x1). There may be variations in set composition according to service. Responsibility for workload management within the group and for individuals is with the Advanced Practitioner in consultation with Practice Group Leads. Group Supervision allows for task allocation to others in the set where the lead practitioner may be under pressure as a result of developments within a family.

Case/workload allocation needs to take into account not just numbers but complexity of cases and travel involved. Seriousness & multiplicity of need and risk, siblings, disability or special needs, multiple parties with Parental Responsibility, interpreting/translation needs, challenging behaviour, legal proceedings requiring additional report-writing and tight timescales, health and safety risks are all likely to take more practitioner and supervisor time. There may be a need for co-working on challenging and complex cases. Co-working will require clear understanding of who is doing what and who is supervising.

14. Expectations of the Supervisor

  • They will hold a position of seniority in relation to the supervisee, either due to their role or because they are recognised as having greater expertise and experience in the service in which the supervisee is working. They will normally be the supervisee’s line manager;
  • They will have current knowledge of what constitutes good practice both in relation to the service, and to the particular role held by the supervisee. Where they lack specialist knowledge, they will ensure that the supervisee can access consultation from others with the appropriate knowledge and skills, as necessary;
  • They will understand what the organisation expects of them in the supervisory role, especially in relation to the four functions described above;
  • Where the supervisor has concerns about the supervisee’s practice they will be responsible for agreeing how these will be addressed with the focus on the learning to be achieved and how this is to be supported by the supervisor;
  • They will have sufficient capacity to be able to meet the agreed standard of frequency;
  • They will be committed to developing their skills as a supervisor and ensuring that they access appropriate learning to keep knowledge and skills up to date;
  • They will be receiving their own one-to-one support so that they can be supervised on the supervision they are giving and committed to addressing their own support needs. They should then be able to give quality attention to the supervisee’s needs in supervision;
  • They will treat all supervisees as individuals and with respect, and will value diversity in the workforce and challenge discrimination whenever it arises, according to the equal opportunities policy;
  • Where additional professional supervision is provided it may be helpful to have three-way sessions. In any case the line manager must ensure they have regular ongoing communication with the ‘other’ supervisor.

15. What does an Effective Supervisor Look Like?

Current research and practice evidence suggests that effective supervisors are those who have the required clinical and expert knowledge to assist supervisees in their work, provide emotional support and who have the qualities to develop positive working relationships. Behaviour in relation to the practicalities of supervision will be important:

  • Ensuring that formal supervision takes place in a conducive, quiet, interruption-free environment;
  • Not cancelling or being late for supervision;
  • Having structured plans for supervision sessions with built-in flexibility;
  • Writing up supervision notes and making sure they are signed by both parties.

What has also made a difference is if supervisors are respectful, express empathy for the supervisee, are ‘aware of self’ themselves and use active listening in supervision sessions. Supervisors should consider how they can give emotional support in a way that does not increase feelings of burnout, but reflects on these feelings in a way that builds positive emotional outcomes. Five interrelated elements have been identified as relevant to social care practice:

  • Self-awareness;
  • Self-management;
  • Awareness of others;
  • Interpersonal sills;
  • Values.

Morrison links these to core skills in social care:

  • Engagement with people;
  • Capacity for accurate observation and recall;
  • Assessment skills;
  • Decision-making;
  • Working with others.

Morrison, T. 2007 Emotional intelligence, emotion and social work: context, characteristics, complications and contribution. BJSW vol 37 no 2 pp 245-263.

Workers need secure responsive supervision, especially if they are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Supervisors may want to consider a more consultative style with more experienced staff, and a more directive style with less experienced staff.

Further reading:

Effective supervision in a variety of settings, SCIE Guide 50

Bourn, D. & Hafford-Letchfield, T. 2011. The role of social work professional supervision in conditions of uncertainty.

The International Journal of Knowledge, Culture & Change Management, Vol 10, No. 9 (pp 41-56) on strategies to contain anxiety which include humour, encouragement and recognition.

Health & Safety Executive (HSE) Management standards to combat work-related stress.

16. The Social Work Supervisor as Practice Leader

Using their knowledge and skills, social work supervisors act as arbiters of standards of practice and the capacity to work with emotions is key, requiring emotional intelligence. Good leaders are seen to be “emotionally resonant” (able to read emotions and discuss uncomfortable feelings). This important in securing positive outcomes promoting seven factors which link what happens in supervision to the quality of service for the user:


Fig 1: Supervision outcome chain


A supervisory relationship needs to develop so that supervisees are able to explore confusions, anxieties and dilemmas in order to develop security in role. Relationship based social work flows from a supervisory relationship where there is empathy and emotional attunement. Accurate assessment is more likely in a culture of openness. Authority needs to be balanced underpinned by partnership and anti-oppressive practice. Clear development plans for supervisees and children should be based on reflection and analysis of need. The development of an effective relationship will depend on a clear understanding by both parties on their role, responsibilities and the boundaries and limitations of their relationship. This understanding can be enhanced by the effective use of the supervision agreement.

Issues raised in supervision relating to the emotional impact of the work itself or challenges concerning the performance of the supervisee may be a cause of emotional stress. The development of the supervision agreement will provide an opportunity to acknowledge this in advance and to make sure that the supervisee knows what to do should this become an issue that they feel requires third-party intervention. The research supports the need for supervisors to be trained in how to work skillfully in these situations to achieve the best outcome for the worker, their people who use services and the organization.

17. The Supervision Agreement

The agreement is more than a piece of paper. It is the process of discussion that precedes the completion of the final document that is important (The same can be said of written agreements with families). A Supervision Agreement should be completed for all new and existing staff following exploratory discussion, when the ‘ground rules’ will be recorded. Best practice is to agree supervision dates in advance. For new staff, the line manager will need to ensure that supervisees are made aware of the aims and functions of supervision during their induction, and are equipped to make use of it in the appropriate way. Any development needs identified in relation to supervision can be addressed in the first Leaning and Development Plan, agreed during the induction process.

Decisions about frequency will take account of a range of factors through negotiation which may include:

  • Number of hours worked by supervisee;
  • Development needs of supervisee;
  • Professional standards (e.g. ASYE for social workers);
  • Degree of informal support available;
  • Degree of complexity & risk in the work undertaken by supervisee;
  • Existence of particularly stressful circumstances of work;
  • Supervisee’s preference;
  • Supervisor’s capacity to deliver supervision;
  • Other resources available that provide support and development.

In general, with group supervision for casework, one-to-one supervision is expected to be at a frequency of every 4 – 6 weeks post induction/ASYE.

Conflict in supervision

Good practice indicates the importance of considering at the beginning of the supervisory relationship how any conflict that might arise in supervision will be worked through which will form part of the Supervision Agreement. If the supervisee is dissatisfied with the quantity or quality of supervision their first action should be to raise it with their supervisor, perhaps by requesting a review of the Supervision Agreement. If this does not resolve the issue, the next step would be to involve the supervisor’s line manager in a three-way discussion with a view to resolving the matter. Either party may request this. Should this not resolve the issue then HR would need to be consulted about other ways to mediate or resolve the issue.

See Appendices for examples of supervision agreements.

18. Work Plans, Performance Management and Appraisal

Staff are employed to fulfil a number of key functions/tasks on behalf of the Council and these will be broadly encompassed in job descriptions and individual work plans. A work plan should be completed within 3 months of joining the service. Work plans will identify what needs to be done to achieve the tasks and objectives of Service Plans which are linked to the overall “Achieving Excellence” plan for Children’s Services. The objectives and priorities of “Achieving Excellence”, and how they are measured will influence how work related activity is evaluated and its timeliness. For social workers, the professional capabilities framework and the expectations of staff at different grades/levels, will influence performance appraisal, for example ASYE, Social Worker, Experienced Social Worker, Advanced Practitioner. Evidence of practice at an appropriate level will be crucial in determining recommendation for career progression to experienced social worker:

See Social Work Career Progression Scheme (November 2014).

Everyone has a right to be given feedback by their line manager on how well they are doing or what needs to change. This applies to any specific tasks in a work plan and on the performance of general day-to-day duties. Performance feedback should not be a one-off event. As an integral part of 1:1 supervision, it should be a continuing process. Within this context, feedback should also be structured into a 6-monthly formal cycle of performance appraisal via mid-way appraisals in September and end of year appraisal in March using the standard performance management appraisal formats (see Appendices). Staff are encouraged and expected to take an active part in this process and incremental progression is dependent on positive appraisal and recommendation.

Click here to view Performance Management (The Source).

19. Learning and Development

With the education function being a crucial element of supervision including reflection and feedback on what needs to develop or change, there should be a ‘fit’ between the identification of learning needs, the production of a learning plan and the implementation of learning into practice in a continuous cycle of career-long, indeed life-long learning.

There is a standard format for Learning and Development Plans (see Appendices). The standard forms should be completed within 3 months of joining the Service and then reviewed and completed on an annual basis in April following performance appraisal when learning and needs should be highlighted within the identified competencies for the job. For social workers this will related the PCF and knowledge and skills statements. Continuing professional development and the maintenance of evidence to support this is a HCPC requirement for re-registration by social workers. This will also apply to registered health professionals.

The learning and development plan should identify key areas for development and how staff members, with managers’ support, can make progress. Each Head of Service should identify learning and development needs specific for their service and negotiate priorities and how these will be met with the Head of Organisational Development.

Some development activity may best be promoted through a training course however learning can also be achieved by reading, e-learning, individual and group supervision, coaching, action learning sets, service days, team/set/practice group presentations, webinars etc. Managers will want to identify learning objectives with staff and then during supervision, jointly evaluate after the activity how this will impact on practice, to see whether it has been successful in terms of improving individual practice/service delivery.

Children’s Social Care Learning and Development Plan 2014-16 outlines the delivery of learning opportunities via Organisational Development. These can be viewed and booked with manager approval via My Learning Source (MLS) through TheSource. Access to corporate learning opportunities and those provided by the Southwark Safeguarding Children Partnership is also via MLS.

See also:

Effective supervision in social work and social care.

Skills for Care website -> Social Work -> Employing social workers -> Social Work leadership toolkit.

Appendix A: Example Supervision Agreement for Social Workers

Click here to view Appendix A: Example Supervision Agreement for Social Workers.

Appendix B: Example of Supervision Agreement for Staff (not social workers)

Click here to view Appendix B: Example of Supervision Agreement for Staff (not social workers).

Appendix C: Group Supervision Record and Guidance

Group supervision should be recorded in a structured way. Bear in mind that should a service user request access to files then they will see supervision records as well as everything else except restricted access. The following are headings for a group supervision record with guidance from the Safeguarding & Family Support Service.

  1. Date of group supervision discussion;
  2. Names of children in family under consideration;
  3. Legal status;
  4. CIN/CP/LAC/Pre-proceedings/In proceedings/SO;
  5. Name of lead social worker;
  6. Names of those present at discussion;
  7. Case presentation (new/review discussion in this allocation episode);
    When was the child last seen? What were their views, wishes, feelings?
    See guidance below
  8. What was agreed and followed up from last discussion?
  9. Reflective discussion – bullet points;
  10. Needs/outcomes/SMART plan in line with CIN/CP plan and arising from systemic hypothesis & reflection;
  11. Action required / Who is leading? / Timescales
  12. Performance:
Last visit date: Recorded: Y/N Next due date: Action required:
Next statutory task: Who is to lead? Date for report/task: Action required:

(CIN review, RCPPC, LAC review, Pre-proceedings meeting/review, LPM review, Court hearing, other meeting or planning process e.g. s.47, FGC, Permanence consultation, chronology on file/update needed, Genogram on file/update needed?

  1. Date of next group supervision (consider if need to discuss further before next statutory task).

Appendix D: Case Presentation Guidance Checklist

Not everything needs to be considered or recorded in every case discussion.


Case summary:

  • Genogram/relationship maps;
  • Family composition;
  • Social GRRAACCES;
  • What has led to current allocation episode?
  • What is the plan including permanence plan (if appropriate) for the child/ren?
  • Summary of background & history;
  • Strengths existing safety;
  • Needs;
  • Risks (how serious), past harm/patterns of risk;
  • Complicating factors;
  • Summary of professional interventions;
  • Family members and children’s account, views of plan and interventions, about what needs to happen to create safety/meet children’s needs.

Current plan:

  • Involvement of kinship and professional networks;
  • Types of intervention and rationale behind them;
  • The family’s goals;
  • Perceived outcomes of the interventions (based on needs being addressed).


  • What were the decisions/actions from the previous supervision, have they been carried out and if not why not?
  • Update re progress in relation to the plan
  • Update on events/activity since last supervision
  • Any changes in risks/safety
  • Update or additions to recall relevant aspects of case discussion/genogram/relationship
  • What interventions and working hypotheses appear to have been helpful/unhelpful?
  • What are family member’ views of the interventions?
  • Have the family achieved any of their goals?


  • What dilemmas/issues does the presenting practitioner want the group to bear in mind while reflecting?
  • Circularity, relational patterns and questions, curiosity/neutrality, reflexivity/self reflexivity;
  • Who for, what for, why now?
  • Family stories, including the voices and perspectives of individual family members and children;
  • Social GRRAACCES;
  • Dominant narratives, power and privilege;
  • Perspectives, patterns, stories in the professional network;
  • How ideas generated can be included in current and future planning and interventions;
  • Reflections on interventions so far;
  • How can hypotheses be explored with families?
  • What themes have emerged from the reflection/what working hypotheses have been developed?


  • Is there a need for action relating to progress or timescales for any aspect of the existing plan?
  • Has any aspect of the plan been achieved/completed?
  • Does anything need to be removed, added, or amended in the plan?
  • What do we need to see in order to know risk is decreasing/the plan is progressing?
  • What would we need to see change in order to refer on or close?
  • Is a step down plan needed now?
  • Have children been the subjects of CP plans for nearly a year – what needs to happen to step down from or escalate from the CP plan?
  • Have all Looked After children got a clear permanence plan and is parallel planning in place?
  • What relational/systemic interventions would be useful?
  • What questions (circular and relational as well as linear) might support these interventions?


  • Is there a need for action to bring visits back within timescales? (E.g. an action plan where practitioners are not being allowed into the family home or a plan to support the lead social worker to complete outstanding recording?)
  • Is the chronology and genogram on all children’s files and is it up to date?
  • Do we need to invite a QUA CPC to chair a group supervision for a mid-way review or prior to a RCPCC?
  • Do we need to invite an IRO to a group supervision for a mid-way review or prior to a LAC review?
  • Would it be useful to invite anyone else to attend a group supervision about a particular case?
  • Would a consultation with the Permanence Service be helpful?
  • Should we bring a group supervision prior to referral to the Support and Challenge Panel where children have been subject to CP plans for nearly a year?
  • Do we need to schedule the case for group supervision to consider the report due 2 weeks before the next review/meeting/court hearing etc?

This is one example from S&FS. This can be adapted to meet local needs and Heads of Service/PGLs are advised to provide a recording template for consistency when considering supervision recording.

Appendix E: Recording 1:1 Casework Supervision

Where casework is discussed outside group supervision it is likely to be either in urgent or emergency circumstances or it could be where special supervisory arrangements have been set up to meet individual professional development needs. The supervisor needs to record this on the child’s electronic social care record and if the supervisor is not the operational line manager, bring the record or contents to their attention. This record needs to reflect:

  • Activity (update on previous action agreed at last supervision or new developments requiring consideration - when was child last seen and what was their view, wishes & feelings?)
  • Analysis discussion (reflection on developments requiring consideration outside group supervision-What’s going well and what needs to change? Any quality of relationship issues?)
  • Action (plan of who will do what and when arising from analysis)

Use line breaks, spacing or bullet points to avoid lengthy, difficult to read single line entries in the record.

Appendix F: Recording Non-casework Supervision

Click here to view Appendix F: Recording Non-casework Supervision.

Appendix G: Direct Observation Tools

Appendix H: Work Planning and Performance Management

Performance Management in the Business Managers Handbook can be found here.

Work planning is the key tool for translating Service Plan objectives into the individual objectives of each member of staff. This process is usually managed through individual supervision. Its main advantages are:

  • Clarifying each person's role, expectations and targets for the period in question (usually one year);
  • Informing the individual's awareness of where their role fits into the overall scheme of things;
  • Providing a framework for supervision and appraisal - allowing for progress to be assessed, support and development needs to be identified.

As well as providing a framework against which personal performance can be monitored the process of work planning is an effective system for informing business planning.

The format for producing work plans and recording process are on the Council's website, under Personnel Policy and Procedures. The work plan needs to summarise:

  • What the person's overall objectives are;
  • Objectives and key milestones of important projects;
  • Targets and performance indicators;
  • Clear timescales;
  • Space to identify training and support needs;
  • Space to identify constraints that might reasonably impact on achievement of;
  • Work plan objectives;
  • A reasonable timetable for review of progress on the work plan.

The templates are below and reproduced separately for you to use – see Performance section of Business Manager’s Handbook.

Appendix I: Performance - Work Plan and Review for February/March (Annual Review Meeting)

Click here to view Appendix I: Performance - Work Plan and Review for February/March (Annual Review Meeting).

Appendix J: Questions for Supervisors on How they Respond to Emotion

  1. How would your staff describe your emotional style? Are you hot, cool or balanced in your emotional response?
  2. How good are you at noticing the emotional tone of the team?
  3. How good are you at recognising and acknowledging the daily hassles that staff experience?
  4. Are you proactive in providing emotional encouragement and support or do you tend to wait for staff to seek out your support?
  5. Which emotions do you find it more difficult to respond to anger, sadness, fear, excitement, helplessness or anxiety?
  6. Which emotions do you find it easier to respond to?
  7. Does how you respond to emotions depend on who is involved? Are there factors relating to the social location of the individual, such as genera and age, that affect your responses?
See also Effective supervision in a variety of settings SCIE Guide 50.

Appendix K: Learning and Development Opportunities

Access to formal learning opportunities available via:

Other learning opportunities available via corporate membership of:


1. Introduction 

Organisational Development works on a contracting basis and commissions all training events and materials from external training agencies and freelance trainers. These are selected from the Department's Approved List of Trainers and other Approved Agencies. In addition each section accesses a range of external short courses and qualification programmes including ASYE for newly qualified social workers, management courses and post qualifying learning.

2. Purpose and scope of guidance

Guidance on using mylearningsource can be found via the link above.

3. Levels of responsibility

3.1 Individual staff members are expected to:
  • Explore and identify their learning and development needs and discuss these with their line manager as part of the process of individual supervision, work planning and performance management;
  • Participate in learning and development so as to achieve the knowledge and skills required for their post;
  • Evaluate outcomes of learning provision, and assess its effectiveness in practice, with their line manager;
  • Maintain a record of continuing professional development in line with HCPC registration requirements.
3.2 It is the line manager's responsibility to:
  • Discuss with staff their individual learning and development needs as part of the process of supervision, work planning and performance management;
  • Determine, in conjunction with HCPC Standards of Proficiency, The College of Social Work Professional Capabilities Framework and the DfE Knowledge & skills statement, the minimum levels of competence, knowledge and skills required for each post and the overall training and development needs consistent with the Achieving Excellence plan;
  • Seek advice from the relevant Training Manager/Officer as to the relevance of any programme chosen;
  • Recommend to the senior manager suitable training and development proposals and approaches;
  • Maintain individual learning records for each member of staff within their team, reviewing progress and impact on practice;
  • Evaluate outcomes of learning provision, assessing the effectiveness of learning and development activity of staff and, in conjunction with their senior manager, reviewing and evaluating the learning and development plan, and recommending any changes required.
3.3  It is the Practice Group Lead’s responsibility to:
  • Collate learning and development needs for the group;
  • Assess the effectiveness of learning and development activity of staff;
  • Ensure the storage of data on learning and development needs and evaluation, for reporting purposes.
3.4 It is the Head of Service’s responsibility to:
  • Set the objectives for the Service and link the overall learning and development needs for the service to those objectives;
  • Consider the learning and development proposals from each PGL;
  • Formulate a service learning and development programme;
  • Direct the service leadership team to implement the programme;
  • Consider the reports on the evaluation of learning and development provision and activity, in preparation for the following year's programme.
3.5 It is the responsibility of Organisational Development to:
  • Oversee the identification of learning and development needs, the development of the Children’s Social Care leaning and development plan and the implementation of the programme;
  • Develop and maintain approved lists of trainers;
  • Commission learning provision and agree contracts;
  • Advise managers and staff on the relevance and suitability of any programme chosen;
  • Book the trainers and venue requirements and make payments as agreed in the contracts;
  • Publish calendars for the year and publicity for each training event on mylearningsource and Safeguarding Board webpage;
  • Provide evaluation from trainers on the quality and outcome of provision;
  • Provide overall statistical and financial reports;
  • Process financial claims and grant money.

4. Training methods


Development and training ranges from eLearning, action learning, planned courses to on site coaching. Learning methods will be provided through one or more of the following means:

  • On the job briefing and instruction;
  • Planned attendance at meetings, workshops, service development groups, etc;
  • 1:1 and Group Supervision meetings;
  • Reading;
  • Special assignments or projects;
  • Temporary exchanges with/secondments to other teams, etc;
  • Planned work experience;
  • Attendance on short courses, seminars and conferences;
  • Sponsorship for professional, technical and management courses;
  • Action learning sets;
  • Webinars.
All learning is monitored and evaluated if booked through MLS where it contributes to CPD log.

Appendix L: Learning & Development Needs: Plan Template

Click here to view Appendix L: Learning & Development Needs: Plan Template.