Knowsley Joint Children and Adults Services: Social Worker's Supervision Policy


This chapter identifies the importance and need for high quality, challenging and reflective supervision for every practitioner which needs to be undertaken by a Social Work England registered Social Worker.

All supervision should be undertaken in a confidential and respectful way and used to promote quality of practice and service; enable effective management of risk; recognise stress factors for practitioners and areas development and learning. All social work staff should have monthly supervision; NQSWs more frequently.

The chapter contains the supervision record and contract (see Appendices).


This chapter was updated in June 2021 to amend the chapter's appendices, and add additional information regarding the Signs of Safety model of practice and case frequency in Children's Services. The Supervision Record and Supervision Contract have been updated (see Appendices)

1. What Supervision Means

Supervision is a dynamic, interpersonal, focused experience which enables all Social Workers (Supervisees) along with their Manager (Supervisor), to examine their practice, knowledge, skills and values in a safe learning environment. It enables them to jointly plan for meeting learning needs identified through critical reflection on experiences in practice. Supervision must take place within a supportive environment for a performance management, welfare and educative purpose. It is an opportunity for Managers to review operational caseloads and challenge any issues recognised within their management oversight on practice. It enables Managers to recognise areas of practice risk, operational and personal stressors on their staff. One of the primary reasons for all supervision is to ensure that the quality of practice is of a consistently high standard in relation to the children/young people/adult's needs. Consequently, supervision must be acknowledged as the cornerstone of good Social Work practice.

Supervision is a priority for Knowsley Council Social Care employees to ensure that all Social Workers receive it whilst recognising the autonomous practice and professional accountability of each Social Worker.

Supervision is the mechanism to enable Social Workers to meet their Standards of Proficiency and associated professional obligations on which they are regulated by their professional regulator, Social Work England.

Since December 2019 the regulatory responsibility for governance i.e. assuring excellent standards of safety, quality, and performance of the social work profession, rested with Social Work England. Equally OFSTED (Children's Services) and CQC (Adults Services) standards for inspection take into account the quality of practice facilitated by effective supervision.

Social Work England Professional Standards

Standards 3 and 4 of the Social Work England Professional Standards link explicitly to the use of supervision and state that Social Workers will:

3 – Be accountable for the quality of my practice and the decisions I make

3.2 Use information from a range of appropriate sources, including supervision, to inform assessments to analyse risk, and to a make a professional decision.

3.7 Recognise where there may be bias in decision making and address issues that arise from ethical dilemmas, conflicting information or differing professional decisions.

4 – Maintain my continuing professional development

4.2 Use supervision and feedback to critically reflect on, and identify my learning needs, including how I use research and evidence to inform my practice.

4.6 Reflect on my learning activities and evidence what impact continuing professional development has on the quality of my practice.

4.8 Reflect on my own values and challenge the impact they have on my practice.

(See Social Work England Professional Standards)

Kolb's experiential learning cycle can be used as a reflective model to explore practice during supervision. This can be used during individual and group supervision practice.

Kolbs Circle of Reflection

2. Scope of Policy

All registered Social Workers and Social Work students working within the Council fall within the scope of this supervision policy.

The delivery of all parts of this supervision policy applies across all services where Social Workers are employed within the Council. It strives to ensure Social Workers have access to a safe learning environment for critical reflection, challenge, and professional support. It should be recognised that supervision is also intrinsically linked to the mandatory six monthly and annual Performance Review & Development (PR&D). in Knowsley these are referred to as My Time.

As well as performance and practice management this policy ensures there is sufficient time for reflection on practice issues (reflective practice element) that arise in the course of the Social Worker's everyday practice.

Supervision should be always be led by a registered Social Worker who may or may not have direct line management responsibilities. However, all Social Workers working within safeguarding must be supervised by their line manager, at least once a month, and more frequent if in Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE), in line with the ASYE Programme (see Section 11, Additional Information, Assessed and supported year of employment (ASYE)).

3. Aims and Principals of Supervision

The Social Work Employers and Supervision Standards clearly recognise the importance of effective supervision and include:

  • "Reflective practice is key to effective social work and high quality; regular supervision should be an integral part of social work practice";
  • "Supervision should be based on a rigorous understanding of the key elements of effective social work supervision, as well as the research and evidence which underpins good social work practice";
  • "Supervision should challenge practitioners to reflect critically on their practice and should foster an inquisitive approach to social work".

4. As Employers of Social Workers Knowsley Council Will

  • Ensure that social work supervision is not treated as an isolated activity but is intrinsically linked to the My Time  process;
  • Publish the results of supervision audits that are undertaken;
  • Audit the quality and frequency of supervision against clear statements about what is expected detailed within this policy;
  • Promote and encourage group / team supervision / action learning as a separate meeting in addition to 1-1 supervision to support continuous learning and knowledge sharing, through which social workers will be encouraged to draw out learning points by reflecting on their own cases in light of the experiences of peers;
  • Provide regular supervision training for those responsible for delivering effective supervision;
  • Provide additional professional supervision by a registered social worker for practitioners whose line manager is not a social worker or for social workers located in multi professional teams or project groups with a manager from another professional experience and background.

5. Frequency

Newly Qualified Social Workers during their Assessed and Supported Year of Employment (ASYE)

  • One to one supervision must take place weekly for the first six weeks of employment, at least fortnightly for the duration of the first six months, and a minimum of monthly supervision thereafter.

All other Registered Social Workers (including student Social Workers)

  • One to one supervision must take place monthly;
  • This can be increased for Social Workers who are experiencing performance or practice issues;
  • Group Supervision Guidance is advised either as part of a monthly team meeting or as a separate meeting both at the discretion of Team Managers. Group supervision should not replace monthly 1-1 supervision sessions but should complement it;
  • All social workers in Children's Social Care should prepare for Supervision and complete the ICS supervision template in advance of supervision. The ICS supervision template should be completed for each child/young person that the Social Worker wants to discuss in supervision. The minimum frequency at which each child/young person should be discussed is outlined in the table below. Social Workers should use their judgement if they feel that the need to talk about a child/young person more frequently and Team Managers should also take an informed decision as to whether more regular supervision may be needed at key points.
CAPTION: Case Status Table
Case Status Supervision Frequency
Child in Need Every 2 months

Child in Need – Children with Disabilities Team

The frequency for the children with disability team will vary dependant upon the case status (CIN, CP, CLA etc).
If however:

  • The child is only open to the service to offer support to the parents/carers and there are no parental/carer deficits and the risk to the child is low OR;
  • The child is only open to the service for Direct Payments and the risk to the child is low
the frequency of supervision can (like the CIN Reviews) be reduced to a minimum of every 6 months. This should be agreed in advance with the Team Manager.
Child Protection Every 2 months
Children in Pre-Proceedings Every month
Children Looked After – dependent upon placement type
Children in Public Law Proceedings Every month
Placement with Parents Every month

First 3 months of new placement – monthly
After first 3 months but permanence plan not fully implemented – every 2 months

Stable placement – every 3 months
Foster Care

First 3 months of new placement – monthly
After first 3 months but permanence plan not fully implemented – every 2 months

Stable placement – every 3 months
Children placed for adoption Every month

6. Good Practice Guidelines

  • Supervision must be a high priority for all Social Workers. All the dates for supervision sessions should be planned twelve months in advance and placed in calendars;
  • An agreed supervision contract should be in place;
  • Supervision sessions should be planned and prepared for in advance of the session.

Supervision will include personal matters such as welfare, managing stress, annual leave and training needs as well as roles & responsibilities, values and ethics of the supervisee, work and case load management, accountability of professional practice to people, quality of recording, management of resources, safeguarding issues and management of risk in line with the Social Work England Practice Standards. (This list is not exhaustive).

If any concern over capability or registration status is raised during supervision, the member of staff can expect to be treated fairly in line with Knowsley Council's capability procedure found within the Managing Conduct, Performance and Information policy.

Any breach of regulations or Council Policy may also be communicated to Social Work England in line with their Fitness to Practice Process.

Supervision should include an analysis of case and workload management, and should address any issues relating to the extent to the time available to work directly with children, adults and families as well as meeting other demands is achieved. There should be a focus on protecting the public, delivering effective services and identifying barriers to effective practice. In Children's Services, the Signs of Safety model should be used when discussing both the children that the Social Worker is working with and the Social Worker's own practice and continuing professional development.

See Signs of Safety Practice Guidance and ICS Guidance.

Supervision should monitor and promote Continuing Professional Development (CPD) including checking on how the Social Worker plans to submit evidence of CPD as part of their professional registration. This could include discussions on career development, giving career advice and time to explore professional development opportunities such as further qualifications. It is the time to examine recent learning and development experiences and how they have impacted (or not) on social work practice and the quality and outcomes of the service provided to children/young people/adults.

This element of supervision provides mutual organisational accountability between the supervisee and supervisor on behalf of the public. It is a tool for monitoring the quantity and quality of the work being done. It involves the evaluation of the job and the organisational effectiveness of the supervisee, and feeds into their annual My Time meeting.

  • The Reflective element of the session should last for at least an hour and a half (Munro 2011). Reflective supervision can be on cases or on carers (fostering/adoption) or any area of Social Work practice as defined by the supervisor or supervisee. It is how the supervisee is critically reflecting on their practice within ANY social work team and how they are applying evidence to underpin their practice. It is where the supervisee leads the practice conversation/issue and explores their own thinking and rationale on decision making in a learning environment where the supervisor offers challenge and constructive feedback to the supervisee;
  • All supervision sessions should be delivered in a quiet, confidential area with no interruptions;
  • Supervision is an opportunity for the supervisee and supervisor to give and receive appreciative and constructive feedback;
  • Supervision should take into account the expectations of the Professional Capability Framework as a benchmark to demonstrate capability in practice at the career level of the individual Social Worker;
  • Failure to provide or take part in supervision can lead to a formal disciplinary process.

7. Supervisees Responsibilities

  • Attend supervision training and refresh every 2 years;
  • Be proactive by ensuring we diary and plan regular supervision sessions with our supervisor. Avoid cancellations whenever possible;
  • Demonstrate during sessions that we are able to critically reflect on our practice and through this promote greater self-awareness and understanding of service user and work issues;
  • Ensure we are clear on our boundaries and roles and responsibilities by agreeing this within the supervision contract (Appendix 2: Supervision Contract);
  • Be proactive and contribute to the agenda for the session, highlighting and providing the supervisor with narrative on the cases they wish to discuss (in Children's Social Care this is done by completing the ICS supervision form, which must be sent to a team manager 2 days in advance of supervision - see the table above for the minimum frequency at which children/young people should be discussed);
  • Ensure that we are continuing to meet our practice objectives found within our My Time action plan;
  • Be prepared to discuss learning & development and how it has affected our practice. Discuss any opportunities for progression;
  • Recognise and report any stress (workplace or personal stressors);
  • Recognise and share best practice;
  • Contribute and keep an agreed record of the session relating to our personal learning and agreed actions on the managers supervision SharePoint site using the supervision record (Appendix 1: Supervision Record);
  • Keep a personal reflective log as part of our evidence of CPD if appropriate to increase our learning experience.

8. Supervisors Responsibilities

  • Attend supervision training for Managers and refresh every 2 years and ensure compliance with the Council Social Work Supervision Policy for Social Workers;
  • Ensure supervision sessions are planned twelve months in advance and endeavour to keep the date without cancellations whenever possible. If a session has to be cancelled, plan another date and update SharePoint with reasons for cancellation;
  • Ensure an agreed supervision contract is in place;
  • Prepare an agenda which is shared with the supervisee prior to the session;
  • Deliver supervision that is an appropriate balance of management oversight of cases, performance and reflection which also meets the Social Work England Practice Standards of conduct, performance and ethics;
  • Ensure health and wellbeing of the Social Worker is discussed and identify and action plan against any stressors affecting the Social Worker;
  • Discuss any learning & development opportunities and how it has affected the practice of the supervisee. This is important to ensure learning and development is planned to meet organisational and professional effectiveness and objectives. Discuss any progression opportunities;
  • Recognise, acknowledge and value good practice;
  • Ensure the Social Worker updates any agreed goals, timescales and outcomes / actions relating to the service user onto the IT system case management files (ICS in Children's Services, LAS in Adult's Services);
  • Record any management oversight (actions / recommendations / decisions) within the supervision record. If oversight occurs outside of the supervision process this should be recorded on the case file; in Children's Services this should be on a Management Oversight case note;
  • Ensure a record of the personal outcomes for the supervisee from the session is placed on the Manager's supervision SharePoint site. Enable the Social Worker to contribute and agree to the record (Appendix 1: Supervision Record).

9. Registration and Additional Policies and Guides

Supervision and continuing professional development (CPD) is linked to a Social Workers continued registration with Social Work England.

Other helpful policies and guides include:

All these sources of information should be treated as complimentary and should link closely with the Social Workers Supervision Policy and practice and the My Time process.

10. Additional Information

Student placements

Student placements for both internal and external students are a period of practice learning and support offered to student practitioners and they should also be covered within the scope of this policy. Practice Educators are the primary mentor for all student social workers and should ensure reflective supervision take places for their named student.

Assessed and Supported Year of Employment (ASYE)

The Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) for newly qualified social workers (NQSWs) will be managed both regionally and locally to effectively assess and support the newly qualified social worker in their initial post registration year. All NQSWs have additional mentoring and supervision during this year and are covered within the scope of this policy. Internal ASYE's and from the Private Voluntary and Independent (PVI) sector are also covered within the scope of this policy.

Supervision Governance and Survey

The Supervision Group will continue to monitor and audit implementation of the supervision policy and quality of the sessions undertaken, through the annual supervision survey. This is a confidential survey which will allow Social Workers to explain their experiences of supervision. Any recommendations as a result of the survey will be fed back through the group to the Directors across Children and Adults services.


Supervision is a confidential process and this must be clearly respected by the staff involved.

All information (relating to people or agencies) that is disclosed during supervision must be treated as strictly confidential and not be discussed with anyone outside of the session. When circumstances require advice to be sought from others, for example other agencies, management, Employee Services or Occupational Health, in this case both parties must agree that information can be shared.

However, in exceptional circumstances, the supervisor may be required to submit access to or provide disclosure of information from the session.

These circumstances could include:

  • Information required by regulators (e.g. OFSTED, CQC) or Directors/Heads of Service for audit purposes;
  • A disciplinary, capability or fitness to practice matter;
  • A staff grievance;
  • A safeguarding matter.

The supervisee would, in all circumstances, be informed that information was to be shared in this way.

Safeguarding in Supervision

Where Social Workers have safeguarding and protection work as a core part of their role, then lines of professional accountability should be clearly identified within the supervision contract. All supervision must be undertaken by the Line Manager who would be a registered social worker. If a safeguarding children or adult issue is raised or identified within general 1-1 or group supervision, then the appropriate child or adult protection procedures should be initiated.

11. Learning Through Supervision

Supervisees should demonstrate:

  • Their capability as autonomous professionals within their role;
  • Where appropriate how to relate theory to their practice and how to transfer any skills and knowledge acquired through supervision, to contribute to their practice;
  • How they prefer to learn and any known barriers to learning and development;
  • Any gaps in their learning and development needs and how they can be met;
  • Their capacity to set goals and subsequent actions;
  • Their ability with support from their supervisor to seek out any additional skills within the organisation which may be required to address any learning needs outside the supervisor's or supervision group knowledge/experience;
  • Their ability to critically analyse and reflect on their practice e.g. interaction with clients, colleagues and other agencies;
  • That they receive regular and constructive feedback on aspects of their practice and that they take ownership of their professional learning but jointly share learning from their own practice experiences with their supervisor;
  • That they feel valued.

12. Support Through Supervision

Supervisors should demonstrate how:

  • They encourage, value and praise their supervisee. Also how they achieve an effective learning environment for their supervisee through the use of critical reflection on practice and effective feedback;
  • They are able to clarify the boundary between what supervision is and what supervision is not;
  • That they ensure confidentiality in a supervision session and create a safe learning environment for supervisees to look at their practice and its impact on them;
  • That they use a coaching approach to supervision and encourage the supervisee to talk about how their feelings / emotions may have an impact on them e.g. happiness, sadness, conflict, abusive behaviours they may encounter. To help the supervisee to explore emotional barriers to their work to increase their personal resilience;
  • They explore in a safe setting any issues surrounding discrimination in line with Single Equality Act and local Safeguarding policies and procedures;
  • They support supervisees who are subject to any form of abuse either from service users or from colleagues, whether this be physical or psychological;
  • They monitor the overall health and wellbeing of the supervisee especially with regard to the effect of stress (see Occupational Health and Wellbeing Policy (including individual stress risk assessment and action plan);
  • They enable the supervisee to reflect on difficulties with professional relationships to assist the supervisee in resolving these issues;
  • They clarify when the supervisee should be advised to seek external counselling and its relationship with monitoring performance.

13. References

  • Morrison T, (2001) Staff Supervision in Social Care; Making a real difference for staff and service users. Pavilion Publishing: Brighton;
  • Standards for Employers and Supervision Framework 2012;
  • Social Work England Professional Standards 2019;
  • Munro review of child protection: final report - a child-centred system. Department for Education 2011.