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2.8 Brighton and Hove Adult’s Assessment Services Professional Supervision Policy

This chapter was added to the manual in October 2015.


  1. Introduction
  2. Underpinning Principles
  3. Definition – What is Supervision?
  4. Statement of Expectations
  5. The Supervision of Newly Qualified Social Workers
  6. Supervision and Professional Registration
  7. Method of Delivery
  8. Frequency
  9. The Interface between the Supervision Process and Other Management Activity
  10. The Supervision Agreement
  11. Supervision Process and Content
  12. Recording Supervision
  13. Monitoring and Review

    Appendix 1: Supervision Agreement

1. Introduction

Staff supervision is now recognised as a core process supporting the delivery of high quality services in Adult’s Services. Employers have a responsibility to ensure that the supervision provided to staff is effective in ensuring that service users and their families and carers are getting the right help. In addition, through supervision, staff can be supported in managing complex and emotionally challenging situations, developing their professional practice and be challenged to think differently and creatively.

This policy is based on the premise that the supervision of staff is an integral part of the day to day business of the service and that it will occur both formally and in other forums including informal discussions and group settings. In all of these forums, the process of supervision should be informed by the standards set out within this document.

This policy covers professional supervision of social work and other assessment staff and supervision provided by social work staff to those working within the adults assessment service, which may include staff from another professional discipline.

This supervision policy should be read alongside:

  1. The Brighton and Hove Performance Development (PDP) Guidance. The PDP guidance applies to all staff in Brighton and Hove and refers to the importance of regular one to ones as part of the performance development process. Within Adults Assessment Services, ‘supervision’ is the terminology used to describe one to one sessions;
  2. Brighton and Hove Equalities and Inclusion Policy;
  3. The Standards for Employers of Social Workers in England (Local Government Association and Social Work Reform Partners);
  4. Roles and Functions of Social Workers in England Advice Note (The College of Social Work);
  5. Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (College of Occupational Therapists);
  6. Standards of Proficiency – Social Workers and Occupational Therapists (Health and Care Professions Council).

This policy applies to all staff in adult assessment services who have direct contact with service users/carers/families or manage or supervise the work of staff with these responsibilities. This includes all registered professionals (social workers or occupational therapists) and those staff where being a registered professional is a prerequisite of job role. The policy reflects nationally recognised professional standards for social work and occupational therapy. It provides a framework to support:

  • The integration of Brighton and Hove City Council values into day to day practice;
  • The quality of decision making and interventions with service users carers and families and the wider community;
  • Line management and organisational accountability;
  • Caseload and workload management;
  • The development of newly qualified social workers through the ASYE process;
  • Where applicable, the maintenance of individual professional registration though identification of personal learning and career development opportunities.

2. Underpinning Principles

Brighton and Hove Adult’s Assessment Services recognises that:

  1. Staff supervision is integral to the effective delivery of services and an important mechanism for aligning professional and organisational priorities and for promoting independence and wellbeing for people using services;
  2. Supervision is recognised as an important vehicle for promoting and reflecting on organisational change and developments in professional practice;
  3. The quality of staff supervision throughout the service impacts on; outcomes for service users, carers and their families, the organisation and wider community;
  4. Supervision should promote the critical thinking and reflective practice which is essential to effective safeguarding practice, risk enablement and complex interventions and should complement the priorities of the organisation;
  5. The delivery of high quality supervision must be a priority task within the service;
  6. National professional standards are in place where all social workers have the right to receive regular formal supervision from supervisors (who are also registered social workers) who have received appropriate training and are supported within their supervisory role;
  7. All staff have a responsibility to prepare for and actively participate in supervision and attend formal one to one sessions;
  8. The process of supervision is a shared responsibility: staff and their supervisors are expected to contribute to its effectiveness and the organisation has a responsibility to facilitate a culture which supports the process.

This policy sets out the way in which the Council delivers on the principles set out above.

3. Definition – What is Supervision?

For the purposes of this policy, supervision is defined as a process by which one worker is given responsibility by the organisation to work with another worker(s) in order to meet certain organisational, professional and personal objectives in order to promote positive outcomes for service users. The objectives are:

  • Competent, accountable performance. Managerial Function;
  • Continuing professional development. Educational/Development Function;
  • Personal support. Supportive Function;
  • Linking the individual to the organisation. Mediation Function.

(Definition taken from Morrison (2005) Staff Supervision in Social Care. Brighton: Pavilion).

The process of supervision is based on the development of a relationship between supervisors and supervisees which provides a safe environment to support the worker and facilitate reflection, challenge and critical thinking.

4. Statement of Expectations

The organisation will:

  1. Prioritise supervision as an important activity within the service;
  2. Ensure that all staff have a named supervisor who has responsibility for their work and welfare (these functions may be split between a supervisor and a line manager where appropriate);
  3. Recognise the value and status of the ‘Standards for Employers of Social Workers in England’ (LGA) and ensure Social workers have a named supervisor who is also a registered social worker and has responsibility for their work and welfare (this role may be split between a social work registered supervisor and a line manager where appropriate);
  4. Provide training and ongoing development opportunities for supervisors, including coaching and mentoring;
  5. Ensure appropriate space is provided for one to one meetings;
  6. Regularly evaluate the quality of supervision being provided through audit, feedback from supervisees and observation of the supervision practice of all supervisors at least once a year.

Supervisors will:

  1. Ensure the delivery of one to one supervision sessions at a frequency of no less than every calendar month for up to one and half hours. In addition, supervisors may run group supervision sessions for the group of social workers, occupational therapists and care managers for whom they have responsibility;
  2. Ensure that a prime focus of supervision is the quality of service being received by service users, carers and their families and the wider community but this must be balanced appropriately with the throughput of work based upon timely and agreed outcomes;
  3. Ensure that there is open dialogue in supervision which supports the matching of the supervisees skills, knowledge and experience with the level and complexity of the work they are doing or being asked to undertake;
  4. Prepare for supervision through reviewing case files and identifying issues for discussion;
  5. Ensure that supervision is recorded in line with the expectations set out within this policy;
  6. Use the supervision agreement as the basis for the development of a relationship where supervisees can be supported in their work and critically reflect on their practice;
  7. Ensure the supervisee is clear about how to raise any concerns about the quality of supervision being received;
  8. Use the supervisory process to learn from good practice and give constructive feedback in order to promote professional development;
  9. Use a coaching approach and coaching skills to improve and enhance reflection, critical analysis and insight in the supervision process;
  10. In conjunction with the supervisee’s line manager (if different from the supervisor), address performance concerns as they arise and work positively with the supervisee to improve practice through engagement in the PDP and performance management process;
  11. Take responsibility for their personal development as a supervisor and use their own supervision and observation of their practice to reflect on their supervisory skills;
  12. Undertake to develop practice around the needs of different individuals and diverse communities to encourage participation and inclusion.

Supervisees will:

  1. Take responsibility for attending one to one supervision and group sessions as set out in their supervision agreement;
  2. Prepare adequately for supervision and take an active part in the process;
  3. Prior to supervision, identify cases or issues to ensure that the most effective use is made of the time available;
  4. Seek support where appropriate to ensure that their skills, knowledge and experience are aligned to the level and complexity of the work they are doing or being asked to undertake;
  5. Take responsibility for raising any concerns they may have about the quality of the supervisory relationship with the supervisor or, if this is not possible, the third party named within the supervision agreement;
  6. Undertake to develop practice around the needs of different individuals and diverse communities to encourage participation and inclusion.

5. The Supervision of Newly Qualified Social Workers

Brighton and Hove City Council is committed to providing effective supervision for newly qualified social workers in line with national professional standards and learning outcomes and which supports their professional development from the point of qualification onwards. All newly qualified social workers will be assigned a supervisor who will be responsible for both supporting their development and assessing their practice in line with the requirements of Assessed & Supported Year in Employment (ASYE).

All newly qualified social workers will receive supervision weekly for six weeks and then fortnightly for the remainder of their ASYE. There will be a formal review of progress at three months and six months, with a final assessment at the end of one year.

The supervision agreement will be supplemented by the learning agreement as required by the ASYE programme. This agreement will provide a foundation for ensuring:

  • Reflective supervision;
  • Workload management;
  • A Professional Development Plan is in place;
  • Development time.

6. Supervision and Professional Registration

Supervision plays an important role in supporting social work and occupational therapy staff in developing their knowledge and skills and evidencing continual professional development (CPD) as required by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

The HCPC requires all registered social workers and occupational therapists to complete CPD which benefits service users and to maintain an accurate, up to date record of CPD activities. CPD is defined as ‘a range of learning activities through which health and care professionals maintain and develop throughout their career to ensure that they retain their capacity to practice safely, effectively and legally within their evolving scope of practice’. Staff who are regulated through the HCPC should, through supervision, have the opportunity to reflect on their practice, identify knowledge and skill gaps and be supported in completing development opportunities.

For Social Workers, the fourteen standards of social work proficiency defined by the HCPC are minimum standards which are complemented by the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF). All social work supervisors should be familiar with the PCF and use this as a baseline for promoting development through the Performance Development Plan.

7. Method of Delivery

A relationship between a supervisor and supervisee is fundamental to the supervisory process and supervision will take place in a variety of settings and circumstances. There may occasionally be circumstances where it is appropriate to conduct supervision on the telephone or using other technology.

One to One supervision is at the heart of the process and all staff should receive regular, formal one to one supervision.

Ad hoc supervision is the dialogue that takes place between a supervisor and supervisee as the need arises. This should be available to all staff but is not a substitute for formal one to one supervision. The value of ad hoc supervision is that it is an important way of supporting staff, improving performance, keeping pace with change and ensuring that organisational requirements are met. Ad hoc supervision discussions should be recorded within the relevant supervision record.

Group supervision may be appropriate in situations where a staff group is working with similar issues and can benefit from the opportunity to critically reflect on their work with others. Group supervision should not replace one to one supervision as it does not allow for sufficient attention to be paid to individual development needs. Discussions should be recorded and any discussions regarding individual service users should be recorded on the casework supervision record.

Coaching & mentoring encourage critical reflection and the development of more insightful, confident and autonomous workers. It is an approach that can be used in supervision to facilitate improved practice and decision making and enable staff to manage complexity and work with uncertainty within their role.

8. Frequency

Staff working directly with service users and their families and carers should have formal supervision at a minimum of once per calendar month

Individual decisions about frequency will take into account a range of factors including:

  • The number of hours worked by the supervisee;
  • The level of complexity in the work being undertaken;
  • The development needs of the supervisee.

Staff who work part time have, under the relevant legislation, should have access to the same benefits and support systems as full time staff. Supervisors need to ensure that part time staff and those working unsocial hours have access to supervision sessions that take place within their usual working hours, or with the agreement of the supervisee, at alternative times.

9. The Interface between the Supervision Process and Other Management Activity

Supervision should be a space to stop and reflect critically both on the quality of work and individual support and development needs.

Supervisors should routinely use management information to update themselves on the work being carried out by their supervisees. Where they are supervising staff working directly with service users, their families and carers this should include reading case records, scrutinising the quality of assessments, case planning and help being provided. This oversight should be recorded on the case record and inform both ad hoc and formal supervision discussions. This should result in supervision discussions focusing on those situations which can most benefit from reflective discussion.

10. The Supervision Agreement

The development of a productive supervisory relationship starts with:

  • Clarity about roles and responsibilities and organisational requirements;
  • Building rapport, understanding each other’s perspective and any factors that might affect the process;
  • Acknowledging that effective supervision may not always be comfortable and exploring how power, authority and differences of opinion may be negotiated.

This process should be captured within the written agreement and it is the responsibility of supervisors to ensure that an agreement is in place for every supervisee, using the template below. This agreement should be signed by both parties and placed in the supervisee’s file. Where the supervisor is not the supervisee’s line manager, the agreement must be signed by the supervisor, the supervisee and the line manager.

The written agreement is a working tool and should be reviewed at least once a year.

Where a supervisee is receiving additional professional supervision, there must be a three way meeting between the worker, their line manager and the professional supervisor in order to establish clear boundaries and communication pathways. Notes of this how the three way relationship will work should be recorded on the supervision agreement.

11. Supervision Process and Content

Supervision should be informed by management of activity outside of the formal supervision process and supervisees should ensure that prior to each formal meeting they undertake a review of their work to identify issues for discussion.

The development of the agenda for formal supervision sessions should be jointly agreed by the supervisor and supervisee.

All methods of delivering supervision should be informed by the integrated 4x4x4 model (Morrison 2005) and supervisors should be trained in its use. This model recognises that the use of the supervision cycle will fulfil the four functions of supervision and promote positive outcomes for key stakeholders. The model therefore focuses on the interrelationship between:

The four stakeholders in supervision:

  • Service users;
  • Staff;
  • The Organisation;
  • Partner organisations.

The four functions of supervision:

  • Management;
  • Support;
  • Development;
  • Mediation.

The four elements of the supervisory cycle:

  • Experience;
  • Reflection;
  • Analysis;
  • Action Planning.

Click here to view the 4x4x4 Model.

At the heart of this model is the reflective supervision cycle which should guide all supervision discussions. The aim of the supervision cycle is to:

  • Encourage a shared understanding of the issues that the supervisee is working with on a day to day basis;
  • Give supervisees an opportunity to reflect on their reactions to the work and within the workplace, including any factors that might be affecting their performance;
  • Consider best practice within their role, the context for their work, including organisational expectations and priorities, and any support, learning or development needs that they may have;
  • Agree how to achieve what needs to be achieved in order to ensure the best possible service is provided to service users, families and carers and the best possible outcomes achieved.

In relation to front line work with service users, families and carers the aim of the supervisory cycle is to:

  • Ensure that there is a complete understanding of the service users situation from the perspective of all involved;
  • Reflect on the emotional impact of the work and the way in which human biases will affect understanding;
  • Explore intuitive responses and use these appropriately to understand the service user’s situation;
  • Ensure that the potential meaning of information is fully explored and that analysis is informed by evidence from research and practice;
  • Promote professionally defensible decision making and work that is focused on improving outcomes for the service user/family/carer or community.

In addition to the 4x4x4 model, supervision should be informed by a coaching approach which enhances reflection, explores blocks, resistance and anxiety that might get in the way of effective work with service users. This approach fosters critical thinking and decision making and is rewarding and motivating for the supervisor and supervisee. A coaching model can also support effective performance management.

12. Recording Supervision

This guidance takes account of the principles of the Data Protection Act 1998 and in particular the need to ensure that any personal information held on an individual is accurate, adequate, relevant, not excessive, and available to the subject and kept no longer than is necessary. It is the responsibility of the supervisor and the supervisee to comply with these principles at all times.

There are three types of supervision records:

  1. The non casework supervision record which is used to record supervision discussions that do not relate directly to a particular service user or family;
  2. The casework supervision record on the service user’s electronic file. This record promotes the recording of discussions at all four points of the supervision cycle;
  3. Supervision which takes place as part of Safeguarding Enquiries (Section 42 Care Act 2014) should be recorded on the supervision notes on the enquiry form and only by the Enquiry Supervisor.

It is very important that relevant records are kept of both one to one supervision discussions and ad hoc meetings.

The supervisor is responsible for making sure that a record is made of every supervision meeting using the non casework supervision record. Where this record contains information about service users, initials only should be used. This record must be signed by both parties. A confirmation E-mail from the supervisee can be used to confirm that the supervision record is accurate in place of a signature. Where there is a disagreement about the content of the record a note should be made on the record of the different views and signed by both the supervisor and supervisee.

The supervisor will keep the non-casework supervision record in the supervisee’s personal file in a secure place. If there is a change of supervisor within the service the file should be transferred to the new supervisor. If the supervisee leaves the organisation the non-casework supervision records should be held securely for a period of 6 years.

The supervisee will keep a copy of the non-casework supervision record for their own use which they will need to store responsibly. They are not required to keep the copy and may destroy them when they no longer have a use for them.

Managers within the Service are responsible for monitoring the quantity and quality of supervision and for this purpose may need access to supervision records. There are also some circumstances where the records may be made available to third parties for the purposes of serious case reviews, safeguarding adults reviews, legal proceedings, issues of professional conduct or HR processes and quality assurance audit.

Case work discussions relating to work with service users, their families and carers should be recorded either by the supervisor or the supervisee on the service user’s electronic record. However, where supervision is part of a formal safeguarding enquiry, the supervision record on the enquiry form must only be completed by the designated enquiry supervisor. The detail on either of these records will depend on the depth of discussion, but even ad hoc discussions should evidence the reflection and analysis that has informed any decisions made.

13. Monitoring and Review

Reviewing the process of supervision should be an ongoing aspect of the supervisory relationship. The supervisee feedback form should be completed at the point that the agreement is reviewed and used as a basis for thinking about how both the supervisor and supervisee can contribute towards continual improvement of the supervisory process.

The supervision of supervisors must include reflection on their role as a supervisor and how they are achieving the expectations set out in this policy.

Supervision sessions should also be subject to observation at least once a year. This should be undertaken by the supervisor’s manager or another senior manager within the organisation. A three way discussion should be facilitated by the reviewer as to the extent to which the process is positively contributing to practice outcomes.

Senior managers should regularly review the quality of supervision through gathering feedback from supervisees at all levels within the organisation and through formal audit process.

Appendix 1: Supervision Agreement

Click here to view Appendix 1: Supervision Agreement.