Achieving Best Outcomes For Children Through Effective Supervision

The information in this post was taken from the webinar of Terry McCarthy of Impact for Children Ltd.

The webinar examined:

  1. The current context of safeguarding in terms of practice and the role of supervision
  2. The requirements of supervision
  3. Ways in which supervision can be effective in developing practitioners to meet the best interests of children

Context of Safeguarding


The NAREY Report (Feb 2014) – Key messages

  • There is a need for standards from HCPC and College of Social Work/Social Work Reform Board to be brought together
  • Supervision is essential to social workers and for best outcomes for families
  • Managers face a lack of time – leading to difficulties fitting in supervision
  • Supervision is lacking for many social workers, leading to mistakes going unchecked
  • Complex cases require in-depth manager consideration

Impact of Pressure and Stress on Practitioners


  • High sickness,  stress and demoralisation
  • Loss of proportionate, balanced, flexible, reflective and creative thinking
  • Being risk averse, defensive and less open to challenge and criticism
  • Less effective engagement with families, particularly those who are difficult or challenging
  • Under or over reliance on managers
  • Finding security in processes and straightforward tasks
  • Oversights and misjudgements

Components of Supervision

  • Frequency is 4 weekly (2 weekly during probation period) and for 90 minutes in a suitable venue
  • Significant supervision is offered ad-hoc/unplanned
  • All cases are discussed and progress monitored
  • Recorded – on supervision file/ICS
  • Actions from previous SV are reviewed
  • Ensures continuing professional development, with annual appraisals
  • Considers caseloads
  • Offers direction and guidance
  • Ensures key activities are being undertaken
  • Addresses performance  and conduct issues
  • Monitors and supports

Requirements of Supervision: What Do Practitioners Want?

Supervision requirements


Acknowledgement and empathy about difficulties/pressures/conflicts/ challenges, not feeling alone in a crisis, emotional impact recognised.



Use of procedure/policies, suggestions and ideas about how to proceed, good feedback, clarity about expectations, advice on cases.



Continuing professional development, having a purpose and focus, skills/knowledge/experience improving, feel as though they are making a difference to children’s lives, taking on challenging work, trying new approaches, developing creative and reflective thinking.



Clarity on planning, having a manageable caseload, avoiding unnecessary paperwork/processes, help with prioritising pressures.


3 Types of Problems

Based on Rittel and Webber Tame/critical/wicked model

3 types of problems


Straightforward, sequential and regularly encountered – able to use standard operational procedure.



Immediately threatening problems which require decisive and clear action  e.g. a fire alert. Responds well to commands, with a strong need to control and follow accepted procedure. No place for discussion or reflection.



Multi-faceted, unique, only with the solution can you fully understand the problem – requiring a number of interlocking elements and constraints to be understood and addressed in combination and these can twist and turn  – an art and a science.


To Address Complex Problems Requires:

  • High levels of reflection, creativity, perseverance, tenacity
  • High levels of support and leadership
  • Continuous consideration/discussion
  • Ability to work with uncertainty and anxiety
  • Decisions in a context of emerging information

Ensuring Best Outcomes


Clear Planning

In all cases, ensure that process/task lead to a clear

  • understanding of the family and impact on the child
  • planning to address the root problems and risk factors
  • evidence of progress in addressing the root problem and risk factors

If no progress with reasonable timescales consider a different plan, including legal action.

Skilled and Confident Practitioners

  • Detailed appraisals based on Professional Capability Framework
  • Encourage practitioners to identify their own answers and assist them to recognise areas requiring further consideration
  • Balance between direction/results and discussion/exploration
  • Develop strategies for recognising and overcoming stress, anxiety, overwhelm
  • Highlight good practice

Structure Supervision

  • Ensure regular supervision takes place which considers all cases (6 mins per case!)
  • Identify cases requiring more detailed discussion – involve wider participation
  • Consider balance between ad-hoc and formal supervision (being flexible and structured)
  • Time is limited – so use it purposefully

For further information you can visit UK Social Work Processes to check out the actual webinar or visit the website of Terry McCarthy

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