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Supervision Policy - Youth Justice Service


This chapter was updated in February 2016.

1. Context

Concern about the quality of supervisions with regards to the managerial oversight of the work of staff at all levels has been a consistent theme that has emerged from serious case reviews over the past 25 years. It is an issue that attracts considerable attention in the course of Ofsted inspections and has been the subject of interest at national level for many years.

'Directors of Children's Social Care must ensure that the work of staff working directly with Children is regularly supervised. This must include the supervisor reading, reviewing and signing (authorising) the case file at regular intervals'. Laming Report 2003

'Supervision is an integral element of Social Work practice not an add-on. Through it, Social Workers review their day to day practice on decision making, plan their learning and development as professionals and work through the considerable emotional and personal demands the job places on them'. Social Work Task Force 2009.

'Supervision and case consultations are critical in helping practitioners draw out their reasoning so that it can be reviewed'.

'Supervision is the context in which the critical appraisal of assessment and planning for a child, which is central to promoting good practice and reducing error, can take place'. A Child Central System, Munro 2011.

In order to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, achieve the best possible outcomes from our interventions to service users (including victims of crime), and provide optimal services from limited resources, it is essential that staff receive the support and direction they require to work effectively. Inherent within such a directive and supportive management style is the need for a fit for purpose supervision policy.

2. Definition and Functions

The theoretical model upon which supervisory practice in Blackburn with Darwen is based was developed by Morrison and Knapman (Pavilion Press,1998).

They defined supervision as:

'A process in which one worker is given responsibility to work with another in order to achieve certain professional, personal and organisational objectives. These objectives include competent, accountable practice, continuing professional development and personal support'.

From this definition, four distinct related, functions were identified:

  • Managerial function – to ensure that the worker is meeting the expectations of the organisation in the discharge of their duties. This will include consideration of case material to ensure activity is purposeful and goal directed and that cases are being managed at an appropriate level. Within this function the oversight of quality of case management, quality of reporting, risk and need assessments and analysis will be challenged and the effectiveness of care planning (looked after children and child protection) will be reviewed;
  • Support function – to provide the opportunity for staff to consult on practice issues and the personal impact these might have. It is an opportunity to reflect on incidents and work related issues that cause the worker difficulty and stress and agree management strategies. Critical incident debrief allows workers the opportunity to talk about feelings that may impact on their effectiveness;
  • Development function – to ensure that workers are given the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to do their job well and progress in their careers.  This function looks at current competencies and skills, identifies any shortfalls and agrees strategies to address these;
  • Mediation function – to facilitate the exchange of information. This function allows supervisors the opportunity to inform staff about what is happening in the wider organisation and hearing from them what is happening at practitioner level. This function also allows supervisors to consult with staff when changes are proposed.

Knapman and Morrison suggest that all four functions need to be recognised and taken into account in the supervisory process. While this is true, it is important to recognise that supervision is essentially a conversation about work and how the aims and objectives of the activity can be achieved (management function). The other functions are important in so far as they contribute to the job being well done.

3. Purpose

Sound supervisory practice will:

  • Support the achievement of quality standards in the workplace;
  • Provide learning opportunities for staff to enhance the quality of work;
  • Develop an awareness of the practitioners roles and responsibilities;
  • Clarify expectations, aims and objectives as they relate to intervention strategies;
  • Establish clear and accountable practice;
  • Provide support to staff with work related difficulties;
  • Offer a challenge to 'received wisdom' and current thinking about cases;
  • Provide a sounding board for ideas, concerns, plans and strategies;
  • Build professional competence, creativity and new ways of working;
  • Give feedback about performance as an aid to improvement and development;
  • Provide motivation to both supervisor and supervisee;
  • Support a child centred, outcome focussed service.

4.Anti-Discriminatory Practice

Anti-discriminatory practice in supervision is essential if staff are to work effectively in a multi-racial, multi-cultural, pluralist society and with those who are disadvantaged and the subject of oppression or exclusion. The relationship between supervisor and supervisee is by definition characterised by an authority and power differential and difference is a constant reality whether it arises from gender, race, age, disability, intelligence, sexuality, religion or nationality.

It is important that supervisors are aware of the implicit power contained in their role, that ADP is good practice and that oppressive behaviour diminishes both the oppressor and the oppressed. To counter this there is a need to work with the realities of inequality and difference. Supervisors should seek to understand and engage with the strengths, values and feelings of staff and should include in the supervisees contract problem solving mechanisms in the event of breakdown in the supervisory relationship due to issues of difference.

5. Contracting

Morrison and Knapman define a contract as:

'a means of making explicit the aims of the parties to work towards agreed goals in agreed ways'.

This definition clearly identifies the supervisory relationship as a partnership based on mutually agreed expectations. It is important therefore at the beginning of the supervisory relationship that the mutual expectations of supervisor and supervisee are made clear and are written down in the form of an individual supervision contract.

Each staff member should have a supervision contract negotiated between the participants which should address the following issues.

  • Mandate - This is the purpose of supervision and should reflect the four functions referred to earlier – management, support, development and mediation;
  • Structure - When, how often, how long, how the agenda will be created, rules on cancellation, location etc.
  • Confidentiality - who will have access to supervision records, what can be kept strictly confidential, what would be referred out;
  • Recording - how the record of supervision will be made and maintained.  Clarification about how 'case material' and 'other' support/development/mediation) material will be recorded;
  • ADP - A statement about anti-discriminatory practice and what remedial actions are available if there are concerns;
  • Review - When the contract is to be reviewed (usually annually) and who is to be involved in the process.

6. Content and Structure

Given the current financial circumstances it is important that the time invested in supervision is productive and that the process delivers the desired results: reflective, evidence based practice and effective, proportionate outcome focused interventions with children and families across the whole service.

In order to achieve best outcome from supervision, the following procedure will apply within the YJS.

  • Experienced staff will be supervised a minimum of once every 6 weeks. Newly appointed staff will be supervised monthly for the period of probation then frequency will be reviewed thereafter;
  • Each supervision session will last for up to 2 hours;
  • Childview case records must be used as a basis for discussion;
  • Supervisors must ensure that case records are examined, audited and as appropriate, initialled at relevant intervals, in line with service standards;
  • Where decisions and actions are agreed in supervision in relation to a specific young person, this must be recorded in the young person's case record on Childview;
  • Both Supervisor and Supervisee must have the overall objectives of the Youth Justice system as the case object, namely to prevent offending;
  • The welfare of the child and safety of the public will be key considerations when case discussions take place in supervision;
  • Local APIS guidance and the National Standards for Youth Justice will be the key reference points for determining the quality of the work;
  • Cases subject to MARM, CSE, PREVENT, Child Protection or those Looked After will be regularly discussed in supervision;
  • The quality of planning, effectiveness of interventions and engagement of young people will be key issues in supervision;
  • Barriers to successful outcomes will be identified and appropriate escalation of service or system failures will be determined;
  • Innovative practice will be identified and shared with the wider team;
  • The voice of the young person and the views of family and carers must be considered in all case discussions within supervision;
  • The diverse needs of the YJS cohort of young children will be considered particularly in relation to gender, ethnicity and disability;
  • An expectation that Youth Justice interactive learning opportunities are regularly used by all staff to develop learning and improve practice.

At the conclusion of the session the supervisor will record the outcome of the session, and make any relevant recordings on the electronic record of the cases discussed.

By using this approach, the supervision sessions will remain focussed and a culture of child focussed continuous improvement will prevail.

7. Consultation

Supervision and consultation are not the same thing and the latter is not a substitute for the former.

  • Supervision is reflective, issues based, planned, recorded and intended to support and develop best practice;
  • Consultation is reactive, incident driven, (usually) unplanned and not necessarily recorded. It provides solutions to immediate problems.

A management culture which allows workers unlimited access to supervisors for consultation is not conducive to promoting professional improvement (it de-skills workers and makes them dependant on their managers) nor to the development and implementation of effective management systems (managers have no time to manage).

An open access policy will remain but the case managers who need an in-depth consultation would need to send a meeting request to ensure enough time is allocated to address the issue.

  • At the consultation the case manager will present the issue to be considered along with a proposed course of action;
  • The Manager will offer challenge, advice, assistance and support as required;
  • At the conclusion of the consultation the Manager will instruct the case manager about the need to record the outcome (not all consultations will need to be recorded).

Feedback from consultations can be included in supervision if required.

8. Confidentiality

The exchanges that take place within supervisions are largely about work related matters and therefore attract limited confidentiality. Information contained within the supervision record is the property of the Department and can be accessed by the supervisor's line manager at his/her discretion and HMIP /Ofsted too (if they request this information).

Occasionally workers will want to discuss personal, non-work related issues (which may impact on their work). When this occurs a higher level of confidentiality can be negotiated and a separate record kept – providing the information does not give rise to child care and child protection issues when the normal procedures would apply.

These records should be kept separately and secure and only disclosed with the supervisees permission subject to the above provision.

Trix procedures

Only valid for 48hrs