Haringey Logo

Haringey Children's Services Procedures Manual

Supervision in Case Practice


The supervision policy has been adapted to support and reflect the Signs of Safety (SOS) approach used in the Children and Young People’s Service (CYPS). The policy and supporting guidance is available for all staff and managers in Haringey CYPS. All managers and staff are expected to use the paperwork and guidance. The policy, guidance and paperwork identify good practice in supervision following the use of SOS.

The purpose of supervision is:

  • To ensure the quality and standard of the service delivered to the user;
  • To promote the development and skills of social work staff;
  • To establish accountability for the work of CYPS.

The chapter has two sections, Section 15, Templates, Guidance and Prompts and Section 16, Quality Assurance and Resources, to assist the supervisory and quality assurance process. There are tools in these sections that can also be separately accessed in the manual’s Local Resources.

This chapter was introduced into the manual in October 2017.



  1. Policy Statement
  2. Definition of Supervision
  3. Function of Supervision
  4. Arrangements for Supervision
  5. Focus for Supervision
  6. Model of Supervision
  7. Individual Supervision
  8. Group Supervision
  9. The Supervision Agreement
  10. Recording
  11. Confidentiality and Security of Supervision Records
  12. Quality Assurance
  13. Dispute Resolution
  14. Related Policies
  15. Recording, Storage and Monitoring
  16. Templates, Guidance and Prompts
    1. Supervision Agreement
    2. Supervision Guidance: Signs of Safety
    3. Supervision Guidance: Elicit, Amplify, Reflect, Start over (EARS)
    4. Supervision Guidance: Good Practice Tools for Social Workers
  17. Quality Assurance and Resources
    1. Children’s Social Care: Case Work Supervision Standards
    2. Resources

1. Policy Statement

Haringey Children and Young People’s Service is committed to providing quality supervision for all staff within the Signs of Safety and framework, as a key part of improving outcomes for children, young people and their families and of enabling staff to provide the best possible interventions. Whilst the content of this policy is largely directed to case work supervision, the principles and disciplines included in it apply to all staff.

In order to achieve this, Haringey Council will ensure that the guidance, training, time and resources for supervision are available to all staff and that the policies and culture throughout the organisation positively supports supervision within the context of a learning organisation.

Supervision of case work has a two-fold function: case planning and supporting workers’ growth and development.

Case planning encompasses both progressing individual cases and managing workload. Supporting workers growth and development includes building emotional and psychological health and resilience and the promotion of learning and development.

All workers should receive supervision individually with their supervisor, at a minimum of:

  • Every four weeks, (depending on the role of the worker).

Front line social workers should receive monthly supervision as a minimum.

Signs of Safety Group Supervision/Case Mapping should take place:

  • Every six to eight weeks led by a trained Practice Lead.

Newly Qualified Social Workers will receive:

  • One to one supervision weekly for the first six weeks;
  • Fortnightly for the following three months;
  • Thereafter, supervision will take place once a month.

All cases will be discussed according to levels of risk and need. The aim is to discuss all cases on monthly basis. However, as a minimum, open cases must be discussed at least once every three months.

In addition to supervision, there will be an individual performance development review using the ‘My Conversation’ framework. This will be instead of an appraisal and will inform your overall development. A discussion in line with the ‘My Conversation’ guidance will be arranged with your manager at the appropriate interval.

2. Definition of Supervision

Supervision is a formal process, based on a two-way professional relationship, which is designed to support and develop the knowledge, skills, values, performance and accountabilities of an individual, group or team in order to achieve best outcomes for service users. Supervision sessions should provide a ’safe place’ for promoting effective decision-making, learning, development and problem-solving.

3. Function of Supervision

The function of supervision is to provide:

  • Management of and decision-making regarding individual cases and workloads and of overall performance for individuals and the Council;
  • Support and motivation for individuals and/or teams in working to improve outcomes for children and their families taking into account the issues and tensions inherent in working within these services;
  • Development of individuals to help them to manage and improve their work, the interventions they provide and the expectations on them;
  • Consultation regarding individual cases and issues. The most effective learning in supervision occurs in relation to reflection, skills practice and problem solving:
  • Supervision should promote reflection so that it becomes ingrained in day to day work and thus drives continuous learning. Reflective practice is generally understood to encompass being able to identify and analyse, the feelings generated by work issues and case work. It is important to give consideration to the attitudes that may underlie feelings and emotions. Reflecting on practice should bring perspective and foster ‘thinking critically, fostering a stance of critical inquiry in case work’ and enable learning from work that is successful, to be identified and used.

4. Arrangements for Supervision

One to one supervision sessions must:

  • Take place in private and in an environment which is free from interruptions and enables open communication;
  • Be at a mutually agreed time, planned in advance, ideally up to six months ahead;
  • Be prioritised by both parties and only changed in exceptional circumstances. Where this is unavoidable the session must be re-scheduled for within the next five working days or as soon as practically possible by the person responsible for cancelling the original session;
  • Be well structured with opportunity for both parties to contribute to the agenda.

5. Focus for Supervision

The focus for supervision in case practice is:

  • Progressing individual cases through supervision can involve:
    • Maintaining an overview of the status of all cases in a worker’s caseload;
    • Reviewing issues and canvassing strategies in current cases;
    • Making decisions and providing direction to progress individual cases;
    • Collectively practicing and reflecting on aspects of case practice in live cases.
  • Managing workload through supervision can involve:
    • Making assessments of the workload involved in cases and the worker’s capacity;
    • Informing management allocation of cases and the support provided to manage particular cases;
    • Setting task priorities in and between cases.
  • Supporting workers’ growth and development:
    • Identify learning and development needs and find a suitable way to meet these;
    • Reflect on work and other learning opportunities and how to embed this;
    • Identify coaching / mentoring needs;
    • Improve areas of practice, identifying specifically what needs to change and in what timescale, and what help might be given to achieve this;
    • Identify and acknowledge strengths and consider career progression.
  • Building emotional and psychological health and resilience:
    • Be visible, accessible and operate an open door policy – be there when staff need you;
    • Model that supervision is a safe place to share difficult and uncomfortable experiences so that learning can happen to build autonomous and motivated staff;
    • Instil confidence in your staff that they will be supported and managers will take responsibility for decisions made. This applies throughout the organisation at all levels;
    • Allow practitioners and managers to feel vulnerable and model the principle of humility and co-production of choices;
    • Share the anxiety inherent in cases and where necessary escalate upwards through the organisation;
    • Identify strategies to manage stress and anxiety.

Building emotional and psychological health and resilience may also benefit from a periodic discussion of:

  • Physical and emotional health;
  • Engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment.

All work with children and families carries stresses including the vicarious trauma of working with vulnerable and at risk children, young people and families. Working within a climate of uncertainty and potential danger for children is inherent in work with vulnerable children. Supervision is a primary means of ameliorating the stress and anxiety of the work.

Supervision should support workers to develop an organised and focused approach, bring workloads to within their capacity, build emotional and psychological health and resilience, ameliorate both stress and anxiety and support in the progression of individual cases and management of workload.

6. Model of Supervision

All supervision is based on the Signs of Safety three column assessment and planning approach and uses the EARS appreciative enquiry model:

  • What is working well;
  • What are or might be the worries;
  • What needs to happen.


Turning Questions into Conversations - these can be used in supervision to assist reflection and promote the asking of the right questions, enabling a two way process between Supervisor and Supervisee.

  • Elicit;
  • Amplify;
  • Reflect;
  • Start over.

7. Individual Supervision

Supervision on an individual level is provided by the worker’s line manager and includes both formal scheduled and informal unscheduled supervision sessions.

Formal supervision involves setting a dedicated time and giving that time and full attention to the sole purpose of the supervision. Individual supervision may be most useful for:

  • Periodic detailed assessments to progress particular cases;
  • Workload management;
  • Ameliorating the stress and anxiety of the work;
  • Periodic detailed assessments for learning and development.

8. Group Supervision

Group supervision is essential for supporting workers’ growth and development. It involves all participants actively working on aspects of case practice for real, generally with currently open cases.

It may involve case mappings or working on particular aspects of case practice. These aspects might include developing danger statements or words and pictures explanations, or more broadly in Signs of Safety and other work, developing questions for areas of practice that appear stuck. The case practice learning that can be achieved in a group is generally greater than through individual supervision because it benefits from the skills, analysis and experience of the whole group and involves actively practicing analysis and applied case work skills.

As it can facilitate intense learning and development, group supervision can also provide a sense of empowerment that is essential to building the emotional and psychological health and resilience of practitioners. Group supervision is also a means of sharing the anxiety inherent in case work, a strategy to deal with working with uncertainty, and sharing the emotional support a team can provide.

The group will generally be an established team, but cross-team group supervision and open sessions for whole and partners can also offer substantial learning opportunities.

The aim is for all practitioners to have access to group supervision on a regular basis. As a minimum, practitioners should have access to group sessions of this kind every three months. Group supervision will generally be led by SOS Practice Leads, although other practitioners might also facilitate sessions.

9. The Supervision Agreement

All staff must have a current written Supervision Agreement with their nominated supervisor which defines how one to one supervision will be conducted. The details are to be negotiated between the supervisee and supervisor and the final Agreement signed by both parties who will both keep a copy.

Arrangements must be made to cover planned and unplanned absences of supervisor or supervisee. If a supervisor is unexpectedly absent from work they must, where possible, make arrangements for supervision cover or liaise with their Line Manager to make alternative arrangements for supervision of all the supervisees. If a supervisee is unexpectedly absent from work for more than one week the supervisor will assess the situation and ensure there are arrangements in place to cover their urgent work and/or to respond to the children, young people and their families on their caseload.

The Agreement is to be reviewed annually by both parties. Where any alternative form of supervision is put in place, an additional agreement must define the accountabilities of each party, especially regarding decision-making.

Under the Haringey framework, the role of Practice Leads in promoting and supporting Signs of Safety practice is a key function. Practice Leads are distributed across the organisation and it is expected that all supervisors and managers will take on this role, receiving additional training and development in using appreciative enquiry models in supervision. Through the Signs of Safety model participating in group coaching sessions led by an experienced external Signs of Safety consultant should be open to staff and used as part of the group supervision experience.

10. Recording

After their safety, a child’s wishes and feelings are paramount to the work we do. A child voicing what is important whilst a worker is assigned to them must always be included in supervision discussion. (For example a child’s view of contact if they are a Looked After Child). All decisions related to children and agreed actions and the reasons for them must also be recorded. Managerial oversight of the date the child was last seen and the quality of any direct work must be considered and referenced within cases analysis and recording.

There are two ways of recording supervision:

  1. Electronic recording of case discussions - must be recorded on the child or young person’s record using the SOS framework, under the three headings:
    1. What is working well;
    2. What are we worried about; and
    3. What needs to happen next for safety planning.

      A Scaling question can be useful to assess and track risk. The date of when the child/young person was last seen by the worker must be included and the supervisor must check that the child’s/young person’s views have been recorded. Each supervision session for a child must decide if the plan is still appropriate and record the contingency plan, (for example could a child return home if they are Looked After ?)
  2. Individual supervision - must be recorded separately and retained in a file by the manager with a copy to the worker along with appraisal and ‘My Conversation’ records. These should be passed on to the worker’s new manager if they move team.

11. Confidentiality and Security of Supervision Records

All records of supervision regarding service users or staffing issues are confidential within the boundaries of organisational accountability. This means they may be shared to address an identified risk or by mutual agreement to contribute to another employment process. In the exceptional case where consent is not given to share staffing records the manager must make a professional judgement about the need to override consent.

All records of supervision must be kept in a secure manner to comply with Data Protection requirements and personal supervision should be password protected.

12. Quality Assurance

Supervision is audited through the monthly and planned thematic audits. Team managers will use monthly audits to ensure supervision is taking place and they will comment on the quality of supervision records on each case sampled.

Individual supervision (none case related) will not be audited, information will be gathered from managers to make sure it is taking place, records are kept and that appraisal activity is completed in line with requirements.

13. Dispute Resolution

Supervisors and workers are expected to raise and resolve issues proactively and openly within the supervisory working relationship. Where an issue remains unresolved, discussion and resolution should take place with the supervisor’s line manager.

Supervision makes a large contribution to meeting the legal requirements and accountabilities of the Council to manage and monitor the service and support employees. This Supervision Policy sits alongside other policy areas supporting the management of children's cases. These are safeguarding, human resources, professional and workforce development, equalities, recording and records management.

Effective and appropriate supervision is one of the National Social Work Employer Standards. The standard states: ‘Employers should ensure that social workers have regular and appropriate social work supervision’.

15. Recording, Storage and Monitoring

Supervisees will receive a copy of their personal supervision record. All supervision records undertaken by a manager in a team should be stored securely. Supervision records should be monitored and audited once a year to ensure consistency and compliance with agreed supervision standards as outlined in the supervision audit tool.

These records will be subject to external audit by the Quality Assurance team. Monitoring could also be used to cover other areas of staff wellbeing and key HR documentation, for example driving documents, probation reports, references, and sickness.

16. Templates, Guidance and Prompts

16.1 Supervision Agreement

Click here to view Supervision Agreement.

16.2 Supervision Guidance: Signs of Safety

Click here to view Supervision Guidance: Signs of Safety.

16.3 Supervision Guidance: Elicit, Amplify, Reflect, Start over (EARS)

Click here to view Supervision Guidance: Elicit, Amplify, Reflect, Start over (EARS).

16.4 Supervision Guidance: Good Practice Tools for Social Workers

Click here to view Supervision Guidance: Good Practice Tools for Social Workers.

17. Quality Assurance and Resources

17.1 Children’s Social Care: Case Work Supervision Standards

Click here to view Children’s Social Care: Case Work Supervision Standards.

17.2 Resources

Developing best practice in reflective supervision (Research in Practice, 2014)

The Standards for employers of Social Workers in England

Effective supervision in a variety of settings (SCIE, 2017)

Supervision: Now or Never (In-Trac, 2010)

BASW/CoSW England research on supervision in social work, with particular reference to supervision practice in multi disciplinary teams