Why supervision is key in social work practice
By Gemma Raw
Effective supervision provides vital support and guidance for those working in all kinds of social work roles. Whether you're a frontline social worker or a team manager, the pressures and stresses of working in a social care job can not only test your professional resilience, but can also take their toll on your personal wellbeing. Nobody should feel that they have to face these challenges without support and guidance. That's why it's vital to have regular engagement with a colleague or manager with whom you can talk things over, share your problems, explore your practice and review your decision making.
Professional supervision of this kind can pay real dividends in social work practice. The benefits are well summed up in the Department for Education's knowledge and skills statement for child and family social workers, with one of the key advantages being the opportunity to recognise your own professional limitations and knowing when to seek advice from senior social care staff or specialist experts.
Research and policy
Research carried out by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) in 2011 found that only just over 55% of members who responded to a survey were satisfied with the frequency of supervision they received, and almost 61% rated their supervision as 'poor' or 'fair'. Following on from this, BASW issued a policy document with some useful guidance on the professional rights of social workers in relation to supervision and the responsibilities of both the supervisor and supervisee.
Research carried out by Community Care into the best ways to retain social work staff also highlighted the importance of supervision. An analysis of survey responses (as part of further research with individual councils) found those who felt they had had effective supervision were more likely to be positive about the overall impact of their managers. Based on social workers' feedback, the researchers compiled a list of top tips for managers to achieve supervision success, including making sure sessions are not missed, interrupted or rushed, understanding individual needs and preferred approaches, and focusing on positives as well as negatives.
Using supervision for CPD
Supervision is an important tool in continuing professional development (CPD) and a way for practising social workers to show compliance with section 4.2 of the continuing CPD standard required by regulatory body Social Work England. In a guest blog for the Social Work England website, senior social worker Rachael Jennings was in no doubt about the benefits of supervision and its importance for all social workers. "If supervision isn't happening, I'd recommend considering asking why not," she wrote. "When we're going through a time of enormous change and under additional pressures as we are now, supervision is even more important to ensure that your professional needs are met, and that practice is critically reflective and values based."
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