What a difference a year makes! Reflections from PSDP pilot participants

Written: 6/01/2020

By: amy bishop

In: Reflections

Published: 06/01/2020

Author: Jo Williams, Jo Morton, Hazel Miller, Lisa Thornton and Su Fullam

It is just over a year since the Practice Supervisor Development Programme (PSDP) pilot launch in London, where 16 enthusiastic practice supervisors from across England, came together to be the first participants to experience the programme.

They worked really hard, bringing their hearts and minds into the learning environment and fully embracing the time and space to reflect on and develop their knowledge and skills. Additionally, they were committed to giving teaching and learning feedback on every session, which enabled us to review the content and our approach to delivery, following the PSDP consortium developing the programme with input from the sector. Their dedication and thoughtful feedback enabled the materials to become co-produced and the PSDP team has a lot to thank them for in terms of the subsequent success of the programme.

In October 2019, six of the original participants met with four of the PSDP pilot facilitators and it was great to see each other and reflect on our respective journeys. The facilitators talked about how the programme has been developed following the pilot participants’ feedback and the practice supervisors considered how their participation on the PSDP has shaped their development and practice over the last year. Looking back helped us realise how far we have come and we all reflected on our learning.

All practice supervisors emphasised how the programme had improved their confidence and validated some of their existing skills, whilst giving further thought on how to utilise these more effectively. They individually made further comments as follows:

‘Participating in the PSDP has helped me to consider the type of culture I’d like to promote within the statutory social work team I manage and develop my own style of management. Carving out time for reflection within a fast-paced statutory team can be challenging at times. The PSDP provided yet another reminder of the importance and necessity of slowing down and engaging in critically reflective and reflexive supervision.’

‘Interacting with managers from other local authorities was integral to my learning and development. It was great meeting different people in similar roles and all discussing the same issues. It made me feel that I was not alone and I felt supported in considering ways of managing challenges. Having time to learn from others experiences and be able to critically reflect on some of the difficulties and complexities in supervising others, whilst being supported by facilitators was invaluable. The safe environment was key to this. This opportunity reminded me of the importance of providing a safe environment for the team.’

‘The PSDP has refreshed my knowledge and given me the confidence to use the theories and perspectives I am already aware of and be introduced to new research and models, supporting my professional development, whilst giving me the skills and confidence to use this knowledge when supporting my team. The course gave me fresh enthusiasm to go back to the team and enthuse them into developing their good practice.’

We also reviewed how participants have embedded their learning into their practice and particularly which tools and models from the PSDP had been useful to them. Two participants shared the following reflections:

‘I have particularly found the ‘Lifeline’ exercise useful as a starting point, in order to reflect upon what we are bringing into social work and our practice supervisor role, from our own personal and professional history, and how this effects every day practice. Also the whole theme around how what happens in supervision really impacts on how practitioners operate in practice with children and families.’

‘Discussing live practice issues and dilemmas and using systemic questions, with other social work managers on the PSDP was also really valuable. It has really assisted me with models for group supervision and group learning and has given me lots of food for thought to use with ASYE’s and social work apprentices, particularly around models of reflection.’

We reflected on what has been the most significant change in them as a practice supervisor over the last year and in particular, how they think this may have impacted on their team and social work with children and families. Some of the reflections are as follows:

‘Following the programme I had some really good ideas of how I could implement some of my learning into my supervision and development of staff however returned to a huge spike in caseloads and this didn’t happen in the manner that I had planned. However, when reflecting a year on, I was really struck with how my practice had changed. I am now really clear about what my team need from me and am aware of how my practice directly impacts theirs. It has really helped me to consider the same theories that we use to work with families to work within my organisation.’

‘Some of the tools shared with us on the course were easily grasped and understood. This made it much easier to take back to my team. During very difficult times with high staff shortages, there has been low morale and a sense of helplessness within the team, including myself. My enthusiasm and eagerness, gained  on the course; to encourage the team to support each other, look after themselves, take a step back, breathe and reflect has had a positive impact on the whole team.’    

‘Having progressed from a social worker to team manager within the same team I had found this challenging, however the PDSP helped me to recognise and understand my role and the benefits of this directly on social workers and families as a consequence. I feel that the programme gave me ‘permission’ to be use the power that the role provided me. I have become a far more confident practice supervisor and my team report that they feel well supported. I have also been more aware of the need to contain staff and for supervision to be more than a case discussion but more reflective, in order to achieve happier and more confident staff and better outcomes for children.’

As Delivery Lead for the PSDP, I continue to appreciate what a great profession social work is and what amazing people we have within it. I have learned that given the right space and resources, when you bring a group of social workers together to think about their practice, magical things can happen. It has been such a privilege to extend this opportunity to practice supervisors and witness what can happen to their skills and confidence in a few months on the programme, and even more so to see where this can lead after just a year!

Jo Williams, Jo Morton, Hazel Miller, Lisa Thornton and Su Fullam

Jo Williams is the Practice Supervisor Development Programme, Delivery Lead and works for the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, as part of the PSDP consortium. Jo Morton is a Team Manager, within the Looked After Children and Leaving Care Team, in Oxfordshire County Council. Su Fullam is a Consultant Social Worker, in the Child Protection Hub in Slough Children’s Services Trust. Hazel Miller is a Senior Practitioner in the Children in Care Team, in Essex County Council. Lisa Thornton is a Practice Consultant in the Learning and Development Team, in Lincolnshire County Council.

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