The role and functions of supervision

This section outlines the key elements and purpose of supervision and helps you to consider how you can work more effectively as a supervisor. Tools are also provided which you can use as discussion prompts with your team to explore their expectations and experiences of supervision.

Knowledge Briefing – The role and functions of supervision

This knowledge briefing is written specifically for practice supervisors. It includes key messages from research and practice evidence about:

  • The role and functions of supervision and different models of supervision in child and family social work.
  • The qualities and skills needed in a supervisory relationship.
  • What reflective supervision is and why it is important.
  • The challenges of providing reflective supervision in child and family social work and how these can be overcome.

Challenge questions and reflective prompts are included to help you consider how you might use these ideas in your role as practice supervisor.

The next three resources present three different perspectives about supervision- from an expert by experience, the National Director of Social Care at OFSTED and a social worker. You can review your learning and response to these resources using the reflective tool which is provided at the end. Please watch the two films and read the short blog before completing the learning tool ‘Three perspectives on supervision’.

Audio icon You can tell if social workers have had supervision

In this short audio recording 'Annie' talks about being able to notice when social workers have visited her who are stressed, and have not had reflective supervision. She argues that this makes a very real difference to the quality of their communication with children and families.

'Annie' tweets as @survivecourt. You can read more of her work on her website.

Movieicon Three lines of sight in supervision

In this short film Yvette Stanley, National Director for Social Care at OFSTED presents her analysis of the key elements of effective supervision in child and family social work. She argues that there should be three clear lines of sight in supervision.

You might also find it useful to read a blog by Yvette sharing OFSTED’s perspective on reflective supervision.

Blog icon Supervision makes me feel 'taller and braver'

Leanne is a social worker based with Stockport Family and works on a new service for children and families in Stockport called 'New Beginnings'.

Leanne Boylan has written a blog about what supervision means to her.

Three perspectives of supervision

This tool asks you to explore your responses to what Yvette Stanley, Leanne Boylan and 'Annie' have said and to consider what areas you may wish to develop further in your supervision discussions as a result.

You need to have accessed the resources by ‘Annie’, Leanne Boylan and Yvette Stanley prior to reading this tool.

An audit of your supervision role

This tool focuses on four core functions of supervision - management, development, support and mediation. Information is provided about each function and you are asked to consider which are your responsibility as a practice supervisor, which can be shared with your supervisee and how your team can be involved in helping you fulfil the management and support functions.

How organisational culture influences supervision?

Every supervisory relationship can be affected by responses from both supervisor and/or supervisee within an organisational setting.This visual tool asks you to reflect on how this model might speak to your own experiences of supervision and how you can work to address this.

A 3D model-forms of support for social workers

Wilkins (2017) argues that we place too much focus on one to one supervision. Consequently expectations about what can be achieved in supervision may be unrealistic. This visual tool, based on his work, prompts you to consider other ways in which social workers can be supported to critically reflect on practice within organisations and the potential benefits of doing so.