8 Apr 2021

NQSW supervision resource 8 - Making best use of supervision

NQSW supervision resource 8 - Making best use of supervision

Negotiating supervision

It is important to negotiate the time, frequency, location, structure and content of supervision. Sometimes this is known as contracting, as social workers would often have had an individualised contract around supervision that meets their specific needs.

We have included more information and templates in the resources for supervisors on this website.

This has increasingly given way to organisational policies which have important functions about minimum standards and accountability to employees and the public. However, negotiating your own agreement about what you want to focus on within this wider policy can still be tremendously useful and will likely be seen as a sign of your interest and personal responsibility about your learning and development.

What supervision involves

There are some areas you could include and personalise to your needs, whether or not covered by an overarching policy. You might want to make them more relevant to your learning style, your locality or in case they were written for multi-professional departments, to your role as a social worker.

These headings are adapted for NQSWs from the Supervision Learning Resource (SSSC, 2016).

  • Arrangements for planned, frequent 1:1 supervision

There is no substitute for this and it is key to the wellbeing of NQSWs and the people who use our services. It should be a joint responsibility and major priority for both parties despite work pressures and technical hurdles that may be increased due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Arrangements for complementary supervision

This may be with a registered social worker if your line manager does not have this role and for group supervision and peer reflection which we have included on the website.

  • The link between supervision and other management processes

This might include any probationary employment period, any annual appraisal cycles, case allocation policies and any specific team or departmental goals or performance expectations.

  • Link with your expectations, support and CPL as an NQSW

If you are feeling comfortable with your supervisor this may include sharing your last individual learning plan you worked with at your final placement and adapting it for your new role, to show where you have developed and what you are still working on.

  • The purpose and content of sessions

This might include models used and how time might be divided between the normative, formative and restorative functions discussed further below in supervision models.

  • The role of standards and ethics specific to the NQSW role

This might include how you think about these in any model of supervision that you both agree to use eg see the section on the seven-eyed model which may help with this.

  • Administration issues

This might include issues such as an agenda and any cases identified for deeper analysis and reflection. This gives a supervisor time to read case notes and avoids spending most of the time in sessions describing case backgrounds. It also allows more focus on your assessment, interventions and support needs.   

Using supervision effectively

Contracting or negotiation for each supervision relationship sometimes gives way to carefully developed organisational policies to which staff must adhere. However, if that does not cover negotiation around responsibilities and roles, session formats, regulatory and accountability issues and the supervisory relationship those things still require individual attention.

Even with all those things in place supervision could still be somewhat  compliance-based unless both parties invest in the relationship including taking some risks. For you, it might be taking risks on talking about things you may worry that would impact on any assessment of your confidence or competence in your new identity as a qualified worker.

It is usually safer to take the risk of talking about difficult issues. Examples of this are:

  • Difficult issues with colleagues, managers and the organisation
  • Themes arising across multiple cases eg engagement issues  
  • Strong feelings eg anger or embarrassment in your work
  • Self-care, stress levels, time management, workload
  • Personal issues that impact work or vice versa
  • Feeling awkward about a case or potential ethical dilemmas

In a scenario where you may receive some feedback that leads to you feeling less confident, try to have a conversation about exactly that issue with your supervisor as they may be unaware of the impact on you.

When we are on a new learning curve early in a career, we may be more alert to criticism or we may need to help our supervisor understand our communication style, what we want more of and what we find more challenging. Conversely, it might be difficult for a supervisor to firmly challenge any concerns with new team members in case this is perceived as strong criticism.

It’s best to deliberately discuss how to manage constructive criticism ahead of time and say what approaches may work best for you.

Your supervisor may be highly experienced and you may well find supervision very useful. It is still worth having a discussion about your individual styles and approaches and how you might negotiate the relationship to work best for you, so you feel like you are taking an active role in your own development. Doing this consciously can help avoid solely describing casework activities and enable more reflective, meaningful and challenging conversations.

Reflective questions

  • Read your organisational policy around supervision. You may have to search on your organisation’s intranet or ask your manager for it.
  • Perhaps it was discussed during induction activities when you were taking in lots of new information and now would be a good time to revisit it.

Go to NQSW supervision resource 9 – Virtual supervision

Contact information

More categories