8 Apr 2021

NQSW supervision resource 4 - Professional values and identity in supervision

NQSW supervision resource 4 - Professional values and identity in supervision

Developing social work identity

The development of a professional identity based on social work values is important for NQSW and closely linked to job satisfaction. Supervision can also play an important part in supporting the development of values and professional identity.

Recognition of the need for protected time and space for focused reflection, particularly for supervisors, needs to be embedded in social services including both experiential training for supervisors as well as further recognition of the value of team and group supervision (Hawkins et al., 2020).

We include some ideas to think about professional identity here and some relevant links to reports and research in this area.

Maintaining your social work identity

As an NQSW you should be supported to maintain the contribution of your professional training, values and ethics even when practising in generic assessment or intervention roles in integrated multidisciplinary teams. This includes having access to professional supervision with a social work supervisor where the line manager is not a registered social worker.

As mentioned in the What is supervision? resource social work has been evolving for over a century and an important part of developing a professional identity is connecting with the development and wider state of the profession beyond individual localities and roles. This may include connections with local, national or global social work organisations and awareness of what their stance on supervision is.

The employer’s role

The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) highlights the responsibilities of employers which includes a framework for supporting good practise that takes account of ethical principles and ensures ‘effective induction, supervision, workload management and continuing professional development’.

The social work interest group of Unison Scotland developed a position statement for professional supervision in social work in 2006, which states that professional supervision involves:

  • quality assurance, including accountable and evidence-based practice
  • learning and development, including developing individuals personally and professionally and ensuring that the social worker and agency maintain up to date knowledge about research, evidence and practice
  • support, including identifying resources to respond to stressful situations and constructive challenge in the interests of client, worker and agency
  • shared decision making, including ensuring peer and management review of professional decisions and mutual learning and development.

The supervision policy of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) suggests these key needs of social workers: 

  • receiving regular, planned, 1:1 professional supervision from registered and appropriately experienced social workers.
  • having routine opportunities for peer learning and discussion in the workplace and through professional networks.
  • developing and maintaining relevant skills, knowledge and understanding to do their job through continuing professional development.

Reflective questions

  • Listen to the Helpful Social Work Podcast episode 8b on Supervision (20 min) and then think about the reflective questions shown below.
  • Think about the concepts in the podcast applied to NQSW
  • How you would feedback to your supervisor on what does or does not help you progress?
  • How you might have input into the agenda to use the time in the best way possible for you?
  • Write some of these ideas down so you can take them to your supervisor for further discussion.

Information and links

Professional identity and self-care

Find out about the sessions on professional identity and self-care that were run in our pilot work by Pearse McCusker and Martin Kettle. You can download the information below.

Go to NQSW supervision resource 5 – Learning from reviews of practice

Contact information

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