30 Mar 2021

Supervisor resource 3 - Learning about supervision from the NQSW supported year pilots

Supervisor resource 3 - Learning about supervision from the NQSW supported year pilots

The NQSW supported year pilots

The evaluation report from our NQSW supported year pilots, and evidence from the current longitudinal study into the experiences of NQSWs in Scotland, identified that reflective, structured supervision and mentoring was core to the NQSW supported year. Supervision provided insight into the NQSW’s practice and overall wellbeing.

Informal support was found to be an important element alongside formal and traditional supervision with a line manager. It was felt that support to develop these informal approaches would be helpful, such as peer supervision or peer mentoring. Access to online training, resources and the development of a web-based learning resource was felt to be important.

Supervision practices

While it is acknowledged that there are areas of very strong practice across the sector, some supervisors of NQSW indicated they would benefit from further training in supervision and engaging in developmental feedback.  

Grant et al. (2019), observed wide variation in practice and that professional development took a backseat to caseload concerns:

…a privileging of case-management over professional development in supervision” with only 65% of NQSW getting monthly supervision and 76% of respondents reporting a focus on caseload management.”

Grant et al. (2019)

This report also identified the importance of informal supports which:

continues to emerge as a critical if underutilised mechanism for supporting professional confidence, competence and development.”

Grant et al. (2019)

A number of issues were highlighted in the report on the supported year pilots. This included giving and receiving developmental feedback. We provide more information on this in the resource about supervision models and the resource on managing boundaries.

Peer learning for NQSW

One of the significant findings, during the pilots, was the benefits of peer supervision for NQSWs. You can find more information in the resources for NQSW and the associated training session outlines which you or your organisation can use.

Effective peer groups run will have clear boundaries of confidentiality and avoid any advice-giving. This safely helps NQSWs process thoughts and feelings arising from practice with less potential power imbalance or performance pressure than supervision with a line manager. The model also lends itself to a clear structure to avoid speaking over other participants. As a supervisor of NQSW you may play a key role in encouraging and enabling NQSWs to set up their own groups and helping your organisation to facilitate and encourage this including:

  • Understanding the model is complementary to individual supervision
  • Organisational ‘buy-in’ including access to appropriate resources
  • Helping NQSW’s decide who to include depending on local arrangements
  • Supporting NQSW’s with maintaining the contract and any problems
  • Viewing this as a valuable learning opportunity

You may also find the later section on implementation guidance of particular use since introducing such models could potentially lead to concerns of oversight or inappropriate dynamics. Advice giving is inconsistent with the group model outlined but this concern may need to be worked through with colleagues or senior managers.

Groups are also valuable for supervisors and Patterson (2019), argues that small groups incorporating ‘thinking aloud’ can be used effectively to support first-line supervisors to deepen participants supervisory skills and competence.

Useful ideas

  • Review the NQSW training resource session including the model on peer groups.
  • Have a discussion with your own manager on whether this might compliment other local provision.
  • Encourage NQSWs you are supervising to access the resources or run a session for them at a local level using these outlines.

Information and links

  • Grant, S., McCulloch, T., Daly, M. & Kettle, M.  (2019) Newly qualified social workers in Scotland: A five-year longitudinal study. Interim Report 3. Dundee: SSSC.
  • Hawkins, P., McMahon, A., Ryde, J., Shohet, R., & Wilmot, J. (2020) Supervision in the helping professions (5th ed.). London: Open University Press.
  • Patterson, F. (2019) Supervising the supervisors: What support do first-line supervisors need to be more effective in their supervisory role? Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work 31(3), 46–57

Go to supervisor resource 4 – Professional values and identity in supervision

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