PG41. Supervision

For a full record of amendments and updates, see the Amendments & Archives.

Specific definitions of key concepts used by safeguarding practitioners are available through the Glossary.

This chapter was added in 2015.

1. Introduction

Caption: Introduction table


For many practitioners involved in day-to-day work with children and families, effective supervision is important to promote good standards of practice and to support individual staff members.


The key functions of supervision are:

  • Management (ensuring competent and accountable performance/practice);
  • Engagement/mediation (engaging the individual with the organisation);
  • Development (continuing professional development);
  • Support (supportive/restorative function).

2. Function in Management

Caption: Function Management


The arrangements for organising how supervision is delivered will vary from agency to agency but there are some key essential elements. It should:

  • Help to ensure that practice is soundly based and consistent with LSCP and organisational procedures;
  • Ensure that practitioners fully understand their roles, responsibilities and the scope of their professional discretion and authority; and
  • Help identify the training and development needs of practitioners, so that each has the skills to provide an effective service.

3. Function in Management

Caption: Function in Management


Good quality supervision can help to:

  • Keep a focus on the child;
  • Avoid drift;
  • Maintain a degree of objectivity, identify patterns (rather than just responding to incidents) and challenge fixed views;
  • Test and assess the evidence base for assessment and decisions; and
  • Address the emotional impact of work

4. Supervisor's Role and Responsibility

Caption: Supervisor's Role and Responsibility


Supervisors should be trained in supervision skills and have an up to date knowledge of the legislation, policy and research relevant to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children.


Supervisors should take care that they are handling an appropriate number of direct reports to ensure that each supervisee is receiving an adequate level of support.


Supervision should enable both supervisor and supervisee to reflect on, scrutinise and evaluate the work carried out, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the practitioner and providing coaching development and pastoral support. This should include the supervisor enabling the supervisee to explore their feelings about the work and the family in order to achieve sound professional judgements.


Supervisors should read children's case files, or the files of parents who have caring responsibilities and where there are concerns about a child's welfare, regularly to review and record in the file whether the work undertaken is appropriate to the child's current needs and circumstances, and is in accordance with the agency's responsibilities.


Each agency should have a supervisory system in place that is accessible to the professional and reflects practice needs. Supervision should form part of day-today staff support, which should also include systems and procedures for:

  • Managing workloads
  • Managing, sharing and reporting individual and aggregated information;
  • Staff to easily access advice, expertise and management support (including recognition of need for additional support in particular cases or circumstances);
  • Protecting staff from violence and harassment, from service users and staff;
  • Maintaining quality standards e.g. regular audits of cases that involve children, including those in adult and mental health teams;
  • Staff, contractors or service users to complain or blow the whistle;
  • Effective staff appraisal and managing poor practice.


Supervision policy and practice must maximise staff safety and remain alert to the possibility that some staff may be anxious about personal safety and yet reluctant to acknowledge their concern. There are occasions when a risk assessment should be undertaken regarding employee safety, this must include their emotional well being as well as any physical risk. There is an increasing awareness of the impact on workers of dealing with some extreme cases e.g. violence and threats. This casework may require specialist supervision in addition to usual case management supervision. See also Resistant Families Procedure.


Effective safeguarding supervision needs to be regular and provide continuity, so that the relationship between supervisor and supervisee develops. Each session should include agreeing the agenda, reviewing actions from previous supervision, listening, exploring and reflecting, agreeing actions and reviewing the supervision process itself.


On some occasions (e.g. enquiries about complex abuse or allegations against colleagues) agencies should consider the provision of additional individual or group staff support.

5. Children's Social Care Services

Caption: Children's Social Care Services


It is particularly important that social workers have appropriate supervision.


There are three specific functions of the supervision which must be in place to support effective practice: line management; professional (or case) supervision; and continuing professional development.


Within all agencies that have operational responsibility for children in need and child protection services there should be an agency policy that defines levels of supervision for those staff who are accountable for children in need and child protection cases.


Such supervision should ensure that child protection cases are regularly discussed, and the outcome of the discussions, recorded and signed by both supervisor and supervisee. Copies should be held by both the manager and the member of staff.

6. Health Service

Caption: Health Service


The NHS must provide both management and child protection supervision for clinical staff. Line managers in health settings have a responsibility to support clinical staff into one of the forms of clinical supervision which best meets their clinical needs and allow protected time to attend. Clinicians must highlight with their manager if supervision is not meeting their needs so a different model can be considered.