SOUTH TYNESIDE SPECIFIC LINK
January 2020: This chapter has been amended throughout and should be reread.
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Learning and Support
- 3. Management: Quality and Accountability
- 4. Strength Based / Asset Based Approach
- 5. Supervision in Multi-Disciplinary Teams
- 6. Standards for Employers of Social Workers
The role of social worker brings with it a variety of challenges and complex situations practical, social, emotional. Social workers work closely with individuals and families who are in need of support, usually at a time of stress or crisis. All social work interventions should begin with a conversation with the person and an appraisal of the person’s outcomes strengths, and needs. In order to understand the particular situation of the person and their family / carers fully and to appreciate the challenges that they are facing and the outcomes that they would like to achieve, social workers need to be able to engage with people, build relationships with them and their families. This includes being able to form a professional judgement of how all elements of the person’s life impact upon them and to keep this under regular review so that risks can be identified and addressed in a positive way.
When social workers become involved with people it is often a difficult time for the people involved. The offer of support from the local authority may be rejected, people may be angry, suspicious, depressed, upset, defensive and anxious. Even when people are welcoming of intervention there remains the need to maintain the appropriate professional boundary.
In this complex and demanding role supervision is the main mechanism to ensure that the appropriate support is offered to enable people to keep safe and well by supporting, managing and developing professionals who deliver a social work service.
Supervision has two main functions, learning and support and management, as outlined below.
2. Learning and Support
Social workers are enabled to:
- reflect and share their actions, feelings and concerns about their work in a safe environment with an experienced practitioner who can challenge, guide and encourage;
- actively engage with supervision that aims to help them uncover assumptions and analyse judgements, clarify the focus of their work and identify changes that they need to make to their approach;
- recognise when there are multiple and conflicting ideas, interpretations and perspectives to reach a professional judgement taking account of the complexity of people’s lives;
- develop skills and identify strengths and areas for further learning so that social workers are aware of their own practice skills and needs for training and development;
- feel supported so that they are able to continue to work well in a stressful and demanding environment with people who are often at risk;
- adopt a strength / asset based and human rights approach to intervention, assessment and support planning which is informed by the principles of the Care Act 2014, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the Mental Health Act 2007;
- review decisions to ensure that they are based on observation, evidence and analysis, exploring differences between opinion and fact, addressing any bias in situations of uncertainty in order to ensure that clear conclusions are reached and defensible judgements made.
3. Management: Quality and Accountability
The organisation is enabled to ensure that:
- a culture of focused and critical thinking including the individual, carers and professionals’ views, chronology of critical events, social, economic, emotional / mental health issues;
- social work interventions are planned and monitored, risks are identified and escalated as needed;
- workloads are monitored to ensure safe practice;
- the quality of work is reviewed and records kept to ensure clarity of purpose is clear and that decisions made are defensible and evidence based and underpinned by relevant legislation;
- a person centred, holistic approach is taken to practice ensuring that actions are proportionate to risks and the procedures of their organisations.
4. Strength Based / Asset Based Approach
This ensures that:
- practice reflects the requirements of the Care Act to ‘consider the person’s own strengths and capabilities, and what support might be available from their wider support network or within the community to help’ in considering ‘what else other than the provision of care and support might assist the person in meeting the outcomes they want to achieve’;
- an approach that looks at a person’s life holistically, considering their needs in the context of their skills, ambitions, and priorities;
- individuals’ strengths are identified, including– personal, community and social networks – and maximise these strengths to help people achieve the outcomes they want;
- support available from family and friends is considered in the light of their appropriateness, willingness and ability to provide this support and takes into account the impact on them;
- the implementation of a strengths-based approach includes cultural and organisational commitment as well as frontline practice implementation;
- practitioners have time to research and become familiar with community resources and that time is allowed for assessments to be undertaken appropriately and proportionately”.
See also Strength-Based Approaches (SCIE)
5. Supervision in Multi-Disciplinary Teams
Models for multi-disciplinary working vary from co-located, fully integrated teams to virtual teams working in an integrated manner.
Whatever the model there will be in place arrangements for line management and supervision. In multi-disciplinary teams, workers may not be managed by someone of their own profession. The manager will be responsible for the day to day running of the service, allocation and review of workloads, risk management and the performance of the service.
In these circumstances it is crucial to the safe running of the service that staff have supervision from someone from their own discipline to support and develop their clinical practice, professional development and service offered to clients.
6. Standards for Employers of Social Workers
The Local Government Association has produced standards for employers of social workers in England. This section outlines those standards.
The purpose of the Standards is to sustain high quality outcomes for people who have care and support needs and their families / carers / communities in three focal areas:
- enabling employers to provide a well led professional environment;
- enabling social work professionals to maintain their professionalism;
- enabling them to practice more effectively.
- Standard 1 – Clear Social Work Accountability Framework: Employers should have in place a clear social work accountability framework informed by knowledge of good social work practice and the experience and expertise of service users, carers and practitioners.
- Standard 2 – Effective Workforce Planning: Employers should use effective workforce planning systems to make sure that the right number of social workers, with the right level of skills and experience, are available to meet current and future service demands.
- Standard 3 – Safe Workloads and Case Allocation: Employers should ensure social workers have safe and manageable workloads.
- Standard 4 – Managing Risks and Resources: Employers should ensure that social workers can do their jobs safely and have the practical tools and resources they need to practice effectively. Assess risks and take action to minimise and prevent them.
- Standard 5 – Effective and Appropriate Supervision: Employers should ensure that social workers have regular and appropriate social work supervision.
- Standard 6 – Continuing Professional Development: Employers should provide opportunities for effective continuing professional development, as well as access to research and-relevant knowledge.
- Standard 7 – Professional Registration: Employers should ensure social workers can maintain their professional registration.
- Standard 8 – Effective Partnerships: Employers should establish effective partnerships with higher education institutions and other organisations to support the delivery of social work education and continuing professional development.
Some of the standards relate to the wider organisation.
6.3 Frontline Practice Supervision
The following standards relate specifically to frontline practice supervision.
6.3.1 Standard 3 – Safe workloads and case allocation
Ensure social workers have safe and manageable workloads.
This Standard is about protecting employees and service users from the harm caused by excessive workloads, long waiting lists and unallocated cases.
All employers should:
- use a workload management system which sets transparent benchmarks for safe workload levels in each service area;
- ensure each social worker’s workload is regularly assessed to take account of work complexity, individual worker capacity and time needed for supervision (Standard 5) and CPD (Standard 6);
- ensure that cases are allocated transparently and by prior discussion with the individual social worker, with due consideration of newly qualified social workers on ASYE;
- ensure that a social worker’s professional judgment about workload capacity issues is respected in line with the requirements of their professional registration (Standard 7);
- take contingency action when workload demand exceeds staffing capacity report regularly to strategic leaders about workload and capacity issues within services;
- publish information about average caseloads for social workers within the organisation (Standard 1).
6.3.2 Useful information
6.4 Standard 5 – Effective and appropriate supervision
Ensure that social workers have regular and appropriate social work supervision.
This Standard is about making high quality, regular supervision an integral part of social work practice. This should start with students on placement, and continue through ASYE and throughout the individual’s social work career. Supervision should be based on a rigorous understanding of the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF). Supervision should challenge students and qualified practitioners to reflect critically on their practice and should foster an inquisitive approach to social work.
6.4.1 Frequency of supervision
All employers should make sure that supervision takes place:
- regularly and consistently and last at least an hour and a half of uninterrupted time;
- for students on placement – as agreed with student and HEI;
- for newly qualified social workers – at least weekly for the first six weeks of employment of a newly qualified social worker, at least fortnightly for the duration of the first six months, and a minimum of monthly supervision thereafter;
- for social workers who have demonstrated capability at ASYE level and above – in line with identified needs, and at least monthly;
monitor actual frequency and quality of supervision against clear statements about what is expected.
6.4.2 Quality of supervision
All employers should:
- ensure that social work supervision is not treated as an isolated activity by incorporating it into the organisation’s social work accountability framework (Standard 1);
- promote continuous learning and knowledge sharing through which social workers are encouraged to draw out learning points by reflecting on their own practice in the light of experiences of peers;
- ensure that the Professional Capabilities Framework, at an appropriate level, is used as the basis for evaluating capability and identifying development needs;
- ensure that supervision supports students and qualified social workers to meet the HCPC Standards;
- encourage social workers to plan, reflect on and record learning activity, using recording tools such as an e portfolio;
- provide regular supervision training for social work supervisors;
- assign explicit responsibility for the oversight of appropriate supervision and for issues that arise through supervision;
- provide additional professional supervision by a registered social worker for practitioners whose line manager is not a social worker.
6.4.3 Useful information
- Guidance for providing supervision in different settings;
- SCIE supervision guides;
- BASW supervision policy;
- SCIE Research briefing 43: Effective supervision in social work and social care.
6.5 Standard 6 – Continuing Professional Development
Provide opportunities for effective continuing professional development, as well as access to research and relevant knowledge.
This Standard is about social workers being able to build a robust and up to date knowledge and skill base through effective continuing professional development (CPD) and access to research, evidence and best practice guidance. Employers should facilitate career-long learning and empower social workers to work confidently and effectively with the children, adults and families they have been trained to support. Employers should also understand the statutory requirement for social workers in England to undertake CPD, as outlined in the HCPC’s standards for CPD.
6.5.1 Supporting staff development
All employers should:
- have effective induction systems and put in place tailored support programmes for Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE)s, including protected development time, a managed workload, tailored supervision and personal development plans;
- have an appraisal or performance review system which assesses how well professional practice is delivered and identifies a learning and development plan to support the achievement of objectives;
- provide time, resources and support for CPD;
- have fair and transparent systems to enable social workers to develop their professional skills and knowledge throughout their careers through an entitlement to formal and informal CPD, including Practice educator and/or specialist training as appropriate;
- encourage social workers to plan, reflect on and record CPD activity, using recording tools, such as an e-portfolio.
6.5.2 Promoting research based practice
All employers should:
- support their social workers to make decisions and pursue actions that are informed by robust and rigorous evidence so that adults can have confidence in the service they receive;
- enable social workers to work with others engaged in research and practice development activities in universities, professional bodies and trade unions to develop the evidence base for good practice;
- ensure that practice educators are able to contribute to the learning, support, supervision and assessment of students on qualifying and CPD programmes.