Effective supervision in a variety of settings

The context for effective supervision: Developing a supervision policy

A supervision policy is the means by which an organisation establishes its commitment to supervision, clarifies expectations regarding the standard of delivery and decides upon how the process will be reviewed and evaluated. The policy will also need to identify how the organisation will support the process with resources, including the training and development of supervisors.

The stages involved in developing a supervision policy might be:

Does your supervision policy state:

Any supervision policy will need to be clear about the definition of supervision being used and the interface between the definition and the role and responsibilities of supervisors within the organisation.

The research underpinning this guide identified three types of supervision:

Other guidance [17] has referred to supervision as involving:

When using these frameworks it is important to ensure that the need to include emotional support within the supervision process is considered. It is one element of clinical supervision and the detailed Skills for Care/CWDC document [17] refers to ‘support’ and ‘duty of care’ under line management.

It is also important that supervisors do not see supervision as a fragmented activity with case discussions being divorced from the support, development and managerial aspects of the role. While there may be reasons why a staff member might need professional or clinical supervision in addition to managerial supervision (e.g. if their manager is from a different professional background), the prime goal should be to make sure that, however supervision is delivered, the staff member is managed and held accountable for their work, assisted to critically reflect on their work with people who use services, supported in their role and provided with development opportunities.

In order to ensure that all the elements of these types of supervision are enshrined in practice, the definition by Morrison, [1] which is widely used within social care, provides a useful framework for policy development, particularly as it clearly identifies the importance of emotional support. For Morrison, supervision is: ‘a process by which one worker is given responsibility by the organisation to work with another worker(s) in order to meet certain organisational professional and personal objectives which together promote the best outcomes for service users’.

The objectives and functions of supervision have been described by Morrison as:

The importance of this definition is that supervision can be seen as an integrated activity and case discussions address all four functions.

The definition has led to the development of the integrated model of supervision, sometimes referred to as the 4x4x4 model,1 which may be useful in some social care contexts and could be used to deliver managerial, clinical and professional supervision. Within this model the term ‘management’ is used broadly to refer to the role that any supervisor has (whether or not they are the supervisee’s line manager) in being accountable for the advice supervisees are giving and any practice decisions that emerge from supervision. All supervisors, whether clinical, professional or managerial, will also have a responsibility to report any unsafe or dangerous practice. This model acknowledges the interdependence of all four functions of supervision, their impact on key stakeholders and the four stages of the supervision cycle. The supervision cycle is a process for delivering supervision which ensures a focus on all four functions and is explored further in the foundations of effective supervision practice section of this guide.

Four stakeholders in supervision Four functions of supervision Four elements of the supervisory cycle
People who use services Management Experience
Staff Support Reflection
The organisation Development Analysis
Partner organisations Mediation Action planning

Table 1 Integrated model of supervision

At the heart of the 4x4x4 model is the principle that supervision is part of intervention with people who use services. It is not an add-on activity but one which is intimately linked with the quality of the service received and the degree to which the service has a positive impact on the lives of people who use services. Morrison refers to this as the ‘supervision-outcome chain’, a process that has seven factors linking the quality of supervision to eventual outcomes for people who use services (see Morrison and Wonnacott) [4].

You may wish to consider how far the supervision culture and process within your organisation promotes these seven factors. Think about the following questions:


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Available downloads:

  • Effective supervision in a variety of settings
  • Service user and carer involvement in the supervision of health and social care workers: seminar report
  • Practice enquiry into supervision in a variety of adult care settings where there are health and social care practitioners working together
  • Narrative summary of the evidence review on supervision of social workers and social care workers in a range of settings including integrated settings