Effective supervision in a variety of settings
The foundations of effective supervision practice: The supervision agreement or contract
The relationship between the supervisor and the supervisee is an important aspect of the supervisory process, and time must be spent developing it. The practice enquiry  refers to good supervision as being underpinned by values that are explicit in the supervision contract. The terms ‘supervision contract’ or ‘supervision agreement’ can be used interchangeably to describe the written document which sets out the content of the discussions that have taken place to establish how the supervisor and supervisee will work together. In this guide, the term ‘agreement’ is preferred since it emphasises the collaborative nature of the process. The agreement will be a feature of the organisation’s policy and should be introduced to a volunteer or employee during their induction.
Agreements are important because they do the following.
- Provide an opportunity to establish the meaning of the term ‘supervision’ within the organisation and prevent any misunderstandings. This is particularly important where supervisees may be new to working in a social care environment.
- Clarify roles and responsibilities and the mandate for supervision.
- Establish the collaborative nature of supervision and the importance of the supervisee being an active participant in the process.
- Establish the boundaries of the supervisory relationship, including confidentiality and communication pathways with others who may have some responsibilities for the supervisee’s work. This is particularly important where the supervisee may be receiving management and professional supervision from two different supervisors.
- Provide a space for the supervisor and supervisee to understand the experience each brings to the process and how this can be used positively in their work together.
- Promote anti-oppressive practice through exploration of the factors that might impact on the supervisory relationship, including those relating to the social location of the individuals concerned.
- Establish the importance of acknowledging the emotional impact of the work and how to use supervision to explore this aspect of practice.
- Provide a forum for establishing from the start the possibility that good supervision will challenge the supervisee, that it may not always be comfortable and that at times there may be disagreements.
- Establish how the relationship will be reviewed and what the supervisee should do if they have any concerns about the supervision they are receiving.
So what might a supervision agreement look like? Here are some important points to consider.
- The agreement is more than a piece of paper. It is the process of discussion that precedes the completion of the final document that is important.
- Any template for supervision agreements should be capable of being individualised for each supervisee. It is not good practice for there to be one standard universal document which is the same for every supervisee.
- The agreement should be a ‘live’ document that provides a foundation for reviewing the supervisory relationship. It should be reviewed at least annually and if job descriptions change or promotions happen the supervisor/supervisee relationship should remain the same.
An agreement might contain the following headings:
- Practical arrangements for formal one-to-one supervision, for example venue, frequency, duration and arrangements if either party wishes to cancel.
- Arrangements for complementary methods of supervision, for example ad hoc, telephone or group.
- Link between supervision and other management processes, including, for example, appraisal, personal development plans and Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) assessment.
- The content of supervision sessions, for example standard agenda items and how the negotiated aspects of the agenda will be agreed.
- The expectations of the supervisee regarding supervision, including their past experience of supervision and how this affects their current expectations of the process, along with their expectations of the supervisor.
- The expectations of the supervisor, including their expectations of the supervisee.
- Preparation by the supervisor, including familiarisation with the supervisee’s current work.
- Preparation by the supervisee, including issues they wish to discuss.
- Factors that may need to be taken into account in the development of the supervisory relationship, for example gender, impairment, race, culture, age, sexual orientation.
- Resolving difficulties, including how both parties might recognise where there are problems in working together and the method for resolving this.
- Recording supervision, including whose responsibility it is, methods for resolving any disagreements about what has been recorded, and access to records.
All SCIE resources are free to download, however to access the following downloads you will need a free MySCIE account:
- 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