Effective supervision in a variety of settings

People who use services and supervision: Impact, outcomes and involvement


  • Supervisors should consider how to involve people who use services in supervision, especially in structured practice discussions and where decisions about their care are being considered. Evidence available indicates that this rarely takes place.
  • Involvement in supervision might include people who use services giving examples of good and poor practice and inputting their concerns. Examples of where this has taken place include regular group meetings and individual written feedback (e.g. on postcards or by other means, allowing them direct contact with supervisors).
  • Supervisors should consider how this involvement can be empowering, non-threatening and emotionally ‘safe’ for the people who use services, and sensitive to the power relationships that exist between staff and people who use services. It may not be practical to include all people who use services where each worker has a high caseload.
  • Looking at the different roles of supervision uncovered by the research, involvement of people who use services could usefully contribute to reflection and critical thinking and to task assistance, but less so to the emotional support aspect of the role.



Improving outcomes for people who use services and carers is a key goal of supervision, but they are rarely involved directly in the process. Much of the discussion that takes place in supervision will focus on a practitioner’s direct work with people who use services. This means that people who use services are already indirectly involved in supervision. However, emerging practice suggests that people who use services have much to contribute directly to the supervision of health and social care workers.

People who use services are often involved in, or consulted about, services, policy and service delivery. Moreover, professional standards require social work education providers to involve people who use services and carers in the training and education of social workers. However, while person-centred care and personalisation demand that the individual is placed at the centre of their care, it is rare for them to be involved or consulted within the context of supervision.

The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) practice enquiry [2] into supervision found little evidence of service user involvement, but some interest in exploring it. Consequently, SCIE set up a small seminar in order to hear from a wider range of people who use services and carers. The seminar found considerable support for the involvement of people who use services in supervision in principle, but few examples in practice. In particular, some people who use services saw it as a way of helping to resolve difficult situations and avoiding the need for making a formal complaint.

Many people who use services fear giving negative feedback, and they are often worried that their concerns are not fully understood. Involvement in supervision might give people a way of letting managers know when a relationship with a member of staff is not working well, without having to either continue to put up with the situation or pursue a complaints procedure.


All SCIE resources are free to download, however to access the following downloads you will need a free MySCIE account:

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