Effective supervision in a variety of settings

People who use services and supervision: Findings from the practice enquiry

The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) practice enquiry [2] found that many people who use services did not know that health and social care staff were supervised. Others were concerned that decisions might be made about them in supervision without their knowledge.

People who use services had experience of giving feedback about the service they were receiving through satisfaction questionnaires and complaints postcards, but few had experienced being involved directly in staff supervision.

Social care services should consider holding regular group meetings between people who use services and staff to address issues raised in staff supervision. This can give staff and people who use services the opportunity to discuss the issues in a safe space and can lead to positive change.

The practice enquiry calls for further research to ‘engage service users in developing our understanding of how supervision practice can further support practice and service improvements’ (p 43).

SCIE Seminar: Service user and carer involvement in supervision

SCIE invited a group of people who use services, carers, health and social care practitioners and managers to take part in the seminar. The aim was to look at the experiences of people who use services and carers being involved in staff supervision, the potential benefits and challenges, and to explore suggestions for how to do this well.

Few people who use services or carers had direct experience of being involved in staff supervision. Several people mentioned the practicalities of involving all people who use services in a social workers’ supervision, pointing out that the size of individual caseloads would make this very difficult as every person using a service giving direct input into a worker’s supervision would require too great a time commitment from all concerned.

There are power issues in the relationship between a person using a service and a social worker, and sometimes attitudes prevail that would make involvement in supervision difficult to put into practice. People who use services were concerned about getting into trouble or not being understood if they expressed concerns about an individual social worker. Some were scared about being involved – or of potentially being drawn into the complaints procedure. This points to the need for neutral or anonymous opportunities to provide feedback to supervisors or line managers.

Possible benefits

Involvement of people who use services can:

People who use services and carers as supervisors: Emerging evidence

Recent work in Nottingham [9] has shown that, given adequate training for the role, people who use services can be successful in offering supervision to student nurses in training. Similarly, Surrey and Canterbury Christ Church (Salomons) Universities ran a pilot project to explore ways of involving people who use services and carers in clinical psychology trainees’ placements. Eleven first-year trainees on placement in a local NHS trust were each paired with a service user or carer recruited from a local organisation such as Mind or Rethink. Each pair met monthly to discuss issues related to service delivery.

Feedback from both trainees and people who use services and carers indicated that they valued the conversations highly, saw them as making a significant contribution to their development and were keen for the project to continue. [10, 11] Trainees reported that although they all had initial reservations, being involved in the project was a positive learning experience and provided opportunities for them to reflect on their practice in a different way, outside the assessed framework of supervision.

In another example, Louise Pembroke writes of her experience as a supervisor and mentor to trainee psychologists doing their research projects:

How do we improve relationships between mental health clinicians and people who use services? By viewing each other as experts by profession and experts by experience with the capacity to learn from each other. We can learn from each other by involving survivor activists in the education of trainee psychologists through teaching, literature, mentoring, placements and research. It would be good to see more trainee psychologists field supervised or mentored by survivor activists and to have ‘placements’ within user, survivor or advocacy groups and with individual activists ‘shadowing’ them in their work for a few weeks. This would provide an opportunity to discuss issues informally, be exposed to user/survivor literature and work together. Most importantly, this encourages reciprocity.

Louise Pembroke, Survivor supervision of trainee mental health professionals


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