Professional Supervision


This chapter describes Hertfordshire Children's Services (CS) arrangements for the professional supervision of all social work practitioners and managers. Purpose, method and standards are described and link provided to the following templates:

See Supervision Templates Folder.

See Specialist Adolescent Service Hertfordshire (SASH) for access to:

  • SASH Supervision Guidance;
  • SASH One-To-One Supervision Template (LCS / EHM Form Available).

See HCC Corporate Personal Safety and Lone Working Guidance.


This chapter was updated in March 2023.

1. The Scope of the Professional Supervision Policy

This professional supervision policy applies to all social care workers and managers in Children's Services (CS).

It is consistent with the overarching HCC Performance and Management Development Scheme and meets the particular requirements of social care workers.

This policy reflects the standards issued by the Social Work England.

In particular:

  • As a social worker, you will use information from a range of appropriate sources, including supervision, to inform assessments to analyse risk, and to make a professional decision;
  • Supervision will provide practitioners with feedback to critically reflect on, and, identify learning needs and reflect on how you use research and evidence to inform your practice.

This includes:

  • Adhering to Social Work England's Professional Standards which provide a threshold for safe and effective practice.

2. The Objectives of Professional Supervision

Professional supervision is a process in which the supervisor enables, guides and facilitates the social care worker's development and need for support, in meeting certain organisational, professional and personal objectives. This occurs during formal prearranged meetings and in less formal day to day case discussions, termed here as informal supervision. Development and support needs of supervisees should be addressed. The records of supervision should enable a child/young person to understand the reason for provision of services if they access their file.

These objectives are:

  • To improve the quality of services to children/young people and families and outcomes for children;
  • To ensure the supervisee is clear about roles and responsibilities;
  • To recognise the impact of what can be stressful work with children/young people and families on the supervisee and agree ways to manage stress;
  • To debrief and offer support following significant events that have impacted on the supervisee;
  • To consider the supervisee's personal safety when undertaking his / her work and take action;
  • To identify the supervisee's learning and development needs and arrange to meet them through the use of courses, coaching, mentoring, job shadowing, research and literature and peer learning sessions;
  • To signpost the supervisee to useful literature and research, and the policy and procedures, to support evidence informed practice;
  • To maintain a record of the supervisee's learning and development as in the Performance Management Development Scheme;
  • To provide feedback to the supervisee on his / her practice and performance and identify any actions for improvement, and acknowledge evidence of professional development and competence (see Paragraph 6.41 of The Munro Review of Child Protection: Final Report (2011));
  • To monitor the supervisee's progress in meeting the continuing professional development requirements for registration as a social worker (if applicable);
  • To put in place appropriate safeguards as necessary to ensure work is carried out safely e.g. social work visit by manager, involvement of further professionals;
  • To consider the resources the supervisee has available to do their job and discuss issues arising where they are not adequate;
  • To provide a positive environment in which social work practice can be discussed and reviewed. Professional challenge about casework practice, assessment, analysis and decision making between the supervisee and supervisor is an essential part of effective supervision and should take place in a respectful and child focused manner;
  • To ensure the worker's and employer's practice accords with the professional standards issued by the Social Work England;
  • Professional supervision is the key process for balancing professional autonomy with responsibility to the service user, professional ethics and standards, along with accountability to Children’s Services and society as a whole.

3. The Functions of Supervision

Management Function

  • To ensure Children’s Services policies and procedures are followed;
  • To maintain clarity about key roles, responsibilities and accountabilities;
  • To review agreed objectives and priorities for work and record progress;
  • To monitor and regulate workload;
  • To agree and record timescales for the completion of tasks and record any reasons for delay;
  • To make decisions about children/young people and record them;
  • To identify and allocate resources to accomplish tasks or obtain authorisation for proposed expenditure;
  • To monitor case recording undertaken by the supervisee and ensure it meets departmental expectations and for the supervisor to record that scrutiny on the electronic case file;
  • To ensure the supervisee is clear about what work has been allocated to them, what action is required and how that action will be monitored and reviewed;
  • To identify any matters that need to be escalated to senior managers;
  • To consider progress with children/young people, including assessment, planning, intervention and review and to allow reflection on the effectiveness of the casework;
  • To identify risks arising from non engagement of families and amend plans accordingly.

This policy has been revised to extend the understanding and use of Reflective Practice to incorporate a recommendation from Serious Case Reviews in Hertfordshire

Reflective thinking should be part of every supervision session, though not with every case. It should enable the Manager to get a clear understanding of a case, particularly where plans are not progressing and Management direction might need to change. It should assist the supervisee to gain insight into their practice and seek support if they require it. It is about creating a culture of openness.

4. A Model of Reflective Practice

Reflective Supervision

Reflective Supervision should be offered on a regular basis in the context of a collaborative relationship, providing opportunities for the individuals involved to reflect on hands on work and provide an opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of a situation, become more aware of their own reactions and responses to the child/young person and their families, how they intervened and the consequences of their intervention.

This relationship based reflection provides opportunities for ongoing professional self -evaluation. The relationship models that of the social worker with the child/young person (one which promotes partnership working, and uses motivational interviewing techniques). It aims to create a culture of intellectual enquiry, to promote empathy and support long term professional development.

Sessions incorporate discussion about intervention goals, the process of service delivery, values, reactions and emotions, identification and analysis of pertinent knowledge, risk assessment, use of self and exploration of healthy scepticism.

Supervisees are encouraged to explore other ways of working with a variety of client interventions.

These approaches encourage supervisees to become more creative, develops critical thinking and problem solving skills, and their decision-making processes.

The process of reflective supervision should include:

The Experience

This is where the supervisor elicits a clear description of the task and what the worker experienced by asking questions and seeking clarity. An important element of this stage is that the supervisor is clear about the intended task and whether it was achieved or not.


The supervisee is encouraged to explore the feelings evoked by the task or experience and think about what this might mean for the child/young person, family or themselves. Without this, subtle yet important clues to family functioning might go unrecognised.


The supervisor and supervisee need to evaluate their perceived knowledge and beliefs about the case. They need to make judgements and decisions based on observations, evaluation of information, available evidence, wider experience, reflection and consideration to relevant research.

Plans and Actions

Where critical thinking and critical reflection have occurred, realistic and safer plans can be developed. Actions can be explained and justified. Timescales and contingency plans should also be considered and agreed.

For professional development or problem solving to be fully effective, all four parts of the learning cycle need to be engaged. External reflective supervision, should develop workers own 'internal supervisor'.

Additionally, The Munro Review of Child Protection 2011 Chapter 6 states that 'Social work involves forming relationships with children and families to understand them and help them change. This has implications for how they are managed and supervised to minimise bias, help them articulate their reasoning, draw on research evidence, and manage their emotions to reduce the risk of distorted reasoning. It also states that 'Gut feelings are neither stupid nor perfect. They take advantage of the evolved capacities of the brain and are based on rules of thumb that enable us to act fast. Critical challenge by others is needed to help social workers catch biases and correct them - hence the importance of supervision.

Where supervision includes children who are subject of a Child Protection Plan for chronic neglect, Team Managers must consider the need for regular independent review of the home conditions, review chronologies and written agreements. (This specific requirement has come about following a series of management reviews). Chronic neglect has devastating effects on children/young people and the causes of neglect need to be identified and addressed or legal advice sought on thresholds for care proceedings where there is no sustained improvement to the child/young person's circumstances.

5. Principles and Expectations for Professional Supervision

Supervision will take place within the supervisor's and supervisee's paid hours of employment. In some parts of the service e.g. Residential Care it will be appropriate to make minor adjustments to the forms

Supervision will take place in an area where case details can be discussed without being overheard, that has sufficient space for case files to be read and where interruptions can be kept to a minimum. Access to LCS and other electronic records should be available.

Both supervisee and supervisor must be prepared for formal supervision session. For example, supervisees must be able to give an update on children/young people identified for discussion in the previous supervision.

Supervision should reflect understanding and commitment to diversity and equalities issues. To ensure equality of opportunity it is necessary to have an understanding, and to work sensitively and knowledgeably, with diversity to identify the particular issues for a child/young person and their family, taking account of experiences and family context. Hertfordshire County Council's Equal Opportunities Policy should be followed.

If the supervisor is absent from work for a period longer than four weeks alternative formal supervision arrangements should be put in place within the following week. In any urgent situation a staff member should approach a manager for directions or support.

Any supervisee who is concerned about the quality or quantity of supervision received should discuss this with the supervisor and, if this does not resolve the matter, with the supervisor's line manager.

Managers should in their recording of professional supervision ensure that they explicitly record both evidence of reflection, the worker's understanding of the principles of good practice, including equality issues, their learning needs and how they will be addressed, and how the worker is being supported to exercise professional judgements rather than purely the meeting timescales and tasks.

5.1 Supervision Agreement

All social care workers should have a written supervision agreement which is consistent with this professional supervision policy. It should be reviewed at least annually and at each change of supervisor (please see Supervision Agreement Template).

5.2 Types of Supervision and Frequency

See Professional Supervision Process Table and Family Safeguarding Supervision Process.

There are three types of Supervision:

  • Staff Welfare, Performance and Development;
  • Case Supervision;
  • Group Case Supervision.

All social care workers (including part time and agency staff) in CS will receive formal supervision sessions at least once a month.

The frequency of supervision may be increased if the worker is new in post or inexperienced or if the job they undertake requires it. For example, workers in an Assessment Team may require more frequent supervision because of the short timescales involved.

Monthly supervision sessions consist of two elements:

  • Staff Welfare, Performance and Development, and
  • Case Supervision.

Staff Welfare, Performance and Development

This will be recorded on the Wellbeing Development and Reflection Template, covering the following headings:

  • Check In - Well-being/Impact of Work on Staff Member;
  • Annual leave/TOIL;
  • Health;
  • Learning & Development, required and evidence of personal impact on children/young people and their families;
  • Team issues;
  • Feedback to Senior Management;
  • Performance, including Values and Behaviours;
  • Agreed actions from today’s supervision.

Information from this record should be used proactively to capture evidence within the Performance Management and Development scheme, which consists of a mid-year progress review and an annual performance appraisal. The paper record should be placed on the staff's supervision file, and a copy given to the supervisee. This is not a record to be placed on LCS.

Case Supervision

During each supervision session the supervisees and supervisors will select which priority cases will be discussed in each session; it is not necessary to discuss every allocated child/young person each session, but each child/young person that continues to receive a service from CS must be discussed at least once every 3 months, or more frequently should the case require it. In the 0-25 Together Service some cases may be reviewed at 6 monthly intervals; these cases should be agreed by a Team Manager.

Group Case Supervision

Group case supervision is held within the Family Safeguarding Service. Each child /young person is supervised according to risk rating:

  • Red – Monthly or more frequently if required;
  • Amber – Monthly or more frequently if required;
  • Green – Every two months or more frequently if required.

6. Recording of Supervision

Supervisors need to use the relevant template for their supervision sessions.

This will be provided by Business Support at each supervision and are to be handwritten by the manager (forms should be completed on LCS where available, so this may not apply in all instances). The headings (as described in the templates) should be completed thoroughly. The aim is to demonstrate that all children/young people have been considered for safeguarding, effective planning and the avoidance of drift, and the impact of services on the child/young person and family.

The completed form (for services where there isn't currently an LCS Form) should be passed to the Support Officer to type into the child's LCS supervision casenote.

The Support Officer will also enter the management decision made (outside of case supervision) into the LCS Management / Panel Decision casenote.

The casenotes must be added within 2 working days of the supervision session. Once the casenote has been added, the manager will have 5 working days to review the casenote for accuracy. Following review, the casenote will be finalised by the Manager on LCS, or provide agreement to the Support Officer to finalise. Once finalised the casenote cannot be amended.

Where an LCS form has been completed this process may be completed by the manager at the time of supervision is completed.

7. Supervision Files

All Staff Welfare, Performance and Development supervision records and the Children's Services Performance Management and Development records should be kept securely in electronic records. The supervision file is the property of Hertfordshire County Council.

8. Recording of Management Decisions

To record a management decision, go into Casenotes and click on Create Casenote. Hover over the space, and a drop down will give options for the type of Casenote. Select Management/Panel Decision and then enter the required information.

Managers are responsible for ensuring the decisions that they make, outside supervision, are recorded on LCS. They may ask another member of staff to enter it on LCS and finalise the casenote.

Decisions of East and West Practice Resource Panel are recorded on the Management/Panel casenote tab by the Social Worker. Other Panel decisions (e.g. MAP or Adoption Panel) should all be recorded using the same tab.

It is essential that all formal decisions about the child/young person are recorded under the Management/Panel Decision tab. In this way, it should then be possible to track all decision making through a case, no matter what the pathway.

9. Recommended Further Reading

  1. Staff Supervision in Social Care. Tony Morrison Pavilion - Chapter 5;
  2. The Munro Review of Child Protection: Final Report (Munro, 2011) - especially chapters 6 and 7, and paras 6.41;
  3. Professional Supervision Guidance and Templates - HCC (