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In the latest issue of Social Work News magazine, we catch up with Research in Practice’s Assistant Director, Dr Susannah Bowyer, and here’s what she had to say about evidence-informed reflective supervision:

Whilst it is commonly accepted that good quality supervision is vital for enabling social workers to be the best they can be in their work with children and families, the evidence base in this area needs development. While studies have shown an indicative association between supervision and outcomes such as practitioner stress or intention to leave, there is little conclusive proof that the effects can be attributed to supervision itself.

Nevertheless, the evidence does suggest that supervision featuring task assistance, social and emotional support and a good relationship between supervisor and supervisee is strongly associated with job satisfaction, staff retention and increased critical thinking. Ensuring high quality supervision of this kind across children’s social care and family support is a significant challenge for social work employers. 

In 2015, in response to the strong demand from the Research in Practice network, we initiated a ‘Reflective Supervision Change Project’. The Change Project method has been developed over the two decades of RiP’s existence, and is an excellent method for co-producing practice-oriented and research-informed resources. 

The initial phase involved participants from 19 Partner organisations. The group met over a period of nine months to share the research evidence and draw that into dialogue with practitioner expertise. 

The group work focused on two fundamental questions. Firstly, how can reflective supervision support analysis and critical thinking in work with children and families? And secondly, how can it contribute to emotional resilience? 

Out of this process a resource (published in April this year) was produced, which includes a set of tools designed to support various aspects of reflective supervision. Rather than producing resources that proscribe, the pack is designed to help develop and consolidate both group and one-to-one supervision activities.

A draft version of the pack was tested across our network in 2016. Amongst other elements, the pack includes:

• Materials on recording reflective supervision, including templates to aid the recording process 

• Tools to support critical reflection

• Materials to help understand and build emotional resilience

• Methods for setting up and facilitating multi-agency group supervision

The pack also explores Group reflection in its various forms, and as one of our participants so aptly describes it,

The strength of multi-agency teams is the variety of perspectives and practice approaches brought to bear on casework. To make best use of this diversity, the resource explores how teams might develop an approach that enables them to actively explore differences before seeking consensus.

Speaking on her involvement within the pilot groups for the RiP Change Project, Principal Child and Family Social Worker for Lincolnshire County Council, Sam Clayton, says:
“When the opportunity arose for involvement in the Change Project, it seemed too good to let pass. In Lincolnshire, a lot of work had been done to develop reflective supervision, but there were some things that were just not as consistent as we wanted them to be, and we needed to have another look at this. We had also started to use Signs of Safety across all our work with children and their families, and so the approach to supervision needed to be updated to align with this; the language, format and approach needed to be refreshed.

“Speaking on behalf of Lincolnshire, we were delighted to be involved. We’re proud of the resulting resources, and we would definitely do it again. The opportunity to be part of the Change Project on this particular topic reminded me about how important reflective practice is in allowing us to continually develop our work and improve practice. Now that it’s firmly in place we are looking forward to the resources helping us to improve the quality and consistency of supervision. The ultimate test will be if children and families tell us we are doing things better.”

Download a copy

To download a copy of Research in Practice’s ‘Reflective Supervision: Resource Pack (2017)’, simply visit the resources section of their website.  

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