Professional supervision

This advice provides an overview of the professional supervision requirements for all child protection practitioners.

Document ID number 4301, version 3, 19 June 2019.

Introduction

Supervision of child protection practitioners promotes effective service provision to vulnerable children and their families by:

  • providing a structured and supported approach to risk assessment and risk mitigation
  • providing a regular opportunity for critical reflection, practice guidance and professional development in child protection practice
  • strengthening workforce adherence to child protection policy and promoting use of the child protection manual to guide practice
  • contributing to staff wellbeing and workforce stability.

Supervision is a shared responsibility

Supervision is a process where supervisors and supervisees collaborate to

  • clarify expectations and responsibilities for supervisors and supervisees
  • undertake planning and risk assessment to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and families
  • meet departmental, divisional and program objectives
  • enhance supervisee well-being, learning and development
  • regularly engage in reflective practice.

Parties to a supervisory relationship have a shared responsibility to effectively use the supervision process and to seek solutions if it is not working. Each party will bring strengths to the relationship and will add value to the supervision process. Inevitably supervisors will not meet all the professional needs of all those they supervise. Where one party feels their needs are not being fully met, respectful communication is likely to assist with finding a way to address this.

Supervisor responsibilities

Supervisee responsibilities

  • providing regular, high quality and structured supervision in accordance with departmental requirements
  • promoting supervisees’ safety, wellbeing, learning and development by identifying, discussing and addressing supervisee needs and workload management issues
  • ensuring that any risk of occupational violence is discussed and planned for
  • facilitating reflective practice using questions that promote thoughtfulness, problem solving, professional growth and critical analysis
  • overseeing progress towards reaching case-plan goals and permanency objectives
  • supporting and promoting use of the child protection manual, best interest case practice model and specialist practice resources to guide practice and support compliance with procedural requirements
  • providing regular feedback, including comments regarding supervisees strengths, observable practice and conduct, developmental needs as well as inviting feedback from the supervisee
  • managing supervisee performance in accordance with departmental policies and People and Culture requirements, including use of the PDP process
  • documenting key outcomes/agreed actions
  • recording the conduct of supervision on ESS at the conclusion of each supervision session
  • keeping their supervisor informed about their work and seeking feedback on their strengths, required learning areas and work performance
  • raising any workload issues that impact on the timely implementation of case plans, their ability to provide an effective service to families and/or that might impact on their physical or psychological safety.
  • raising workload management issues noting that, if this does not remedy the issue, practitioners and managers can request a workload review
  • prioritising self-care and informing their supervisor about practice and team issues and other issues related to the supervisory relationship
  • keeping supervision notes/agreed actions and recording supervision sessions on ESS at the conclusion of each supervision session.

Types of supervision in child protection

Scheduled supervision: regular, planned, one-to-one, and held in a private setting between the supervisor and supervisee.

Unscheduled supervision: unplanned, periodic as the need arises noting many complex issues require discussion and resolution as they arise.

Live supervision: observing, co-working with more experienced practitioner while engaging with children, families or other professionals.

Structured group supervision: participating in group learning opportunities which may include reflective practice sessions facilitated by court officers, team managers, practice leaders case planning or principal practitioners.

Supervision functions

Managerial: to promote competent, professional and accountable child protection practice, allocate work and monitor workloads.

Developmental: to establish a collaborative and reflective approach for learning and professional development including the provision of performance feedback between supervisor and supervisee, pursuant to a developmental plan established through the PDP process.

Supportive: to create a safe context for supervisees to talk about the successes, rewards, challenges, uncertainties and the emotional impacts of child protection work and to monitor supervisee safety and wellbeing.

Mediative: to engage the individual with the organisation and mediate between supervisees, the department and others. The mediative function of supervision is an influential process through which individual supervisees perceive and relate to the department and child protection. It also provides important upward feedback about the frontline experience.

Supervision tools

Supervision tools assist supervisors and practitioners to review and monitor allocated cases and other aspects of the child protection role and have been developed to improve the quality, consistency and monitoring of supervision and work allocation. See supervision tools.

Considerations for good practice

Who provides supervision?

In most cases, a supervisee’s line manager will provide supervision. It can be negotiated for another manager/practice leader to provide:

  • aspects of supervision, such as case decision making in the supervisor’s absence
  • scheduled, unscheduled, live and group supervision as required.

Supervision agreements

Supervisors and supervisees are expected to discuss their expectations and responsibilities, clarifying how both are going to work together effectively and structure supervision. This should include a discussion regarding the practitioners learning objectives and preferences for receiving feedback.

In developing a supervision agreement, it is useful to reflect on what aspects of the supervisory style the supervisee has found most beneficial in the past. The material that is generated and agreed, through this discussion, forms the basis of a supervision agreement. This process can build trust and promote confidence early in the relationship, as well as identifying any areas of difference.

The supervision agreement can also include the role that other leaders (for example practice leaders) might have in providing some of the functions of supervision and how the team manager and senior practitioner will work together to ensure adequate supervision and clarity regarding case direction for the new practitioner.

The supervision agreement should be reviewed every six months and sits alongside the PDP plan. Supervision agreements need to be re-negotiated with changes of supervisors.

Relationship difficulties

As with any relationship, disagreements can, and do occur. Where these issues cannot be resolved between individuals the involvement of line management may be beneficial.

Supervisor capability

Supervisors are selected on the basis that they are able, or have the potential, to deliver the department’s leadership and people management capabilities.

Supervisors must undertake a leadership professional development program approved by the Centre for Learning and Development specifically relating to supervision in child protection, within four months of being appointed to a supervisory position, or as soon as a place in the program can be provided.

Supervision monitoring and reporting

Frequency and duration of supervision

The impact on individuals of the complex and challenging nature of child protection work requires close attention to be given to the supervisee’s need for regular supervision. Supervision should be matched to the individual needs of the supervisee, and the nature and complexity of their allocated cases. As such the frequency and duration may change over time. Minimum requirements are described below.

Recording compliance

Supervisors and supervisees are responsible for ensuring that scheduled supervision meetings are recorded and entered into the ESS database. The supervisor and supervisee should bring their ultrabooks to supervision and record each completed session at the conclusion of the scheduled supervision session.

It is important to ensure that supervision is accurately recorded on the ESS supervision recording system via the intranet. Advice on how to do this can be found in the 'How to guide' on ESS via the intranet.

The responsible Executive is ultimately responsible for ensuring that supervisors and supervisees are routinely entering accurate supervision data. The Executives via operational managers have a responsibility to ensure that routine supervision is occurring for all staff, and for supporting remediation plans as required.

Divisions and Areas receive reports regarding their scheduled supervision compliance rate. Scheduled supervision consists of supervision recorded as occurring in line with the table below in 80 per cent of instances (for example, 4 sessions out of a required 5).

The following table shows the supervision requirements for each classification and role:

Classification

Requirement

Case Support Workers (CPP2)

At least one (1) hour of scheduled supervision, per fortnight.

Child Protection Practitioners
(CPP 3)

At least two (2) hours of scheduled supervision, per fortnight.

Child Protection Practitioners
(CPP 4 - CPP 5)

At least one (1) hour of scheduled supervision, per fortnight.

Court Officers, Principal Practitioners
(CPP 5, CPP 6)

At least one (1) hour of scheduled supervision every four weeks.

Deputy Area Operations Managers
(CPP 6)

At least one (1) hour of scheduled supervision every four weeks.

Rescheduling sessions

Child protection work is busy and complex, and – even with the best intentions – supervision cannot always occur as planned. Where supervision must be postponed, catch-up supervision should be arranged to occur within one week and should be identified as a catch-up session in order to meet reporting requirements. The catch-up session can be held as part of a two-hour session that includes the supervision session due in the following fortnight. In these circumstances, the two components should be entered separately as catch-up supervision and scheduled supervision.

The nature of the work means that planned supervision may be interrupted for a variety of reasons. Minor interruptions are to be disregarded for recording purposes. Where the interruption causes the supervision session to be abandoned, the session should be completed at another time within one week.

If a supervisor cannot undertake supervision (for example because of illness) and a make-up supervision session cannot occur within a week, line management becomes responsible for organising the catch up.

Staff absence

If a supervisee is absent within the fortnightly period (for example leave, attending training or at court in a lengthy contested hearing), the minimum frequency and duration of scheduled supervision is reduced on a pro rata basis, and the unavailable time is to be recorded in the reporting field.

While attending a Beginning Practice clinic, supervision requirements need to be adjusted, by entering unavailable “5” days to reflect attendance at Beginning Practice.

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