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4.1.6 Supervision in case practice/service delivery

Last Modified: 06-Apr-2022 Review Date: 04-Jul-2016

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Legislation

Overview

Regular, high quality individual supervision in case practice supports children in the CEO's care to have improved life chances, protects them from abuse and neglect and supports family and individuals at risk or in crisis to manage their lives and keep themselves and their families safe.

Supervision is an essential part of supporting staff and promoting good service delivery. All staff must receive regular supervision, with the focus and content varying to reflect the person's position. Consultation is not supervision and must not be recorded as such.    

Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities (the Department) and 'staff' refers to all child protection service delivery staff.

Rules

 
  • All staff must receive a minimum of one formal individual supervision session per month with their line manager/supervisor. With the agreement of both parties, supervision can be conducted every six weeks with the approval of the district director (DD).

 

Process Maps

Not Applicable

Information and Instructions

  • Focus areas
  • Types of supervision
  • Preparing for individual supervision
  • Consultation
  • Confidentiality
  • Dispute resolution
  • Recording supervision
  • Focus areas

    There are four key focus areas that supervision in case practice and service delivery needs to address.

    Managerial function

    Case practice and service delivery planning

    Progressing individual cases and service delivery work through supervision involves:

     
    • maintaining an overview of the status of all cases and service delivery work the supervisee is involved with
    • reviewing issues and canvassing strategies in current cases and service delivery work
    • making decisions and providing direction to progress individual cases and service delivery work
    • collectively practicing and reflecting on aspects of cases and service delivery practice in live cases and work, and
    • reflecting to improve upon and embed culturally secure and competent practice.

    Child protection practice frameworks included in the Casework Practice Manual (CPM) provide the main reference points for reviewing practice.

    Managing workload

    Supervision provides an opportunity for both supervisors and supervisees to review workload issues.

    For case workers, the allocation of cases considers:

    • the case worker’s knowledge, skills, experience and their capacity - including time, availability, the number and nature of cases they already have and their health and wellbeing. For Aboriginal employees the impact of working in home communities is an important consideration
    • the type of cases to be allocated i.e. Initial Inquiry, Assessment, Intensive Family Support, Family Support and Children in Care
    • the intensity of the work involved in the cases, for example: the number of children in a family group, the nature and number of tasks required and the timeframes in which the tasks must be completed, and 
    • the complexity of the cases, for example:   
      • the nature of the harm/abuse that a child has experienced
      • the needs and requirements of the child
      • the involvement and cooperation of parents and extended family
      • the need for cultural consultations or consultations with specialist positions
      • the involvement of other agencies and service providers
      • if a worker in a regional or remote area has to travel long distances to visit a child in the CEO's care
      • the availability of a suitable care arrangement
      • care arrangement breakdown, and
      • the availability of other cases workers and service delivery staff who can work with and support the case manager.

    In supervision:

    • Caseloads are reviewed and supervisors monitor the number of cases allocated to child protection workers to keep them in line with the current Industrial Agreement (refer to Chapter 4.1 Workload management).
    • Supervision provides the opportunity to discuss and identify strategies to support case workers in managing the work, including setting task priorities in and between cases, identifying staff who can assist the case worker, reallocating work and/or cases or in the case of child protection cases placing cases on the monitored list.
    • Where case workers do not feel that supervisors are addressing their workload issues, the worker should be advised of the processes in place so that staff can safely and in confidence raise their concerns (refer to section on Dispute Resolution below).

    Managing for performance including administrative requirements and accountability

    It is the supervisor’s role to identify, communicate and manage performance issues, and provide an opportunity for supervisees to improve their work performance in a reasonable timeframe.  

    Managing performance through supervision involves:

    • establishing clear expectations of the responsibilities of the roleproviding positive feedback on work performance
    • clearly identifying and communicating areas that need improvement
    • identifying skills and any issues for the worker, exploring their understanding of the responsibilities and or problems and developing action plans  to address issues or concerns, and
    • providing support to assist in performance improvement.

    Where a performance concern has been identified, the supervisor will address it in supervision and record this in the Supervision Record. Where performance concerns are not able to be addressed in supervision meetings, the supervisor may need to consider a performance improvement process.

    Development function

    The most effective learning occurs through undertaking day-to-day work. Supervision enables learning through encouraging critical reflection, skills practice and problem solving on real cases. Collectively these strategies drive continuous learning and improvement.

    Learning and development focusses on a range of issues depending on the individual’s needs and include:

    • the workers role in the workplace and how they contribute to the culture
    • how they can resolve issues or provide feedback
    • working relationships with families and other professionals
    • specific aspects of case practice
    • specific individual and team learning goals
    • 70:20:10 learning strategies, and
    • bringing it all together through reflective practice.

    Issues raised as part of LETS TALK Performance (link in related resources), supervision and managing for performance can be used to inform learning and development needs.

    Supervision discussions track the progress of specific tasks or learning and development requirements identified during the LET's TALK Performance bi-annual sessions.

    Support function: Building emotional and psychological health and resilience

    Child protection work carries inherent stresses including the vicarious trauma of working with vulnerable and at risk children, young people and families. Anxiety may arise due to the potential danger for children and working with uncertainty. Supervision is a primary means of addressing the stress and anxiety of the work.

    Managing the work on an ongoing basis requires staff to be emotionally and psychologically healthy and resilient. Building emotional and psychological health and resilience is a core focus of supervision and needs to have a deliberate focus on managing the stress and anxiety of the work, which includes:

    • sharing the anxiety inherent in cases upwards through the organisation (with the supervisor during supervision, who in turn will advise directors as necessary)
    • providing emotional support, and
    • identifying and practicing strategies to manage stress and anxiety including considering referrals to the Employee Assistance Program.

    The Corporate Health Framework, Wellness@Work, outlines our approach for building and maintaining positive workplaces, and practical strategies to support staff to look after their own wellbeing.

    Mediation function

    This aspect of supervision relates closely to the managerial function, and therefore it is provided by the supervisor. Mediation can include:

    • managing workload
    • discussion of resources and supervisee issues, complaints and disputes between team members (prior to commencement of formal complaints/grievance process), and
    • advocacy and support on behalf of the supervisee to relevant parts of the organisation.

    The following tools (in related resources) may be useful for supervisors:

    • Supervision – case planning sample questions
    • Supervision – promoting reflective practice, and
    • Supervision – experience, reflection, analysis and actions sample questions
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    Types of supervision

    Group supervision

    Group supervision involves multiple staff, with all participants actively working on aspects of practice for currently open cases or service delivery work.

    The supervisor will generally lead group supervision, although other case practice leaders may also facilitate this mode of supervision.

    Group supervision may be used for:

    • Signs of Safety internal case mappings
    • working on a particular aspect of case practice/service delivery
    • culturally specific practice elements/challenges
    • developing danger statements
    • developing a words and pictures explanation, and
    • developing questions for areas of case practice/service delivery that appear stuck.

    Individual supervision

    Individual supervision must be provided by the supervisor and includes formal scheduled supervision sessions and informal unscheduled discussions.

    Individual formal supervision is used to discuss:

    • periodic detailed assessments to progress particular cases and service delivery work
    • management of workload
    • strategies to decrease the stress and anxiety of the work
    • strategies to increase opportunities for supervisee to move from working in a culturally aware way, to a culturally secure way
    • periodic detailed assessments for learning and development, and
    • performance concerns.

    All staff working with Aboriginal families must have access to ongoing supervision to increase their cultural competence. The purpose of this is to provide the best possible service to clients and community by building the worker’s knowledge, skills, insight and wisdom in working with Aboriginal children, families and communities.

    The following prompt questions may assist and guide this discussion:

    • How might our views of culture affect our relationships with children and families?
    • Might we sometimes advantage some children and families and disadvantage others?
    • Do our interactions with families show that we respect and value them as they are, or ‘as we would like them to be’?
    • Does our environment reflect a genuine knowledge about the cultures of the children in our care?
    • How can we share stories and understandings about Australia’s First Peoples and about others who have journeyed to this place?

    Cultural supervision

    This is an important element for all Aboriginal staff and needs to be recognised as a part of the supervision process. The purpose of cultural supervision is to build cultural safety for Aboriginal staff by acknowledging the impact of colonisation, managing bi-cultural relationships, and reflect on the ways in which child protection work and the history of the Stolen Generation Policies can impact on Aboriginal staff.

    Cultural supervision recognises that some aspects of cultural support and connection can only be gained and shared between Aboriginal people. It acknowledges that cultural meaning, tradition, relationships, and ways of working will be different from mainstream norms and belief systems.

    Cultural supervision recognises the need for Aboriginal staff to have additional processes to support their cultural identity.  Whilst it is an important aspect of supervision for Aboriginal staff it does not replace individual supervision.

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    Preparing for individual supervision

    Supervision agreement

    The development of a supervision agreement provides the opportunity to discuss and agree to the formal supervision requirements (responsibilities, structure and recording). The roles and responsibilities of supervisee and supervisor will be clarified and reviewed as needed. If the supervisee and supervisor cannot agree on the requirements of supervision, the supervisor should discuss and develop strategies with their line manager.

    This agreement is regularly reviewed, at least annually, as a separate task from the LET's TALK Performance session. Examples of circumstances where a review of the supervision agreement is warranted include: when the supervisee change role/location or when there is a change of supervisor.

    Refer to the Supervision agreement template (in related resources).

    Clarify responsibilities

    Supervisors and supervisees have the opportunity to clarify individual responsibilities within their supervisory relationship. This includes a discussion of prior supervisory experiences and their value.

    The supervisor's responsibilities are to:

    • provide monthly individual supervision or six weekly supervision if agreed by both the supervisee and supervisor, and approved by the DD
    • prepare for supervision ‑ by considering ’what is working well’ and ‘what are we worried about’ relating to the areas of work performance and managing workload
    • tailor the functions of supervision to the supervisee’s experience and needs
    • collaborate, delegate or refer, where appropriate, to other professionals to provide other forms of supervision
    • create a safe supervisory relationship where Appreciative Inquiry is enabled
    • provide clarity to the supervisee in relation to role, responsibilities and accountabilities
    • provide opportunities for group supervision, where appropriate
    • provide and receive constructive, respectful and useful feedback through using the  Signs of Safety questioning approach
    • discuss cultural lens required in practice to meet the needs of Aboriginal children and families
    • discuss and agree to a supervision agreement and document the supervision process
    • manage disagreements and disputes appropriately
    • provide opportunities for learning and reflection, and
    • check the Performance Management Tracking System has been updated.

    The supervisee's responsibilities are to:

    • prepare for supervision by updating the case plans and their supervision record for discussion, reflecting on ’what is working well’ and ‘what are we worried about’ relating to the areas of work performance and managing workload
    • participate in monthly individual supervision or six weekly supervision if approved by DD
    • communicate learning and development needs
    • identify opportunities for group supervision and where other roles/professionals can be of assistance, to meet the four main functions of supervision
    • provide and receive constructive, respectful and useful feedback, and
    • update the Performance Management Tracking System (supervision section).

    Refer to Supervision record template (in related resources).

    Structure of supervision

    As part of developing the supervision agreement, the supervisee and supervisor discuss:

    • details of time, place, frequency and location of supervision
    • purpose of supervision
    • individual responsibilities
    • existing natural hierarchy of family structure/gender/age and cultural influence (this is particularly important where Aboriginal staff are involved)
    • recording arrangements (e.g. who does it, where is the record kept and who may see it)
    • how feedback will be given, and
    • the boundaries of confidentiality.

    Agenda

    The agenda could include the following:

    • matters the supervisee wishes to include
    • matters arising from previous supervisory sessions
    • reviewing case/service delivery work through discussions, reports and observations
    • providing positive feedback and areas for development on work undertaken
    • agreeing future action plans
    • concerns and issues in relation to workload management
    • discussion of the development of the supervisee’s skills, knowledge and experience
    • identification of the supervisee’s development needs and steps to address these needs
    • cultural competence and or the need for cultural supervision (for Aboriginal staff)
    • time for the supervisee to reflect on their experience of and feelings about their work
    • opportunity for the supervisee to give feedback on their experiences of and expectations of supervision, and
    • ongoing performance concerns and expectations.

    Discuss the circumstances where interruptions to supervision will be permitted, for example unplanned priority work, illness, emergencies and/or leave arrangements. In these circumstances a revised date is to be set.

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    Consultation

    Consultation is a day-to-day activity that is part of progressing case practice and service delivery work and supports staff learning and emotional wellbeing. However, it is not supervision and the occurrence of frequent consultation is not the same as having constituted supervision.

    Informal and formal advice sought from the supervisor on an ad hoc basis will occur frequently, usually in relation to seeking an immediate approval or case practice/service delivery direction, and on occasion for personal learning or support.

    Regular cultural consultation is a requirement for all staff providing services to Aboriginal and culturally and linguistically diverse families in child protection. The formal legislative and case practice and service delivery requirements for cultural consultation are set out in the Children and Community Services Act (2004), and the CPM.

    Formal and informal consultation with specialist colleagues such as psychologists, senior practice development officers, Aboriginal practice leaders, and education officers will occur on a needs basis to inform case practice and service delivery.

    Informal consultation and debriefing with colleagues can enrich experience and learning.

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    Confidentiality

    A mutually respectful relationship forms the basis of quality supervision. Integral to this is the need for the supervision process and information exchanged to be confidential. This is particularly important in relation to information regarding performance issues or personal issues which may be impacting on a staff member’s ability to perform their tasks. This may include indirect trauma resulting from exposure to the complexity of our work including working with client’s anger, grief and loss, managing dysfunctions within families and working generally in the child protection field.

    There may be circumstances where the DD or other relevant staff may need to be made aware of information resulting from the supervision process. In these cases the employee must be advised and the matter discussed prior to the information being shared.

    When the employee transfers to another area, the new supervisor will have access to their supervision record of matters other than case practice and service delivery decisions.

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    Dispute resolution

    Staff and supervisors are expected to proactively raise and resolve issues openly within the supervisory relationship. Where issues remain unresolved, discussion and resolution takes place with a relevant senior manager. 

    Refer to the formal Workplace issue and grievance resolution process as set out in the Administration Manual for further information.                    

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    Recording supervision

    The two types of recording are:

    • case practice and service delivery matters, and
    • matters other than case practice and service delivery decisions and work performance and managing workload.

    Case practice and service delivery matters

    The supervisor’s decisions about case management/service delivery must be identifiable on the case file for legal and quality assurance purposes.

    As part of formal individual supervision, case plans are reviewed and updated by case workers and supervisors. Where case plans are made or changed/reviewed during supervision, the case worker records this in Assist under the category of Case Plan Supervision. The reason selected for the forum of the Case Plan Supervision is either:

    • periodic review, or
    • change in circumstances.

    There are a range of options to record case practice/service delivery matters and decisions on Assist, which occur outside of supervision such as:

    • Assist approvals
    • Case Plan updates
    • file notes, and
    • email approvals.

    Matters other than case practice and service delivery decisions

    Matters other than case practice and service delivery decisions are be recorded in the Supervision Record (in related resources) and uploaded to the Performance Management Tracking System. 

    Information recorded could include:

    • the frequency and focus of the supervision
    • key information shared
    • decisions, advice and actions (other than case practice and service delivery decisions)
    • learning and development needs, goals and progress
    • mutual feedback about the experience of supervision, and
    • any safety or personal issues that are relevant to the supervisee’s performance.

    The supervisor documents this information and the supervisee co-signs. If there is disagreement, note it in the template. This information is then used when reviewing and planning the annual LET's TALK Performance session (link in related resources).

    Where performance concerns are being addressed through supervision, supervisors must complete relevant documentation, such as the Performance Observation Log or the Performance Improvement Action Plan.

    Performance Management Tracking System

    District directors regularly review the Performance Management Tracking System to monitor whether staff are receiving regular supervision.

    Storage

    Supervision Records can only be stored on the Performance Management Tracking System.

    The documents are added monthly and are only accessible by the supervisee and their supervisor.  

    For further information refer to the Performance Management Tracking System User Guide (in related resources).

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