Who supervises the Minister?

I have been spending a lot of time thinking about supervision lately for various projects: how supervisors can deliver good supervision; how supervisees can get what they need from supervision; how organisations can embed reflective supervision that is purposeful.

The problem with supervision is that we know that it is valuable but we haven’t proved it. (A bit like the problem with social work). How do we know it’s valuable?: people who get supervision say that it is important; we see the results of not having supervision and not reflecting in Serious Case Reviews; users of social care and carers say that they want practitioners who are critical thinkers, and supervision is a place that supports critical thinking.

However, we don’t have definitive research that tells us ‘this kind of supervision leads to these kind of outcomes’. What we do have is enough evidence to make the case for the importance of supervision. And we also have evidence that not everyone is getting it. The Social Work Taskforce made standards for supervision one of its recommendations to improve professional practice, having identified that it was not consistently provided. Evaluation of the Newly Qualified Social Worker programme over three years showed that many new workers weren’t getting regular supervision.

One of the exercises that really opens my eyes about the importance of supervision involves looking at people’s supervision history. Whether they are supervisors or supervisees, they can identify good and bad experiences of supervision – ranging from supportive, empowering mentoring to a supervisor falling asleep. What is really striking is when people identify how this still affects them, often a long time afterwards.

Supervision really isn’t a take-it-or-leave-it thing. How supervision is done affects people. And one of the sad elements of this is that as people take on more responsibility they tend to lose the sort of supportive, reflective supervision that makes the most difference.

Which leads me to my question: People working in social care need access to good supervision from the start of their career all the way through, no matter how senior they get. So who is supervising the Minister?

SCIE Research briefing: Effective supervision in social work and social care

SWTF final report

NQSW programme: final evaluation report

SCR research reports