Unit 1: Leadership skills required for safeguarding


1.12 The role of supervision

A picture of people sat around a meeting table. Two women are visible in the picture, one is speaking to the group, the other is looking at the speaker and listening.

Supervision is widely recognised as an important tool to support good professional practice across many sectors and may be a key element in helping to ensure good safeguarding practice in aid-related organisations.

It is an opportunity for a supervisor and supervisee to reflect on issues and challenges encountered in practice. It requires an environment in which staff can speak freely about the difficulties they have experienced and receive emotional support from their supervisor. While the topics discussed can be wide ranging, the practice of supervision is ideal to focus on safeguarding experiences in order to provide support and to also advance good practice.

In a supervisory relationship there are issues of both quantity and quality. Ideally, it needs to be a regular commitment and protected time. This can be difficult in demanding environments but cues on the importance of ensuring that supervision time is protected should be led from the top.

Secondly, supervision needs to be more than identifying more work or ‘checking in’. It is an opportunity to talk though issues, problems and uncertainties, and a place where safeguarding can always be on the agenda. To achieve this does require a level of skill for managers in being able to create an environment of trust – a safe space – in which the supervisee feels listened to, particularly if they have difficult experiences to share.

Using a reflective cycle is widely promoted as a theory to underpin the practice of supervision. This means reviewing, in a structured way, what has happened in order to derive learning that can be used to improve practice in the future. The model illustrated below (Gibbs, 1988) also includes a recognition of the impact of how people feel, given that work in the sector in general and safeguarding issues in particular, can bring up many powerful emotions.

A diagram consisting of a wheel of six circles, linked one after the other by arrows. From the top of the wheel, the circles have the following text in them. Description: what happened? Feelings: what were you thinking and feeling? Evaluation: what was good and bad about the experience? Analysis: what sense can you make of the situation? Conclusions: what could you have done differently? Action plan: how will you approach a similar situation in the future?

There can be benefits from extending reflective supervision beyond the one-to-one meeting in environments where a team of people are working together. Managers can use other reflective tools like the use of a critical incident analysis to promote learning.

In a critical incident analysis, one person can present a problematic or challenging scenario they have recently encountered – for example, how they responded to a safeguarding report – and the group can help identify learning from the incident that will benefit everyone, such as the changes needed to practices or policies, and training or development needs.

This more collaborative approach is designed to enable the sharing of power where solutions and new knowledge can be jointly created.

As well as contributing to a safe working environment, supervision can also make an important contribution to staff wellbeing – the subject of a later section of this course.

Activity 1.6 Supervision

Consider the following questions:

  • Is supervision promoted across your organisation at every level?
  • What challenges are there to ensuring good supervision? How might these be overcome?

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