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6.2 Multi-Agency Standards for the Supervision of Staff


Caption: contents table
  Principles of Supervision
  Safeguarding Partnership Commitment
  Multi-Agency Supervision 
  Key Messages for Individuals Receiving Supervision


Chapter 2 of Working Together to Safeguard Children sets out the arrangements organisations should have in place to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. These include the requirement of employers to provide ‘appropriate supervision and support for staff’ to ensure that staff are:

  • Competent to carry out their responsibilities for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children;
  • Working in an environment where they feel able to raise concerns;
  • Feel supported in their safeguarding role;
  • Familiar with the processes and procedures to follow if they have concerns about a child’s safety or welfare; and
  • Have opportunities for their practice to be regularly reviewed to ensure they improve over time.

All agencies which have operational responsibility for safeguarding / child protection services must have an agreed policy, which defines minimum levels of formal supervision of those staff that are accountable for safeguarding and child protection cases.

Reviews of serious cases, research and the findings of other inquiries, have highlighted that good supervision and support are necessary to ensure the effective protection of children and young people. Organisations and multi-agency teams that work with children, young people and their families and carers should have an over-arching supervision policy statement for all staff. This document highlights the rights of all workers engaged in the safeguarding and protection of children and young people to have access to formal safeguarding supervision.

Safeguarding is a challenging area of work and it is essential that the practitioners who are faced with these challenges are competent, confident, well trained and effectively supported.

Supervision is a process by which a practitioner receives support and monitoring (usually by a manager but it can also be from peers) for the responsibilities they have in discharging the organisation’s functions (to work by themselves and with other practitioner(s) in order to meet certain organisational, professional and personal objectives) in order to promote positive outcomes for service users. The objectives are:

  • Competent, accountable practice in order to meet service specifications and statutory obligations (managerial function);
  • Continuing professional development (educative/development function);
  • Personal support (supportive function);
  • Linking the practitioner to the organisation and multi-agency network (mediation function); and
  • To provide a thinking space for practitioners where analysis and challenge can take place (reflective function).

The focus of safeguarding supervision is on the care provided by the practitioner to individual children young people, their carers and families with the aim of improving outcomes, reducing risk and increasing safety.

Supervision can be delivered as regular one to one meetings, catch ups/ad hoc, 1:1s, group supervision (single and multi-agency) and peer supervision.

The key functions of safeguarding supervision are to:

  • Ensure that safeguarding practice is competent, accountable and based on evidence, procedure, protocol and self-reflection;
  • Ensure that safeguarding practice is consistent with this single-agency and/or multi-agency policies and procedures;
  • Ensure that practitioners fully understand their roles, responsibilities and scope of their professional discretion and authority with the result that confidence and competencies are increased;
  • Include reflection, scrutiny and evaluation of safeguarding work carried out, assessing the strengths and areas for development of the practitioner, supporting their development and providing managerial oversight or emotional support where required;
  • Ensure that key decisions and events are recorded and evident within the individual’s case records;
  • Identify areas of need and ensure that the best interests of children, their families and adults at risk (if they lack capacity) are promoted;
  • Assist in the promotion of addressing diversity and avoiding anti-discriminatory practice;
  • Escalate if necessary (agency’s policies on escalation will specify the internal escalation process).

With respect to individual cases, safeguarding supervision helps practitioners to keep a focus on the child’s needs, the risks posed by adults (or other children), to avoid delay in action, to maintain objectivity and to address the emotional impact of the work.

Principles of Supervision

The principles of safeguarding supervision should be consistent across agencies. It is essential that supervision, whether carried out on an individual or group basis, is undertaken in a positive and supportive environment. The principles surrounding all forms of supervision are that:

  • Practitioners want to do a good job;
  • Practitioners work best when they are clear of expectations and are suitably qualified and trained for their role;
  • Practitioners and agencies can and will change if it makes sense to them;
  • Support and challenge is helpful, expected and is constructive; and
  • Practitioners are clear of their accountability and professional discretion (they know which decisions are within their role and when they must seek advice/consult or refer).

Agencies should ensure:

  • They have in place easy to use standard templates;
  • Clear recording mechanisms, including decisions made in supervision being recorded on case files immediately;
  • Use of a contract/agreement/policy on supervision;
  • An internal escalation process is in place where there are disagreements that cannot be resolved within supervision;
  • Evaluation and action; there will be a process for capturing feedback and responding; and
  • The model of supervision used will fit the context and organisation, provision will be flexible according to need and can include peer and group supervision.

Context and Experience

Agencies should ensure:

  • Supervision is viewed as a collaborative process between the supervisor and supervisee;
  • The criteria for which cases are discussed is agreed within agencies and forms part of supervision agreements/contracts;
  • There is an expectation both the supervisor and supervisee will be prepared;
  • Supervision is fair, informed and respectful of diversity;
  • Supervision is seen as a safe space to develop learning that includes reflection, challenge and support;
  • Is a standardised experience; and
  • Supervision includes consideration of service user needs, agency expectations and the development of staff.

Outcome Focus

Agencies should ensure:

  • Actions arising from supervision are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Time specific);
  • Clear decision making is evident;
  • Clear analysis is evident; and
  • The experience of the child is the priority and their voice is heard (rights of the child are paramount as outlined in Working Together to Safeguard Children guidance).

Good quality supervision can help to:

  • Keep a focus on the child;
  • Avoid drift;
  • Maintain a degree of objectivity and challenge fixed views;
  • Test and assess the evidence base for assessment and decisions; and
  • Address the emotional impact of work.

Quality Assurance and Training

Agencies should ensure:

  • Supervisors and supervisees will receive training/information so the principles and purpose of supervision and its context (for example legal) is understood;
  • There is an organisational commitment to both providing and maintaining information/training;
  • There is quality assurance and evaluation of safeguarding supervision, including frequency of supervision and this is evidenced;
  • Quality assurance should include periodic observation of safeguarding supervision by all line managers; and
  • Supervision is evidence based and in line with best practice guidance.

Organisational Commitment

  • Supervision as defined by Working Together to Safeguard Children guidance is accepted by managers as essential;
  • The effective training of supervisors;
  • Regular monitoring of the quality of supervision;
  • Time for supervision can be allocated, is protected and is a regular commitment.

Safeguarding Partnership Commitment

The Safeguarding Partnership is responsible for ensuring the overall provision of a robust safeguarding supervision process across all partners and will monitor this through a variety of mechanisms, including:

  • The Section 11 self-assessment audit;
  • Case file audits
  • Relevant actions arising from case reviews.


The process of supervision is generally confidential between the supervisor and supervisee(s). Decisions made on action to be taken to address a child’s needs or risks will be completed in the child’s records. The ground rules in relation to confidentiality will be made explicit, such as ownership of supervision records, retention of information. There may be occasions when it is necessary to share information with other practitioners/ managers/external agencies/professional bodies in the best interests of the child in line with agency and multi-agency information sharing agreements. Poor or dangerous practice will be addressed in line with agency policy and procedures.

Multi-Agency Supervision 

In some local areas multi-agency supervision processes exist to discuss complex cases (cases where there are differences about the safeguarding thresholds, or where drift is considered a feature by one or more agency, or where the emotional impact of a case on practitioners is significant and its considered a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ is likely to be beneficial). Research and best practice highlights that such processes are very beneficial to practitioners and enhances multi-agency relationships. Where such processes take place, the focus will be on: support; adherence to multiple statutory requirements and how to achieve these in a way that minimises the impact on the child and promotes engagement from the family/child; addressing emotional impact of cases; and challenge relating to multi-agency processes. The objectives, functions, principles and outcomes listed above are equally applicable for any multi-agency supervision process. Where a case has been discussed in a multi-agency supervision process, each agency present and invited to the supervision has a responsibility to record in their own agency records the decisions reached, especially where the agency has responsibility to complete the actions.

Key Messages for Individuals Receiving Supervision

  • Supervision is an important right and benefit for all those working in safeguarding services;
  • It is the main way in which your organisation monitors and reviews your work but also ensures you are properly supported and continue to develop your skills. It is therefore important that you are fully involved and make the most of the opportunities that supervision offers. In particular you should:
    • Prepare for each supervision meeting by reviewing notes from the previous meeting and thinking about the things you want to raise and discuss;
    • Be ready to share your thoughts and ideas in the meeting;
    • Be open about what has gone well and what you have found difficult;
    • Be ready to plan and undertake training and other development activities as agreed with your supervisor;
    • Check and read the notes of your meetings and make sure you follow through and complete any actions as agreed.