Exploring Supervision In The Context Of COVID 19

Exploring supervision in the context of COVID-19

Published: 30/06/2020

Author: Alison Domakin

Dealing with coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed the way many people supervise their team.  

Since we went into lockdown I have continued to speak regularly with practice supervisors who have attended the Practice Supervisor Development Programme (PSDP). Everyone who takes part in PSDP is offered two one-hour reflective sessions to explore how they can apply learning from PSDP in the context of their own organisations. It will be no surprise to hear that recently many practice supervisors have wanted to use the reflective sessions to explore how dealing with COVID-19 has changed the way they supervise their team.   

In these sessions I have noticed the same issues and themes repeated time and time. Children’s social care had to recalibrate at the drop of a hat as we entered lockdown. Building were emptied and the workforce moved to home working. Everyone was personally affected in some way and the start of lockdown was marked by disruption, uncertainty and fear. When practice supervisors reflect back on their initial experience of lockdown, the importance of providing emotional containment always comes up first. They talk about their responsibility to ensure the welfare of everyone in their team and of working hard to put in place a regular check in, weekly or daily team catch-ups, and whole group discussions articulating how everyone can support each other.   

Practice supervisors also highlight that their primary focus in supervision has also shifted to one of providing containment. They know that more than anything else that practitioners need a safe space in supervision to reflect on the professional and personal impact of lockdown working and living through a global pandemic. All of these conversations have taken place online: an entirely new way of working in supervision, which is not without its own challenges.

Practice supervisors have also identified tangible changes in practice with children and families resulting from COVID-19. They have been required to organise service delivery differently, and at pace, and, in the process, ask searching questions about what counts as a priority when home visits are no longer standard (and staff need to be protected from exposure to the virus). This has meant, at times, that the usual procedures are no longer able to inform practice decisions about which issues require an immediate response and what can be dealt with later. Practice supervisors have, therefore, been called upon to work with greater autonomy to navigate a way through this uncertainty.

Many of their supervisees have also identified changes in their practice as a result of COVID-19.   Practice supervisors describe how practitioners are reflecting on finding it easier to build relationships with children, young people and their families and that families seem more able to relate to them, which helps practitioners to have more meaningful interactions with families. Something about the experience of COVID-19 (perhaps a blurring of rigid personal and professional demarcations when we are ‘all in this together’) seems to have allowed a more relational approach to practice to bloom. 

When we reflect on what the country has experienced, the challenges for children’s social care and the way in which practice supervisors have stepped up to support their teams and adapt service delivery in the context of COVID-19 practice, practice supervisors often highlight the central role supervision has played in supporting their teams through lockdown. We also note the role it will continue to play in whatever form ‘the new normal’ looks like in children’s social care.

Supervision is absolutely fundamental in children’s social work. It is the bedrock on which excellent practice is built and the foundation for the development of a stable, resilient and engaged workforce. It should be continually prioritised and never more so than now. For this reason we are proud to announce that we have developed seven additional resources available all of which explore different aspects of supervision. Many of which are relevant in the context of COVID-19. We hope that you enjoy using them. All are available to freely use on the PSDP Resources and Tools website.   

Alison Domakin

Alison Domakin

Alison Domakin is the Practice and Engagement Lead for the Practice Supervisor Development Programme.


Resources to support practice supervisors in their role

Practice supervisors play an important role in supporting supervisees to become emotionally resilient practitioners and ensuring that social workers provide an excellent service to children and families. Open access resources aim to support practice supervisors in key aspects of their role.
Find out more