Category Archives: tools

Did I understand you?

Have you ever wondered how easy is it to communicate what you want to say? When you are anxious or nervous, angry, sad or just confused! for me I can find it very difficult and often find myself tripping over the words that I want to say.

However, as a Social Worker we learn that communication is a powerful tool that needs to be used carefully in order to make positive changes.  Some people would argue however, more could be done to support families in order to help them communicate with their social worker. 

Communication is therefore defined as: ‘the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium’: (Oxford dictionary).

As a Social Worker working with young people I find myself very conscious about how I communicate and often consider how I can create an environment that promotes communication.   Each person I meet is different, and the way that they want to talk to me is different.  Some prefer a soft caring approach, other young people need and prefer a firmer approach to help them feel safe.

But what is lost is that the spoken word is only a small amount of information that is being communicated at any time.  It is very easy to argue that someone is not listening.  However, it is not as easy to argue that someone is not listening when you are saying one thing whilst carrying out different actions.

There is no magic wand that can change this, our non verbal communication is often done by our subconscious.  And the most damaging especially when the Social Worker meets someone for the first time and the wrong signals are sent to each other, which means an honest exchange of information is going to be harder to achieve.

In order to safeguard children is is therefore important to understand for  families to understand it is okay to be challenged, as long as the points they are being challenged on are answered honestly.  It is also therefore okay for this to be reciprocated and families challenge decisions made in an appropriate way, either through the complaints procedure or Judicial Review depending on the decision being made.

It is in my opinion that certainly when working with young people that support is being provided to enable good communication, through their pathway planning, looked after children’s reviews, advocates or solicitors.  I would also like to see more children and young people being encouraged to take part in Participation events, working with Children’s Trusts to develop the services in their area to meet their needs.

I would also like to see the stigma being removed from people who need to have the support of Social Services and maybe their is a time for a change in title.  However, the role of the social worker is very important and families should not live in fear that Social Care may knock on their door.  Instead communities should work hand in hand with social care to promote a more positive supportive relationship, focusing on early intervention rather than removal.












Reclaiming Good Supervision

One of the most important resources that Local Authority’s have in supporting vulnerable families and children is their Social Workers and their valuable support staff.  Which is worrying in a time where cuts are being made to budgets that for some (not all) Local Authority’s that these cuts have affected Social Work posts.  The knock on effect is more pressure, higher case loads on the remaining workers.


As an Assistant Team Manager I have supervision responsibility and find that good supervision is essential in keeping my staff team ‘well’ and working productively.  In our team we have not lost any posts! instead have noticed an increasing amount of young people that are coming into care, and at a later age.  Making the Young People more vulnerable to offending, placement breakdowns and sometimes more difficult to engage with.


I feel it is important to reclaim Supervision and its support element for Social Workers in this difficult time.  The danger that Supervision has had in the past is that it has been concerned with measuring statistical data for the Government.  for example “Are all of your medicals completed?” “Have your Core Assessments been completed within time scales?”  The obsession with Data collection does not replace the need for personal discussion and case progression (Coulshed, Mullender, 2006)


And I would agree with this, moving away from the view held of Social Workers by the few and the damaging articles sometimes presented in the media.  Social Workers should be treated as experts in the work that they complete within their community’s.  In order to do this they need to be supported by good supervision both formally and informally.  


However, there still remains a danger in this. There has been a move to a reflective supervision model.  Which on its own could skip some key learning stages between Managers and their Workers spending two long on the reflection; rather than analysing the information and then using this to be able to move the work along for the young person and their family.


I have just completed a Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) course in supervision, which has given me a new look at the supervision process.  And I have to be honest when I first started the training I did think “Here we go again another supervision course” But! having now finished the course feel that my supervision was okay but can still be better.


This is especially significant when reflecting on previous case learning from serious case reviews. Therefore, it is essential that for the worker who takes on the supervision that they have the experience to understand Social Work learning and theory.  In order to develop and identify barriers in social work practise that the worker maybe experiencing.  Moreover these barriers could be with other professionals and understanding all relationships and whether these are working could be essential for the outcome of the young person.


For everyone that is already being supervised or even if you are responsible for supervision the tools that we have available for this, we already have already in our toolbox.  Now, it is essential to remember that Supervision has key functions and that none of these functions can take place if proper planning and importance is given to Supervision from the start.  The obvious factor for supervision is that you are not disturbed.

Now, I know this may seem obvious, but when your supervision is disturbed two or three times, it will often lead to the focus being lost, the flow of thought to be lost and the benefits completely removed.


The other important barrier in supervision itself is an anxious worker or even anxious Manager.  These feelings can quickly take up a major part of the supervision process leaving no time for case discussion.  The idea is to enable the worker to leave feeling good about themselves (Coulshed, Mullender, 2006).  




When discussing cases it is essential to understand where the conversation is going.  “What was the purpose of your visit?” “What did you learn from the visit?”  The questions asked will enable the reflective part of the discussion.  However, my favourite tool for this is kolb’s learning cycle.


If taken in with you for supervision it can keep you focused on the direction that your discussion should be taken.  It is useful to consider that this maybe a lengthy process, so to do this with every case may not be possible.  It is therefore important for the supervise to consider, which cases you have that need more careful thought and consideration.




The next great tool that should be completed with all cases is a Genogram.  This is a great way for the supervisor to understand the family and the make up of the familyby drawing this out from the discussion with their worker.  Moreover it enables reflective discussion to identify difficult relationships, strengths and weakness.  Where the support is and learn from past experiences within the family.  


Now it is also essential especially within Child Protection cases that the Social Worker understands who all the professionals that are involved in the case are.  And also the relationships that they have with each other.  It is important for the Supervisor to ensure that there is good communication between everyone and understanding where professionals maybe mirroring behaviours within the family.  


Using this Eco Map as an example of how this can be done.  You could see that there is no communication between any of the organisations.  It shows that the different family members are getting help from the right services.  However, what is being demonstrated in this picture is that the communication between the agencies has not yet been explored or understood.  Is there good communication and information sharing?  it is these questions that can fully implement support for the family.  The reason especially if looking at a systemic practise is to ensure that families do not breakdown and have a system around them.


There are many other tools that we already have available to work with children and young people, but many are not used when we are in supervision.  For me it is important to provide good supervision to keep a happy and confident team.  But also to ensure that the right outcomes are met for children and young people.


So do not wait for Supervision start preparing for it and use the tools we have to make better use of this time and meet all the functions of Supervision such as Organisational, Developmental, and Support.