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4.1.7 Supervision in case practice/service delivery

Last Modified: 03-Jul-2018 Review Date: 04-Jul-2016


To support regular and high quality individual supervision in case practice/service delivery that supports children and young people in the CEO's care to have improved life chances. Supervision in case practice protects children and young people from abuse and neglect and supports family and individuals at risk or in crisis to manage their lives and keep themselves and their families safe.    

Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities and 'staff' refers to all service delivery staff in Child Protection and Family Support division.

Practice Requirements

  • All staff must receive a minimum of one formal individual supervision session per month with their line manager/supervisor. With the agreement of both parties, supervision can be conducted six weekly with the approval of the district director.
  • Staff new to a role or Child Protection and Family Support division must, as part of their job/position orientation, receive more frequent individual supervision.
  • More frequent individual supervision must also be provided in circumstances where the supervisor deems it necessary.
  • Supervision is underpinned by the four functions (managerial, development, support and mediation).
  • Supervision must include discussions on case planning and service delivery, managing workload, working in a culturally secure manner and managing for performance and building emotional and psychological health and resilience.
  • Supervisees and supervisors must discuss and develop a Supervision Agreement that meets the needs and requirements of both.
  • Staff must plan for supervision and case workers must complete the Case Plan Supervision in Assist for each individual case that needs to be discussed prior to supervision.
  • Individual supervision for matters other than case practice supervision must be recorded in the Supervision Record template and uploaded to the Performance Management Tracking System.
  • District directors must regularly review their district’s Performance Management Tracking System to monitor that staff are receiving regular supervision.


Process Maps

Not Applicable


  • Supervision overview
  • Focus areas
  • Types of supervision
  • Preparing for individual supervision
  • Consultation
  • Confidentiality
  • Dispute resolution
  • Recording supervision
  • Supervision overview

    Supervision is an essential part of supporting staff and promoting good service delivery. All staff must receive regular supervision, with the focus and content varying to reflect the person’s position. Consultation is not supervision and must not be recorded as such.


    Focus areas

    There are four key focus areas that supervision in case practice/service delivery needs to address:

    1. Managerial function

    (a)   Case practice/service delivery planning

    Progressing individual cases/service delivery work through supervision involves:

    • maintaining an overview of the status of all cases/service delivery work the supervisee is involved with
    • reviewing issues and canvassing strategies in current cases/service delivery work
    • making decisions and providing direction to progress individual cases/service delivery work
    • collectively practicing and reflecting on aspects of case/service delivery practice in live cases/work, and
    • reflecting to improve upon and embed culturally secure and competent practice.

    Child Protection and Family Support division practice frameworks, including the Casework Practice Manual, provide the main reference points for reviewing practice.

    (b)   Managing workload

    Supervision provides an opportunity for both supervisors and supervisees to review workload issues.

    For case workers, the allocation of cases takes into account:

    • the case worker’s knowledge, skills, experience and their capacity - including time, availability, the number and nature of cases they already have and their health and wellbeing. For Aboriginal employees the impact of working in home communities is an important consideration
    • the type of cases to be allocated i.e. Initial Inquiry, Assessment, Intensive Family Support, Family Support and Children in Care
    • the intensity of the work involved in the cases, for example: the number of children in a family group, the nature and number of tasks required and the timeframes in which the tasks must be completed, and 
    • the complexity of the cases, for example:   
      • the nature of the harm/abuse that a child has experienced
      • the needs and requirements of the child
      • the involvement and cooperation of parents and extended family
      • the need for cultural consultations or consultations with specialist positions
      • the involvement of other agencies and service providers
      • the availability of a suitable placement
      • placement breakdown, and
      • the availability of other cases workers/service delivery staff who can work with and support the case manager.

    In supervision:

    • Caseloads must be reviewed and supervisors must monitor the number of cases allocated to child protection workers to keep them in line with the current Industrial Agreement (see Chapter 4.1: Workload management).
    • Supervision provides the opportunity to discuss and identify strategies to support case workers in managing the work, including setting task priorities in and between cases, identifying staff who can assist the case worker, reallocating work and/or cases or in the case of child protection cases placing cases on the monitored list.
    • Where case workers do not feel that supervisors are addressing their workload issues, districts must have processes in place so that staff can safely and in confidence raise their concerns (see section on Dispute Resolution below).

    (c)    Managing for performance including administrative requirements and accountability

    Supervisors must provide feedback to the supervisees about their work performance at each supervision meeting. It is the supervisor’s role to identify, communicate and manage performance issues, and provide an opportunity for supervisees to improve their work performance in a reasonable timeframe.  

    Managing performance through supervision involves:

    • providing positive feedback on work performance
    • clearly identifying and communicating areas that need improvement
    • identifying steps that the supervisor and supervisee can take to address issues or concerns, and
    • providing support to assist in performance improvement.

    Where a performance concern has been identified, the supervisor will address it in supervision and record this in the Supervision Record. Where performance concerns are not able to be addressed in supervision meetings, the supervisor may need to consider a performance improvement process.

    2. Development function

    The most effective learning occurs through undertaking day-to-day work. Supervision enables learning through encouraging critical reflection, skills practice and problem solving on real cases. Collectively these strategies drive continuous learning and improvement.

    Learning and development focusses on a range of issues depending on the individual’s needs and include:

    • working relationships with families and other professionals
    • specific aspects of case practice
    • specific individual and team learning goals
    • 70:20:10 learning strategies, and
    • bringing it all together through reflective practice.

    Issues raised as part of Reaching Forward, supervision and managing for performance can be used to inform learning and development needs.

    Supervision discussions must track the progress of specific tasks or learning and development requirements identified during the annual Reaching Forward session.

    3. Support function: Building emotional and psychological health and resilience

    Child protection work carries inherent stresses including the vicarious trauma of working with vulnerable and at risk children, young people and families. Anxiety may arise due to the potential danger for children and working with uncertainty. Supervision is a primary means of addressing the stress and anxiety of the work.

    Managing the work on an ongoing basis requires staff to be emotionally and psychologically healthy and resilient. Building emotional and psychological health and resilience is a core focus of supervision and needs to have a deliberate focus on managing the stress and anxiety of the work, which includes:

    • sharing the anxiety inherent in cases upwards through the organisation (with the supervisor during supervision, who in turn will advise directors as necessary)
    • providing emotional support, and
    • identifying and practicing strategies to manage stress and anxiety including considering referrals to the Employee Assistance Program.

    The Corporate Health Framework, Wellness@Work, outlines our approach for building and maintaining positive workplaces, and practical strategies to support staff to look after their own wellbeing.

    4. Mediation function

    This aspect of supervision relates closely to the managerial function, and therefore it is provided by the supervisor. Mediation can include:

    • managing workload
    • discussion of resources and supervisee issues, complaints and disputes between team members (prior to commencement of formal complaints/grievance process), and
    • advocacy and support on behalf of the supervisee to relevant parts of the organisation.

    The following tools (in related resources) may be useful for supervisors:

    • Supervision – case planning sample questions
    • Supervision – promoting reflective practice, and
    • Supervision – experience, reflection, analysis and actions sample questions

    Types of supervision

    Group supervision

    Group supervision involves multiple staff, with all participants actively working on aspects of practice for currently open cases or service delivery work.

    The supervisor will generally lead group supervision, although other case practice leaders may also facilitate this mode of supervision.

    Group supervision may be used for:

    • Signs of Safety internal case mappings
    • working on a particular aspect of case practice/service delivery
    • culturally specific practice elements/challenges
    • developing danger statements
    • developing a words and pictures explanation, and
    • developing questions for areas of case practice/service delivery that appear stuck.

    Individual supervision

    Individual supervision must be provided by the supervisor and includes formal scheduled supervision sessions and informal unscheduled discussions.

    Individual formal supervision is be used to discuss:

    • periodic detailed assessments to progress particular cases/service delivery work
    • management of workload
    • strategies to decrease the stress and anxiety of the work
    • strategies to increase opportunities for supervisee to move from working in a culturally aware way, to a culturally secure way
    • periodic detailed assessments for learning and development, and
    • performance concerns.

    All staff working with Aboriginal families must have access to ongoing supervision to increase their cultural competence. The purpose of this is to provide the best possible service to clients and community by building the worker’s knowledge, skills, insight and wisdom in working with Aboriginal children, families and communities.

    The following prompt questions may assist and guide this discussion:

    • How might our views of culture affect our relationships with children and families?
    • Might we sometimes advantage some children and families and disadvantage others?
    • Do our interactions with families show that we respect and value them as they are, or ‘as we would like them to be’?
    • Does our environment reflect a genuine knowledge about the cultures of the children in our care?
    • How can we share stories and understandings about Australia’s First Peoples and about others who have journeyed to this place?

    Cultural supervision

    This is an important element for Aboriginal staff. The purpose of cultural supervision is to build cultural safety for Aboriginal staff by acknowledging the impact of colonisation, managing bi-cultural relationships, and reflect on the ways in which child protection work can impact on Aboriginal staff.

    Cultural supervision recognises that some aspects of cultural support and connection can only be gained and shared between Aboriginal people. It acknowledges that cultural meaning, tradition and ways of doing things will be different from mainstream norms and belief systems. Whilst it is an important aspect of supervision for Aboriginal staff it does not replace individual supervision.

    Contact the executive director, Aboriginal Engagement and Coordination for further guidance on cultural supervision.


    Preparing for individual supervision

    Supervision agreement

    The development of a supervision agreement provides the opportunity to discuss and agree to the formal supervision requirements (responsibilities, structure and recording). The roles and responsibilities of supervisee and supervisor will be clarified and reviewed as needed. If the supervisee and supervisor cannot agree on the requirements of supervision, the supervisor should discuss and develop strategies with their line manager.

    This agreement must be regularly reviewed, at least annually, as a separate task from the Reaching Forward session. Examples of circumstances where a review of the supervision agreement is warranted include: when the supervisee change role/location or when there is a change of supervisor.

    Refer to the Supervision agreement template (in related resources).

    Clarify responsibilities

    Supervisors and supervisees must have the opportunity to clarify individual responsibilities within their supervisory relationship. This includes a discussion of prior supervisory experiences and their value.

    The supervisor's responsibilities are to:

    • provide monthly individual supervision or six weekly supervision if agreed by both the supervisee and supervisor, and approved by the district director
    • prepare for supervision ‑ by considering ’what is working well’ and ‘what are we worried about’ relating to the areas of work performance and managing workload
    • tailor the four functions of supervision to the supervisee’s experience and needs
    • collaborate, delegate or refer, where appropriate, to other professionals to provide other forms of supervision
    • create a safe supervisory relationship where Appreciative Inquiry is enabled
    • provide clarity to the supervisee in relation to role, responsibilities and accountabilities
    • provide opportunities for group supervision, where appropriate
    • provide and receive constructive, respectful and useful feedback through using the  Signs of Safety questioning approach
    • discuss cultural lens required in practice to meet the needs of Aboriginal children and families
    • discuss and agree to a supervision agreement and document the supervision process
    • manage disagreements and disputes appropriately
    • provide opportunities for learning and reflection, and
    • check the Performance Management Tracking System has been updated.

    The supervisee's responsibilities are to:

    • prepare for supervision by updating the case plans and their supervision record for discussion, reflecting on ’what is working well’ and ‘what are we worried about’ relating to the areas of work performance and managing workload
    • participate in monthly individual supervision or six weekly supervision if approved by district director
    • communicate learning and development needs
    • identify opportunities for group supervision and where other roles/professionals can be of assistance, in order to meet the four main functions of supervision, and
    • provide and receive constructive, respectful and useful feedback, and
    • update the Performance Management Tracking System (supervision section).

    Refer to Supervision record template (in related resources).

    Structure of supervision

    As part of developing the supervision agreement, the supervisee and supervisor discuss:

    • details of time, place, frequency and location of supervision
    • purpose of supervision
    • individual responsibilities
    • existing natural hierarchy of family structure/gender/age and cultural influence (this is particularly important where Aboriginal staff are involved)
    • recording arrangements (e.g. who does it, where is the record kept and who may see it)
    • how feedback will be given, and
    • the boundaries of confidentiality.


    The agenda could include the following:

    • matters the supervisee wishes to include
    • matters arising from previous supervisory sessions
    • reviewing case/service delivery work through discussions, reports and observations
    • providing positive feedback and areas for development on work undertaken
    • agreeing future action plans
    • concerns and issues in relation to the management of workload
    • discussion of the development of the supervisee’s skills, knowledge and experience
    • identification of the supervisee’s development needs and steps to address these needs
    • cultural competence and or the need for cultural supervision (for Aboriginal staff)
    • time for the supervisee to reflect on their experience of and feelings about their work
    • opportunity for the supervisee to give feedback on their experiences of and expectations of supervision, and
    • ongoing performance concerns and expectations.

    Discuss the circumstances where interruptions to supervision will be permitted, for example unplanned priority work, illness, emergencies and/or leave arrangements. In these circumstances a revised date must be set.

    Informal discussions/coaching

    The supervisor will respond to urgent requests for informal discussions/coaching which may be face-to-face discussions, via video conference or by telephone.



    Consultation is a day-to-day activity that is part of progressing case/service delivery work and supports staff learning and emotional wellbeing. However, it is not supervision and the occurrence of frequent consultation must not be cited as having constituted supervision.

    Informal and formal advice sought from the supervisor on an ad hoc basis will occur frequently, usually in relation to seeking an immediate approval or case/service delivery direction, and on occasion for personal learning or support.

    Meeting the formal requirements for cultural consultation in case/service delivery management is a requirement set out in the Children and Community Services Act (2004), and the Casework Practice Manual.

    Formal and informal consultation with specialist colleagues such as psychologists, senior practice development officers, Aboriginal practice leaders, and education officers will occur on a needs basis to inform case practice/service delivery.

    Informal consultation and debriefing with colleagues can enrich experience and learning.



    A mutually respectful relationship forms the basis of quality supervision. Integral to this is the need for the supervision process and information exchanged to be confidential. This is particularly important in relation to information regarding performance issues or personal issues which may be impacting on a staff member’s ability to perform their tasks. This may include indirect trauma resulting from exposure to the complexity of our work including working with client’s anger, grief and loss, managing dysfunctions within families and working generally in the child protection field.

    There may be circumstances where the district director or other relevant staff may need to be made aware of information resulting from the supervision process. In these cases the employee must be advised and the matter discussed prior to the information being shared.

    When the employee transfers to another area, the new supervisor will have access to their supervision record of matters other than case practice/service delivery decisions.


    Dispute resolution

    Staff and supervisors are expected to proactively raise and resolve issues openly within the supervisory relationship. Where issues remain unresolved, discussion and resolution must take place with a relevant senior manager. Refer to the formal Workplace issue and grievance resolution process as set out in the Administration Manual for further information.                    


    Recording supervision

    The two types of recording are:

    • case practice/service delivery matters, and
    • matters other than case practice/service delivery decisions and work performance and managing workload.

    Case practice/service delivery matters

    The supervisor’s decisions about case management/service delivery must be identifiable on the case file for legal and quality assurance purposes.

    As part of formal individual supervision, case plans must be reviewed and updated by case workers and supervisors. Where case plans are made or changed/reviewed during supervision, the case worker must record this in Assist under the category of Case Plan Supervision. The reason selected for the forum of the Case Plan Supervision is either:

    • periodic review, or
    • change in circumstances.

    Case workers and line managers must record on Assist any review of an existing case plan and if required update plans during or after a supervision session.  If any changes relate to relevant care planning decisions for Aboriginal children, they must be endorsed by the district’s Aboriginal practice leader.

    There are a range of options to record case practice/service delivery matters and decisions on Assist, which occur outside of supervision such as:

    • Assist approvals
    • Case Plan updates
    • file note, and
    • email approvals.

    Matters other than case practice/service delivery decisions

    Matters other than case practice/service delivery decisions must be recorded in the Supervision Record (in related resources) and uploaded to the Performance Management Tracking System. 

    Information recorded could include:

    • the frequency and focus of the supervision
    • key information shared
    • decisions, advice and actions (other than case practice/service delivery decisions)
    • learning and development needs, goals and progress
    • mutual feedback about the experience of supervision, and
    • any safety or personal issues that are relevant to the supervisee’s performance.

    The supervisor documents this information and the supervisee co-signs. If there is disagreement, note it in the template. This information is then used when reviewing and planning the annual Reaching Forward session.

    Where performance concerns are being addressed through supervision, supervisors must complete relevant documentation, such as the Performance Observation Log or the Performance Improvement Action Plan.

    Performance Management Tracking System

    District directors must regularly review the Performance Management Tracking System to monitor whether staff are receiving regular supervision.


    Supervision Records must be stored on the Performance Management Tracking System.

    The documents must be added on a monthly basis and are only accessible by the supervisee and their supervisor.  

    For further information refer to the Performance Management Tracking System User Guide (in related resources).