• Doing child-protection social work with parents: what are the barriers in practice?

      Wilkins, David; Whittaker, Charlotte E.; University of Bedfordshire; Frontline (Oxford University Press, 2017-12-28)
      For many social workers, participatory practice may seem an unachievable goal, particularly in the field of child protection. In this paper, we discuss a significant programme of change in one London local authority, as part of which we undertook 110 observations of practice and provided more than eighty follow-up coaching sessions for workers. Through these observations, we saw many examples of key participatory practice skills such as empathy, collaboration and involvement in decision making. We also saw many examples of reducing autonomy and excluding parents from decision making. Often, we found the same worker would adopt a participatory approach with one family and a non-participatory approach with another. Through coaching sessions, we explored how and why workers used different approaches and discussed the barriers to adopting a more consistently participatory approach. These discussions led us to reflect on fundamental questions relating to the purpose of child-protection social work, how social workers can best help families and what the limits might be of participation in situations of high risk. We argue that truly participatory child-protection social work requires not simply better training or different tools, but an innovation in the value base of children’s services.
    • How do we assess the quality of group supervision? : developing a coding framework

      Bostock, Lisa; Patrizo, Louis; Godfrey, Tessa; Munro, Emily; Forrester, Donald; University of Bedfordshire; Frontline; Cardiff University (Elsevier, 2019-03-14)
      The importance of supervision for social work practice is one of the most widely accepted tenets of the profession. Yet, surprisingly little is known about what happens in supervision, making it difficult to unravel what it is about supervision that makes a difference to social work practice. This paper describes the development of a framework for assessing the quality of group supervision. It focuses on one sub-category of group supervision – systemic group supervision – and draws a wider evaluation of systemic social work practice in the UK. It is based on 29 observations of “live” of supervision to illustrate differences in quality of supervisory practice. The process of developing the coding framework was cyclical, and ultimately resulted in a three-point ordinal grouping for assessing systemic supervisory practice. Analysis of observational data assessed group systemic supervision as follows: 8 as non-systemic (28%); 12 (41%) as demonstrating some incorporation of systemic ideas into interactions, described as “green shoots” (or showing encouraging signs of development but not yet reached its full potential); and 9 (31%) supervision sessions demonstrating a full incorporation of systemic concepts and practice. What marked “systemic” sessions from “green shoots” supervision was the move from hypothesis generation about family relations and risk to children to purposeful, actionable conversations with families: the move from reflection to action. This paper supports a small but growing body of evidence about the fundamental characteristics of successful or effective supervision within children and families social work.
    • What is the impact of supervision on direct practice with families?

      Bostock, Lisa; Patrizo, Louis; Godfrey, Tessa; Forrester, Donald; University of Bedfordshire; Frontline; University of Cardiff (Elsevier, 2019-07-24)
      Supervision has been described as the “pivot” upon which the integrity and excellence of social work practice can be maintained.However, there is little research that examines its impact on how social workers work directly with children and their families. Where effectiveness studies exist, they tend to explore the impact of supervision on organisational and staff-related outcomes such as retention rates or worker well-being. The current study focuses on one specific sub-category of the wider supervision and practice literature: systemic group supervision or “systemic supervision” and is based on a wider evaluation of systemic social work practice in the UK. The paper pairs observations of systemic supervision (n=14) and observations of direct practice (n=18) in peoples’ homes. It presents correlational data on the relationship between supervision quality and direct practice quality to assess whether there is an association between the two practice forums. The paper demonstrates that there is a statistically significant relationship between supervision quality and overall quality of direct practice. Supervision was also associated with relationship-building skills and use of “good authority” skills; that is, practice that was more purposeful, child-focused and risks to children better articulated. Interestingly, where a clinician qualified in systemic family therapy was present in supervision, this was associated with bothimproved supervisory and direct practice quality. This suggests that there may be an important association between the discussions held in systemic supervision, particularly where a clinician is present and the quality of conversations that practitioners have with children and families. These findings contribute to a growing body of knowledge about the relationship between effective supervision and direct practice within children and families social work.