NUMBER 458 • 25 FEBRUARY • SUPERVISION
Supervision is a person-centred activity that places as much importance on the supervisor,’ relationship, feelings and staff development as on task implementation, regulation and control functions
There is some evidence (NALGO 1989) that the personal social services are becoming more routinised and depersonalised in the way services are delivered and that this bureaucratic ethos is being replicated in supervision. In our view this is not only an undesirable development in principle, but it is also likely to be self-defeating in practical outcome. Social work and related tasks are by definition concerned with people’s personal and social pain, disability, oppression, poverty, stress, violence, deprivation and conflict. If the worker is to be an effective helper, she or he must share some of this pain, despair and anger and be affected in their personal feelings. It is essential that the feelings arising from the personal impact of the work can be on the supervision agenda, as well as the practical considerations and the requirements of agency policy and regulations.
If feelings and the personal impact of the work are not legitimised as supervision business, they do not just go away, they stay underneath the surface with at least two possible consequences. One is that the supervisee gets the message that feelings are to be suppressed, and they start to work more bureaucratically and less empathically, and so less effectively; and secondly, stress levels build because they have no outlet in supervision, and the worker begins to take time off work with stress-related physical symptoms (see Chapters 5 and 7). Thus if the primary aim of supervision is to ensure and enable the best possible service to users, a bureaucratic approach will inevitably be self-defeating. A person-centred approach is not a luxury to be dispensed with when the going gets tough; it is integral to the whole purpose and process of supervision.
ALLAN BROWN and IAIN BOURNE
Brown, A. & Bourne, I. (1996). The Social Work Supervisor. Philadelphia: Open University Press. p 13
NALGO (National Association of Local Government Officers) (1989) Social Work in Crisis: A study of conditions in six local authorities. London: NALGO