The Integrated Model of Restorative Supervision for Use Within Safeguarding

This paper reviews an integrated restorative safeguarding supervision model, to underpin effective safeguarding supervision in universal settings.

  • Sonya Wallbank and Jane Wannacott
  • Community Practitioner: the journal of the Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors Association (September 2016)

The restorative model and its emphasis on the wellbeing of the individual arose from initial research findings by Wallbank which demonstrated the lack of focus on professionals' own health and wellbeing and its link to thinking clearly within their role.

Without guidance, safeguarding supervision can be driven by an organisational demand for assurance that practice is safe. Checking, providing advice and direction, challenging and auditing can overtake the restorative, reflective and learning nature of the session. Either practitioner may become disempowered, both within supervisory relationships and the whole safeguarding system.

Serious case reviews frequently identify lack of challenge between professionals as an issue; the capacity to challenge involves practitioners feeling empowered and confident to do so.

Restorative safeguarding supervision aims to mitigate the risk of micro-management, and to be a balanced process focused on supporting and enabling practitioners to use the critical thinking skills that are needed for safe practice. The model proposes that developing resilience and enabling practitioners to work positively with emotions is not an optional extra within safeguarding, but a fundamental aspect of the supervisory relationship.


Working with emotions in supervision

Difficult emotions are often evoked due to the nature and content of work with children and families. The negative context that is often associated with child protection work means that there can be a constant feed of media attention and workers may often experience self-doubt.

The capacity of professionals to remain resilient within their role depends on their support systems. Supervision can be used to manage negative emotions and to use emotional responses positively as a tool to understand any issues in the family that may be impacting on the care of a child. For example, where a member of staff is experiencing anxiety or fear, what might this be saying about the experience of the child within that family environment?

Alongside support for the practitioner, supervision provides an opportunity for the organisation to be assured that safeguarding practitioners are competent, any factors that might be inhibiting good practice (both individual and organisational) are identified and acted upon, and there is a clear focus on improving outcomes for people at risk of harm.

Implications for practice

The core of the restorative safeguarding supervision model is providing the containment that is needed to allow practitioners to think. The restorative skills of the supervisor provide a safe space that allows for challenge and critical reflection, as well as for promoting the use of the four elements of the supervision cycle from the 4x4x4 model of supervision (Morrison 2005; Wonnacott 2014) to enable the integration of case management with practitioner support and the critical reflection and thinking necessary to promote good, safe practice (see graphic).

The model was used as the basis for the national training programme for supervisors of newly qualified social workers. The final evaluation of the project (Carpenter et al., 2012) found that where those being supervised had received their full entitlement to supervision, outcomes in respect of self-efficacy, role clarity, role conflict, job satisfaction and stress were higher than in situations where supervision was only partially implemented. The clearest positive difference was in relation to decreased stress.


Related resources

Leeds Family Valued: Evaluation Report, Spring Consortium, July 2017

Creating Strong Communities in North East Lincolnshire: Evaluation Report, Spring Consortium, July 2017

Restorative Justice and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Children in the Youth Justice System, Restorative Justice Council, February 2017

Caring Dads, Safer Children: Evaluation Report, NSPCC, March 2016

Daybreak Family Group Conferencing: Evaluation Report, 2007-10

Related resources by Research in Practice

Working Effectively With men in Families: Frontline Briefing, July 2017

Working Effectively With men in Families: Frontline Tool, July 2017

Young Person-centred Approaches In CSE - Promoting Participation and Building Self-Efficacy, June 2017

Reflective Supervision: Resource Pack, April 2017

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