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-  2018 

The supervising social worker in an inner city: how practitioners perceive and experience their role

DOI: 10.1177/0308575918799008

Keywords: Supervising social workers,foster care support,social workers’ role,working in systems,relational social work

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One major responsibility of social workers is to supervise and support foster carers. This exploratory study examines how practitioners perform this role. The social workers’ experiences, attitudes and beliefs were explored in a focus group comprising five participants working in one local authority children’s service in a city in the East Midlands region of the UK. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to analyse the data and participants were invited to contribute to the analysis. The research design is collaborative and second order, with the researcher positioning herself as part of the research ‘system’, and the underlying epistemology is social constructionist. Three overarching themes emerged: difficulties and rewards in relating to foster carers, working with risk and uncertainty and working within a system, with professionalism and humanity identified as significant motivations for guiding practice. The themes are presented and their connection to the research literature and systemic theory is discussed. Narratives and hypotheses are also offered. The results suggest that practitioners experience discomfort when there is disjunction between their own values and objectives and those of the agency they work in and, conversely, that they enjoy satisfaction when these values and objectives cohere. Implications for practice are discussed with a suggestion that strengths-based and systemic practice models are the most likely to produce consensus and challenge the current shift towards a process driven welfare service. The study is idiographic in being specific to participants and context and provides a snapshot of the ‘lived experience’ of supervising social workers (SSWs) through a systemic lens. Despite its limited scope and the dearth of research in this area, the study provides a starting point for further investigation


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