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The power of relationship-based supervision in supporting social work retention: A case study from long-term ethnographic research in child protection

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  • Lisa Warwick
  • Liz Beddoe
  • Jadwiga Leigh
  • Tom Disney
  • Harry Ferguson
  • Tarsem Singh Cooner
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/09/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Qualitative Social Work
Issue number5
Number of pages20
Pages (from-to)879-898
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date7/09/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Supervision is a core component of professional support and development in social work. In many settings, and perhaps particularly in children’s services, it is valued as crucial in safe decision-making, practice reflection, professional development and staff support. Research has demonstrated that supervision and staff support also contribute to social worker retention in child welfare services. Drawing on data gathered in a 15-month ethnographic, longitudinal study of child protection work that included observations of supervision, we were able to observe the impact of supportive supervisory relationships on social workers’ decision-making about staying in their current workplace. This article presents a single case that demonstrates the potential impact of effective relationship-based supervision on retention and calls for a more humane approach to social work supervision against dominant managerial themes that have increasingly burdened the profession.