Experimental investigation into optimising the quality of social work decisions in professional supervision

Angela Jenkinson Completed   2019


This project will promote an effective adult social care workforce by ascertaining the optimum conditions for joint social worker and supervisor decision-making and recommending means of systematising these. Decision-making is a core task for social workers. Social workers are accountable for their decisions to the Health and Care Professions Council. Supervision is considered the cornerstone of safe social work practice, because it is believed to promote decision-making quality (i.e., increasing conformance to professional standards and diminishing biases). However, the evidence base for supervision effectiveness is weak.

This project will develop a repository of experimental evidence of the impact of decision settings on decision quality in social work. Decision quality will be measured as:

  • The conformance to professional standards (e.g. user’s legal right to social care);
  • The absence of decision-making biases, posited to predict decision quality in social work (e.g., ‘no action’, ‘confirmation’ and ‘responsibility diffusion’ biases).

Decision quality will be tracked with and without supervision and where social workers have a preferred course of action or have made a prior decision. Findings, decision-making standards and case scenarios will be disseminated through the Chief Social Worker’s office, Principal Social Worker and Quality Assurance Leads Networks, workshops and publications.