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

Angela Jenkinson Completed   2019


Social workers in adult social care make decisions about adults in need of care and support when, for example, they might not be the best judge of their own well-being, or they might need assistance with well-being relating to protection from abuse or neglect. Their decision-making must at minimum comply with the decision rules of the Care Act 2014.


Social workers often make decisions in consultation with a supervisor. This study sought to provide empirical evidence of the effect of the experience of supervision on social workers’ decision-making on fictional cases, to explore their reasoning for their decisions, and how compliant with legal frameworks their decisions were.


Two phases tested whether the psychological experience of the structure of a supervision session would have an effect on the quality of social workers’ decision-making using case vignettes.

A third phase explored why social workers were making the decisions they made and the rules they relied on.


  • The supervision experience had no effect on social workers’ decision-making about case vignettes presented in the study.
  • Social workers participating in the study appeared not to recognise that the Care Act 2014 includes a counselling type of social work role and rarely decided to provide the individuals with this.
  • Social workers’ answers often assumed that the Care Act 2014 prohibited them from intervening when there were grounds to suspect that a person might not be the best judge of their well-being or when following their wishes might not promote their well-being, even where these appeared to adversely impact on their well-being.
  • Social workers did not recognise that the Care Act requires well-being related to protection to be promoted through the assessment and related care plan, nor that the assessment must be completed and eligible needs met if an adult is at risk of abuse or neglect, even if the adult does not wish this.


Jenkinson A, Chamberlain J (2019) Social Workers’ Knowledge and Skills and the Care Act: Practice Advice Note, NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce, The Policy Institute, King’s College London.

Optimising the quality of social work decisions in supervision
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