Protective support and supportive protection: Critical reflections on safe practice and safety in supervision

Devaney, Carmel
Mc Gregor, Caroline
Devaney, Carmel, & Gregor, Caroline Mc. (2022). Protective Support and Supportive Protection: Critical Reflections on Safe Practice and Safety in Supervision. Social Sciences, 11(7), 312,
This paper was based on a framework for practice and supervision based on `protective-support and supportive-protection¿ (PS-SP) that can be used to discuss and plan for practice in a way that maximises the capacity of workers in child protection and welfare (CPW) services to provide support and protection simultaneously. The framework is underpinned by a long-established assumption about social work in child protection and welfare as a socio-legal practice of mediation in the social. The PS-SP framework was initially developed within an ecological context with a focus on networks and networking. In this paper, we developed this framework further, framing practice supervision using four functions of supervision (management, support, development, and mediation) and including a fifth component on safety. We did this alongside a review of related considerations around safety in supervision in general and in child protection and welfare in particular. While noting the important contribution of this work, we identified ongoing gaps for supervision focused on safety when considered within an ecological context. Bearing in mind the well-evidenced stress, challenges, and vicarious nature of child protection and welfare practice, we argued the importance of a wider framework based on PS-SP for supervision and support to manage this complexity with a particular emphasis on `safety¿ as a contribution to this. To illustrate our framework and discussion, we referred to a case study throughout. This case study is drawn from a high-profile child abuse inquiry in Ireland over a decade ago. This case was chosen as it demonstrates the complex interplay of needs for support and protection over extended time. We considered how the PS-SP framework may be used in the present (hypothetically) regarding such a case scenario.
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