Exploring the state of social work supervision in South Africa
Ramabulana-Ndzuta, Joyce Shonisani
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This study explored the state of social work supervision in South Africa, looking at how it is experienced by both social workers and supervisors. The empirical study was conducted in the Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West Provinces. The research sites were the service offices of the Department of Social Development (DSD). The research adopted a mixed-methods approach underpinned by a convergent parallel research design: the researcher collected qualitative and quantitative data concurrently. Questionnaires were administered on the same day on which the semi-structured interviews were conducted. The findings of the study suggest that social work supervision is lacking in a number of areas. One of the areas of concern for social workers is that supervision, as it is currently applied, does not offer them the support they need. The study revealed that (a) supervisors were not able to support social workers as they themselves were not adequately prepared for the position of supervision by way of training, and (b) just like social workers who felt unsupported, supervisors also continuously felt unsupported by their managers. Furthermore, it became clear that both social workers and supervisors had limited understanding of the approaches applied in social work supervision. This included a lack of understanding of the strengths-based approach which the researcher had chosen as the theoretical framework for the study. The findings also revealed a lack of policies to guide how supervision should be applied. Except for the Supervision Framework for the Social Work Profession in South Africa (DSD & SACSSP, 2012), participants did not know of any other policy regarding social work supervision. Consequently, there are no measures in place to monitor the implementation of social work supervision which results in it being applied inconsistently – and, in some instances, not being applied at all.