Code of Conduct in Practice #3: Social Work Supervision  

  • How often should I be having supervision?
  • Do I need a supervision contract?
  • What do I do if my supervisor is away for a long period of time?
  • What does the SWRB Code of Conduct say about supervision? 


Supervision is central to the practice of social work. It is a professional, relational process between supervisor and supervisee.  Supervision enables reflective critical analysis and underpins quality social work services. Supervision should be a safe and supportive place for the supervisee to raise complex ethical issues, complaints from clients, personal and professional boundary concerns, and other sensitive matters.

This guidance note provides regulatory advice about supervision for both supervisors and supervisees. There are also questions to consider for further reflection on this topic. 


During the investigation of notifications received by the Social Workers Registration Board (SWRB), issues relating to supervision can emerge. Sometimes, a supervisor is asked to provide assurance to the Board that the social worker’s practice is robust and ethical. When there has been inadequate or infrequent supervision, or when difficult or complex practice issues have not been discussed during supervision, the supervisor is less able to provide that assurance. When the supervisor has clear sight of the issues raised by a supervisee, they can offer a very helpful endorsement when a social worker is the subject of a complaint or notification.

Notifications by supervisors

If supervisors have concerns about a supervisee’s competence, there is a two-step process:

  1. The first step is to help the social worker to improve their competence.
  2. If the supervisor is still concerned after working with the social worker on their competence, then these concerns must be reported to the SWRB.

Role of supervision following a notification

A possible outcome of the complaints and notifications process may be for the SWRB to place conditions on a social worker. This could include the need to have more frequent supervision. The Board may also ask a supervisor to report on how competence standards have been addressed during supervision and help their supervisee to set goals for Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

The Code of Conduct 

The SWRB Code of Conduct (the Code) sets out the professional standards of integrity and conduct that apply to all social workers. The following principles are relevant to supervision:  

Principle 2: Respect the status of Māori as tangata whenua.

This includes ensuring that supervision is:

  • undertaken in a way that is culturally relevant if the supervisee is Māori
  • culturally relevant, safe and responsive to Māori clients.

Supervision should promote inclusive practice underpinned by Te Tiriti o Waitangi and a responsiveness to Māori. This is set out in the SWRB Supervision Expectations for Social Workers.

Principle 4: Be competent and responsible for your professional development.

This includes:

  • maintaining and improving your knowledge and skills
  • knowing and working within the limits of your own practice and seeking supervision and guidance where necessary
  • actively participating in supervision and critically reflecting on practice
  • being responsible for and engaging in, continuing professional development.

Supervision is a fundamental part of being a competent social worker. It enables you to reflect on your current practice and offers opportunities for learning and development. It helps you apply social work ethics, including Te Ao Māori values. Supervision also provides a context for ongoing clarification of values, and the exploration of ethical dilemmas and cultural issues. It offers an opportunity to seek help if your performance, practice or judgement is affected by emotional, mental and physical health concerns.  Both the SWRB and ANZASW have policies about supervision.

The SWRB expects you to have regular and appropriate supervision that occurs at least monthly. You must take an active part in supervision, be responsible for bringing issues to supervision, and be open and honest with your supervisor. Failure to undertake supervision is a breach of the SWRB Code of Conduct.

If supervision is not available to you for a period of time, such as your supervisor being away, then talk to your manager about seeking peer or external supervision opportunities, so you can meet your professional responsibilities. When you renew your Practising Certificate, you are required to declare that you are receiving regular supervision. The SWRB may also ask social workers to provide evidence of supervision and a contract for supervision if they are undertaking a competence assessment.  

Principle 10: Keep accurate records and use technology effectively and safely.

This includes keeping clear and accurate records.  

The expectation of keeping clear and accurate records also extends to supervision. Recording ideally should be a partnership between the supervisee and supervisor and both parties should maintain copies of the record. Supervision records at minimum should record the date of the meeting, the agenda, and decisions, and agreed actions. They should also record where there are areas of disagreement between the supervisor and supervisee.


Below are some questions that supervisors and supervisees may like to reflect on together:  

  1. Is our supervision supporting accountability to those we are working with and the social work profession?
  2. Is our supervision regular, uninterrupted and based on a negotiated contract?
  3. Do we discuss professional obligations such as record keeping and Continuing Professional Development?
  4. Are we maintaining a safe space for raising complex ethical issues, complaints from clients, personal and professional boundary concerns, and other sensitive matters?
  5. How are we maintaining and developing competence across the SWRB’s Core Competence Standards?


The contracted supervision relationship between a social worker and their supervisor is fundamental to ensuring safe and competent practice. It also supports the well-being and professional development of the practitioner. As a registered social worker, you are expected to have regular and appropriate supervision. Failure to undertake supervision is a breach of the SWRB Code of Conduct.

Related Advice  

Social Workers Registration Board Ngā Ture Whanonga/Code of Conduct

SWRB Supervision Expectations for Social Workers

ANZASW Supervision Policy 2016

ANZASW Supervision Contract Template

Oranga Tamariki Practice Centre Guidance on Supervision