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Quality Supervision key to retention of social workers IASW Press Release

  • 16 Jun 2016

The Irish Association of Social Worker’s National Social Work Conference on Friday June 17th will be focusing on Promoting Best Practice in Social Work Supervision. The IASW, the professional body for social workers in Ireland, believes this is a timely response to the recent questions around social work practice, risk management and staff burnout in child protection social work in particular. However, no area of social work be it mental health, disabilities or safeguarding vulnerable adults, is insulated from these issues.

Dónal O’Malley, Chairperson of the IASW said “Good quality supervision is key, not just in helping social workers manage busy caseloads and the risks contained within, but good supervision affords social workers the time and space to critically reflect on their work. This is essential for maintaining high standards in service delivery and also in retaining staff and preventing burnout. Research has shown that staff experience of supervision is inextricably linked to decisions about whether to stay in an organisation.

Unfortunately for many social workers, supervision can be overly managerial and prescriptive, driven by statutory requirements and risk management concerns with little room for reflection, learning and professional development.”

Associate Professor Liz Beddoe, University of Auckland, New Zealand has been secured as a keynote speaker and will focus on what we can learn from international research and practice. Recent research (2015) showed that ineffective supervision increases the risk of emotional exhaustion and of becoming hardened towards service users (Dr Paula McFadden, Queen’s University, Belfast & a keynote speaker at the Conference).

The IASW will also be launching a working document on Promoting Quality Social Work Supervision at the Conference, in response to the requests and needs of members for core standards in this area. Good social work supervision underpinned by reflective practice is key to high quality service provision and in particular, to ensuring that that social workers have the skills to understand and analyse complex cases, engage in critical thinking and provide safe and effective interventions.  High quality professional supervision is essential to equip a workforce ready and able to meet the many complex challenges of social work practice.


The IASW National Social Work Conference 2016 Promoting Best Practice in Social Work Supervision takes place in the Hogan Suite, Croke Park, Dublin from 9.30am on Friday, 17th June 2016. Download the full conference programme at Contact Dónal O’Malley at 086-8372511 or on  for further information. 


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