Responsibility of supervisors to support staff
If you are the supervisor of a team of child protection caseworkers you will feel a great responsibility to offer them support - particularly during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, if you are a team leader or manager of any other group of service providers - including community members and volunteers - or others working to provide support and protection to children, the information in this course step should be of interest to you.
In this course step we have taken guidance issued by a number of international child protection agencies and social services networks - including the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW). This guidance includes advice on any necessary adaptation to working practices during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as issues of safety and well-being. You can find some of the technical guidance that has been issued in the ‘See Also’ section at the bottom of this course step.
Supporting staff and consideration for their well-being
It is important a supervisor prioritises the health, safety, mental health and general well-being of team members. To do this, please think about the following:
- Create a regular time when staff can be in contact with their supervisor either in person or remotely. This might be by phone, or using Skype or WhatsApp, for example. During meetings make time to discuss personal well-being and any concerns or needs there might be
- Monitor staff well-being and ensure there is an environment in which staff feel able to talk about their mental health and other concerns. You might want to look at information made available on the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies website
- Work with the team to determine the best ways of keeping motivation and team cohesion - especially if everyone is working remotely
- Encourage peer-support amongst colleagues
- Provide accurate and regularly updated information to everyone. This can help with any concerns and uncertainty
- Make sure staff have time to rest and take time for activities that contribute to their own well-being. Ensure they have the time they need to provide for their family and undertake other personal responsibilities. Creating a staff rota system ensuring everyone has time off will help with this. Let staff know they should take time off if they are ill
- Share resources and ideas for managing stress and maintaining emotional well being. This might be ideas for exercise and healthy eating, contact details where they can get psychological support etc.
- Ensure all team members have clear contact information on who to reach out to when necessary – including in any emergency situation.
And also think about the resources staff may need to carry out their work as, for example:
- Equipment for communication and remote follow-up including appropriate devices and internet connection - e.g. smartphones and tablets, credit, batteries, solar panel etc.
- Transport if public transport is no longer available and/or not safe to use
- If needed, ensure community members working with you to provide support to children and their families have the equipment they need to contact the case worker e.g. phones, credit/airtime, etc.
- Access to emergency funds for any additional costs that might be incurred - either for children and their caregivers or for the caseworkers themselves.
Health of the work force
Please ensure the safety of staff you are supervising is a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will discuss safety in further detail in the next course step but briefly this includes:
- Providing staff with the personal protection equipment (PPE) they need to fulfill their work. You can find more information on PPE issued by the UK Government here.
- Providing teams with regular, updated information on COVID-19 and safe working practices that have been verified by reputable sources such as the World Health Organisation. Limit the amount of shared information to avoid overload - and make sure staff fully understand information and are able to ask questions.
Staff should be aware of situations that might threaten their own safety and security, and they must be able to make informed and well considered choices in such circumstances. Workers should not be compelled to act when it would put themselves at risk. So, for example, in the absence of necessary PPE, so as to minimise the risk of infection, carry out an assessment of the situation with the concerned team member and assess the balance of risk to them - and the vulnerability of those they are planning to visit. You can find further information in this British Association of Social Workers practice guidance for home visits during COVID-19 pandemic.