Great interest and need for supervision in the centres for social work

By empowering and strengthening the self-confidence of professionals through professional support, to improving the quality of service and increasing user satisfaction

Almir Panjeta for UNICEF
Veliki interes i potreba za supervizijom u centrima za socijalni rad
18 October 2021

"I am glad that after 10 years of waiting, it is time for us to show somewhere what we know and what we can offer to professional workers, and that is supervision in psycho-social work," said Andrea Puhalić, associate professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Banja Luka and the President of the Association of Supervisors in BiH, at the beginning of the recently held Intervision Meeting entitled: "Evaluation of the process of supervisory practice in the centres for social work in the Republika Srpska".

"For the past four months, our supervisors have led supervision groups and that way best promoted supervision, because we can say what we want, but what is in the field is the most important and the best indicator of what supervision can give and how to contribute," she explains and adds that field experiences have shown how enormous the desire and need for continued supervision is.

"In four months, we have prepared the programme, the curriculum and the education programme, the signing of the agreement, the supervision practice - with our holders of MA in supervision, so that they actually already provide supervision in the centres for social work – each of them in two, and that's just the beginning. This requires more time, we need more supervisors, and we need more supervision," says Professor Andrea Puhalić. 

The mentioned Intervision Meeting was organized within the project "Implementation of supervision in the social protection system in Republika Srpska, through support for the development of supervisory education and practice" implemented by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Republika Srpska and the Association of Supervisors in BiH with the support of UNICEF BiH and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, SDC.


Intervizijski sastanak
Adrea Puhalic

"We are in the phase of having an accepted education programme for supervision at the Faculty of Political Sciences, we have the support of our faculty, it is officially an education programme at the Faculty, we will organize the entrance exam in early October, and the first lectures at the end of October. After two years of study, we will get 24 supervisors trained, and when, in addition to these eight, we have 32 of them, we can cover centres for social work first hand, and ensure that each centre for social work has a supervisor ", Professor Andrea Puhalić is optimistic.  

Branka Sladojević, head of the Department for Family and Child Protection at the RS Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, emphasizes the importance of supervision as a process of strengthening the capacity of social workers in social work centres, preventing burnout of professionals, protecting their mental health and improving service quality.

"We analyzed the situation, and realized that this is really necessary, that the work is difficult and keeps increasing, that the professional workers are faced with big problems, and we have sent inquiries to all centres and almost everyone said they wanted this and sent us their motivation letters. We asked the directors to state their opinion, because they need to introduce supervision in their institutions, and through this initiative we saw that they are really motivated, that they eagerly expect it and that it is necessary to preserve the mental health of professionals, and not to neglect the improvement of the very system of services in the social protection in the RS. Their motives were great, they are very interested, as well as the professionals themselves", says Branka Sladojević, emphasizing that most of the directors of the centres stated that the main goal for which they want to conduct supervision was relieving the workers, strengthening their professional capacities, empowering and strengthening their self-confidence, improving the quality of service, and of course highlighted the improvement of user satisfaction.

"In this way, they are relieved emotionally, the quality of their work is improved, they become more satisfied in some way, and by exchanging experiences, they experience personal development and progress. They become stronger as experts-professionals, protect their mental health, provide better service, and all this affects the improvement of social protection in RS. I think that through the process of supervision the dignity of professionals in centres for social work will improve, we will try to promote it, and for public opinion to understand the role of professionals, how hard and responsible their work is, what they give, what services they provide, and how important it is for our population", announces Branka Sladojević, adding that she hopes that the planned education at the Faculty of Political Sciences will be implemented.

Branka Sladojević, načelnica odjeljenja za porodičnu i dječiju zaštitu u Ministarstvu zdravlja i socijalne zaštite RS
Intervizijski sastanka pod nazivom: "Evaluacija procesa supervizijske prakse u centrima za socijalni rad u Republici Srpskoj

"It has been very well prepared and confirmed by eminent experts, authorities in this field. A memorandum on cooperation between the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the Faculty of Political Sciences was signed at the scientific-teaching council of the Faculty. This is a high quality two-year training that will give us another 24 supervisors and we will be able to cover the entire social protection system for the implementation and enforcement of supervision. We have a lot of interested people, about 80 people are interested, but for a start we are taking one step at a time and what we can realistically do, so this concept of introducing supervision in social protection as we imagined it is sustainable, with continuous education, training and improvement of social protection services."

Vladimir Makarić, Assistant Minister of Health and Social Welfare of RS, is also satisfied with the activities done so far, but also with the upcoming activities.

"I must especially emphasize my satisfaction and convey the satisfaction of the minister as well as colleagues in the department, because this is something that was obviously an urgent need in the social protection system. Research and analysis of the situation and needs in the social protection system and centres for social work have shown that supervision is something that is very much needed by our colleagues, professional workers in the field. Legislation in the RS concerning social protection also prescribes supervision as a type of support for professionals in the social protection system, so we have made a commitment to make an effort and find ways to introduce supervision into the social protection system, "says Vladimir Makarić, emphasizing that, like any other, this beginning was difficult too.

"Through dedicated work and good cooperation with the Faculty of Political Sciences and the Association of Supervisors of BiH and UNICEF, we managed to overcome the "beginner's mistakes" and in some way engage in serious activities that led to having an intervision meeting today where we can hear experiences from the field, what has been done, what is the feedback and see how we will continue to work on supervision in the future, and present a complete project or programme related to the introduction of supervision in the social protection system in RS, primarily in centres for social work, both through supervision in the centres, and in the part related to the training, i.e. education of future supervisors that will be carried out at the FPS", he adds, noting that everything done so far makes a serious foundation.

"We hope that our plans will come true, that this will result in mandatory supervision in the centres, i.e. providing supervision to professionals in the social protection system, and perhaps a postgraduate programme in political science studies where the programme for supervisors will be studied too."

Vladimir Makarić, pomoćnik Ministra zdravlјa i socijalne zaštite RS:

Andrea Puhalić says that a lot of people work and do their best to continue and implement the path they set out on, which means that every centre for social work and every institution of social protection has supervision in the scope and in a way that suits our social protection system, which is in line with the standards.

"Supervision is a form of professional support that strengthens both the personal and professional capacities of professionals to perform professional practice. Supervision has its application in assisting the work of all professional helpers. Not only to workers in social protection, but everywhere where professional workers-practitioners are involved in an intensive relationship with beneficiaries, and in the long run this intensive relationship is exhausting. Because users bring us various troubles, adversities, difficult feelings, we need to filter them and bring them back in some positive form, and what happens to us?", explains Andrea Puhalić, adding that the centres for social work have "the widest range of insights into the adversities people face, perhaps wider than any other service in society at all."

Branka Trivić, a graduate social worker with many years of experience in the centre for social work, and one of the supervisors who conducted supervision within the Project over the past four months, says that in addition to education and other types of professional training, supervision offers a new dimension of support.

"It means learning through the processing of one's own and other people's experience, which is very acceptable for use, especially when it is discussed in a group, when a person through experience gets a new tool to use, gets empowered to implement other work methodologies or other ideas for work. I think that we have a responsibility to promote supervision and its introduction into the system, and to enable continuity to the people to whom we have offered that experience, because from their experience the size of a group of people and the need reflected by colleagues from the centres have significantly increased. I believe that we are at the beginning of a big job to give every professional the opportunity to experience this type of support, and somehow expand their own competencies and insights into further work because in the end - we have a responsibility to clients and life that they practically put in our hands and we should not play either with our knowledge or our ignorance", says Branka Trivić, and her opinion on the importance of supervision is shared by the supervisor and social worker with many years of experience Anđelka Boljanović, who says that  to start with supervision was her dream come true.

"I had great pleasure and happiness when we started with supervision, considering that through many years of work in the centre for social work, I had the opportunity to see how much we all need supervision."

Sandra Kukić from the Child Protection Section at UNICEF BiH says that the whole initiative to design such a project came as a need to respond to the needs of professionals who are in the child protection system and who work on protection of children and families on a daily basis.

"The RS Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the BiH Association of Supervisors are cooperating in the implementation with the support of the Swiss Cooperation Agency (SDC). The special focus of the implemented activities is on supporting helpers, which, somewhere in the system, to me seems to be well recognized. In this case, we are talking about social workers, employed in the centres for social work in RS. It is encouraging to see that the need for professional supervision is taken very seriously, and that assisting helpers is recognized as an opportunity to continue to work multidisciplinary and support multisectoral cooperation so that we have a common goal towards a holistic approach to the needs of children, families and communities. Good support for professionals in child protection services is a long-term investment, and when we want to put the child in the centre, it is important to view supervision as a long-term investment in building the capacity of professionals too", concludes Sandra Kukić.