The Scottish Poetry Library has joined with project partners the Scottish Association of Social Work, and social work academics and poetry enthusiasts Dr Autumn Roesch-Marsh and Dr Ariane Critchley. We shall be delivering a project which will promote the use of poetry to enhance wellbeing for social workers in adult services. We are delighted to announce that we have been awarded a grant from the Workforce Wellbeing Fund for Adult Social Work and Social Care, which was announced by the Scottish Government earlier this year, to promote the wellbeing of staff in adult social work and social care.
The pressures social workers are under are many and varied. High caseloads and scarce resources are just some of the sources of daily pressure. SASW continues to campaign for improvements to working conditions and better recognition for the workforce. The mental, emotional, and physical energy social workers pour into building relationships which allows them to provide the support people need has always been demanding. The current challenges of the post-pandemic world and soaring cost of living are not making it any easier. Now more than ever we need to support our social work workforce so that they continue to have the strength to be there for those who need them. There is a role for this partnership in supporting social workers to develop strategies to process the emotional impact of the complex work they do. This new project brings an opportunity to harness creativity as a means of processing experiences and emotions.
The project will deliver a series of six workshops for social workers in adult services in which they can explore poetry as an aid to reflection, self-care, and rejuvenation. The workshops will be facilitated by project partners and guest poets. Participants will be able to share approaches to wellbeing from their respective workplaces and will be encouraged to take their learning into their own teams and local practice communities to foster creative workplace approaches to wellbeing.
The project will result in the development of a set of materials which can be used in the future by social workers to run their own poetry wellbeing groups.
There is a growing evidence base which links poetry to wellbeing. It can help in the development of empathy and compassion, including self-compassion, which can be a strategy to improve mental well-being. Poetry can also be a tool for reflection and discussion, as well as a source of emotional support. For these reasons poetry is increasingly being used as a tool in social work education. The University of Edinburgh, for example, promotes the use of poetry in its Creative Social Work and the Arts course. This article, published in 2020 (Critchley, A. and Roesch-Marsh, A.) provides a helpful overview of the effectiveness of poetry as an aide to wellbeing.
Social workers face high levels of stress. This is nothing new. However, we are always looking for new ways to address the impact. One of these is the use of poetry. Whether you’re new to reading and writing poetry, or you have already experienced its positive effect, or are just curious to find out more, look out for details of the workshops coming soon. They will be open initially to social workers in adult services, but we envisage that once the toolkit is developed it can be offered as a resource to all social workers and those working in social care.
Note from the SPL:
In 2020/1 the Scottish Poetry Library worked alongside the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Napier University on a poetry anthology for newly qualified social workers in Scotland-from which the social work project above came from.
The original project built on the success of similar projects such as Tools of the Trade: Poems for new Doctors and To Learn the Future: Poems for Teachers. After a callout for work that reflected upon the many issues that social workers face in their professional lives, we received many poems. Some came from social workers themselves, others from people who have used social services. They all provide creative insight into the complex threads that make up our common life together.
You can read these poems here.