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How poetry can be used to enhance social workers’ reflection and self-care

A new wellbeing project is to be launched to explore how poetry can support Scotland’s social workers.

14/08/22

How poetry can be used to enhance social workers’ reflection and self-care

A new project exploring how poetry can aid reflection, self-care and rejuvenation for adult social work and social care staff is to be launched in Scotland.

Poetry for Wellbeing will be delivered in partnership by the Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW), Scottish Poetry Library (SPL) and the Universities of Edinburgh and Stirling.

The programme will include a series of poetry workshops that will explore ways in which practitioners can use poetry to support mental wellbeing. The workshops will be used to form a toolkit of materials for all social work and social care practitioners to run their own poetry wellbeing groups and aid “reflection, self-care and rejuvenation”.

Supported by funding from the Scottish Government’s Workforce Wellbeing Fund for Adult Social Work and Social Care, the initiative has been developed in response to increasing pressures experienced by social work and social care workers.

Sarah McMillan, Social Worker and Professional Officer for SASW, said social workers face high levels of stress and, though this is nothing new, there are always opportunities for new ways to address the impact.

“We all know about the pressures social workers are under. High caseloads and scarce resources are just some of the sources of daily pressure,” Sarah wrote in a blog post.

“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. Whilst SASW is focussed on achieving improved working conditions for social workers, there is also a role for us 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.”

Recent research, such as the Setting the Bar report, concluded that “the values to which social workers are deeply committed to are compromised, with wellbeing impacts, making the job no longer tenable.”

In that report, more than three quarters (78%) of the 1500 social workers surveyed said that high administrative workload was the least satisfying part of their work, followed by lack of time for preventative work (65%) and high caseloads (47%). Four in five social workers (81%) reported that they spent less than a tenth of their time on training, learning and development.

“Social workers do complex work that can often be emotionally draining,” SASW National Director, Alison Bavidge said. “We know from Setting the Bar that the challenges of the post-pandemic world are placing even greater demands on social workers. The cost-of-living crisis may cause this to worsen as demand for public sector support increases.”

“It is therefore crucial for social workers to have strategies to process difficult experiences and emotions and enhance their self-care. Poetry for Wellbeing will provide a unique outlet for this to happen by harnessing the benefits of creative writing.”

“While the workshops will be for practitioners working in adult social work and social care, the toolkit will be designed as a resource for all social work and social care workers. SASW is grateful for the funding that has been made available to get this project off the ground and is looking forward to collaborating with partners to deliver it.”
Asif Khan, Director of the Scottish Poetry Library, said they were pleased to be working on the initiative using the power of poetry to improve mindfulness and self-compassion.

“There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating how poetry can be an effective tool in supporting positive mental wellbeing. It promotes reflection and discussion and acts as a source of emotional support.”

“The funding to support the roll-out of the workshops over the coming months is very welcome and we’re excited to see how the toolkit takes shape from these sessions. Hopefully this will lead to a valuable and popular resource that social workers can benefit from and develop for many years to come.”

To find out more contact sarah.mcmillan@basw.co.uk

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