Binks Hub launch of a new “Poetry for Wellbeing” toolkit for social workers

A collaboration between Binks Hub co-director Dr Autumn Roesch-Marsh, Dr Arianne Critchley (University of Stirling), Sam Tongue (the Scottish Poetry Library), the Scottish Association for Social Work (SASW), poets, and social workers across Scotland has resulted in a new “Poetry for Wellbeing” toolkit for social workers. 

The toolkit offers a practical guide to running your own poetry group, with an emphasis on how reading and writing poetry can support positive mental health, and is available for anyone to use and download.

Within it, you’ll find guidance on how to run your own poetry for wellbeing workshops, including: 

  • Session outlines
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions for discussion
  • Writing exercises
  • Other poetry resources

The ideas and exercises were all tested out with a group of social workers in a series of poetry workshops with poets John Glenday and Marjorie Lotfi, with those who took part describing the workshops as “nourishing”, “fun”, “relaxing”, and “inspiring”. 

Although the toolkit was developed for social workers, the exercises will work well for anyone who works with people, addressing the challenges that come with that and offering a way to come home to ourselves.

Why this toolkit is needed: mental health support for social workers

Against a backdrop of difficult working conditions for social workers, this kind of support is much needed. SASW surveys indicate just how much of a toll this is taking within the profession in recent years, with findings including:

  • Overall stress scores for social workers are much higher than the UK average
  • Over a third of social workers have either cried or felt unwell at work at least once a week
  • In Scotland, 50% describe their current caseload as “not at all” manageable
  • Over half of social workers express being slightly or extremely dissatisfied in their job
  • One third of social workers said that they wanted to leave the profession entirely

While poetry isn’t a quick fix-all and doesn’t replace the need for robust mental health services, it can be a tool we can use to help support ourselves.

How the project got started

The project was inspired by the launch of the Scottish Poetry Library’s collection ‘Tools of the Trade’ – a collection of poems for new doctors – when Autumn immediately wondered why nothing like this existed for social workers.

Autumn, Ariane, and Sam (pictured above) subsequently ran a poetry competition for social workers (you can read the winning entries here), followed by a series of workshops throughout the pandemic for social workers across the UK.

From those workshops, the idea of a toolkit was born; and we’re now proud to present a toolkit that makes poetry accessible to social workers everywhere.

Congratulations to all involved in the toolkit!


The Binks Hub will work with communities to co-produce a programme of research and knowledge exchange that promotes social justice, relational research methods and human flourishing.

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