Hello, and welcome to this week’s Friday Poem. I’ve not yet been swimming this week – if you consider the week starting on a Monday (I know there is some controversy about this – the ‘flat earth’ believers say the week starts on a Thursday afternoon at 2:17pm). Due to family admin, I’ve not had the time to go and swim, so I am having to wait until tomorrow morning to get back to the pool. But fear not – my sexy six-pack is now not obscured by fresh layers of flab. It’s obscured by the flab that has always been there.
As regular readers of this blog will know, I take inspiration for my poems from life in the majority of cases. Occasionally, the poems are pure fiction – but even then there is an element of the factual to the concept or theme.
This week’s poem is definitely inspired by real events. My Fiancee went to a conference in London this week, where the title was “#Next Stage Radicals” (check it out on Twitter). At this conference there was a goldfish bowl discussion between 5 Senior managers (CEO’s, Directors etc.) who were all called Bob (Goldfish). I’m joking – a goldfish bowl discussion is one that takes place infront of an audience so everyone can see and hear.
In this discussion, the CEO of a council in the North of England, spoke about how when he joined the council there was a problem with people not being able to pay their council tax, and in fact many were in arrears and were being chased for the money which wasn’t very successful but was time consuming and costly to the council. This new CEO came in and asked a very simple question: What if the fact that people were behind with their council tax payments was a trigger that something else was going on – rather than being wanton deceit or laziness?
To test this, they picked someone at random – a woman who was in arrears, on benefit but still struggling and went to visit her. They found that the woman was struggling to pay all her bills, including having enough for food. She told them that she had tried to get another job so she could pay off her debt, but had to give that up because her neighbour was very unpleasant and intimidating to her and her son, and to anyone who she asked to stay with her son while she went to work at the second job. She couldn’t afford a bus pass for her son to get to school, so he had to walk two miles to and from school. She didn’t have enough to buy a uniform for him. The woman added that she wanted to move house closer to her son’s school, but she was in rent arrears and the council had a policy of not allowing tenants to move if they are in rent arrears. The woman was clearly in a vicious circle and was struggling.
The CEO saw how the system was failing. Sending chasing letters to this woman was not going to get the arrears paid. So he decided to change things. He got rid of the rule about tenants in arrears not being able to move, and actually helped the woman and her son move to closer to the school, and away from the abusive neighbour. They found that the benefits she received were completely out of date and wrong. The council paid for the son’s Uniform (about £90). These small acts allowed the woman to get her second job, and start to pay off her rent and council tax arrears. Her son – who had previou ly been “known” to social services because of the downward spiral he was in – started making improvements and eventually was no longer “known”.
Of course, things were not as simple as I have described. It was a very complicated situation. And yet, such a difference was made by choosing to ignore what was apparent, and take a different viewpoint. I think it’s a brilliant thing, and would hope that it happens more often.
So that is what has inspired this poem.
I hope you like it.
Start With The Person
What if we did things differently?
How about we buck the trend?
Who’s up for throwing out the guide book
And starting things again?
Who says things have to be the way they are,
What makes it black and white?
Does because it’s what we’ve always done
Automatically make it right?
The world moves at a frantic pace
And the people with it too.
What once was thought of as best practice
May now not be actually true.
But change is always risky,
of that I will admit
But if making change is the right thing
Then shouldn’t we do it?
Our starting point must be people;
We build relationships and trust
Nothing else is as important
For in the end we turn to dust.
And like dust, all the savings
And financial gain we sought
Will disappear upon the breeze
And ultimately count for nought.
So who’s for a new direction?
Where are the pioneers?
Let’s work towards light and hope
And walk away from fear