Tick Boxing

Fit To Work: Poets Against Atos,   has been publishing new poems every couple of days since April 1st. As mentioned in my previous blog post, the aim is to highlight this government’s cruelty (as outsourced via Atos) toward some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Two of my poems were published on May Day

My second poem on the site, Work Capability is entirely “found” – by running those two words through an anagram generator – then sifting the (thousands!) of results. (Not recommended as “good poetry” but interesting in this mechanised, non-human, spurious data context, I hope.)

The first poem, Tick Boxing, is also partly a found poem; the questions and boxes to tick are directly from one of the government’s assessment questionnaires. Reading through the dense pages of questions, the final (in my poem; I only took a small sample) regarding the capability of lifting “a large light object like an empty cardboard box” set the poem. The responses are from myself as poet and stray into songs and infant school chant.

You can hear me reading/singing the poem (with apologies for the “singing”) here:

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10 Responses to Tick Boxing

  1. Great to hear ‘Tick Boxing’ again, Myfanwy ~ a thought-provoking poem, perfect for ATOS :)

  2. James Oxenholme says:

    Hi Myfanwy, though I have strong political disagreements with you about the poem’s stance, I do loathe form-filling, so empathy there with those who are so required. Apropos the poem per se, I do think it very well done; also, it sounds much better read by you than it looks on the page – thanks for the audio-post. I thought it won’t work when I read it but hearing your reading, I was completely wrong. I am very pleased it has been so successful on the live poetry circuit, too. Go for it! :)

    • Myfanwy Fox says:

      Cheers, James. Delighted you find the poem works when read aloud.

      But why do you not like the poem’s stance? It is protesting about the bullying of those who already struggle to cope through no fault of their own. “There but for the grace of God go I,” as my mum would quote. When there are dozens of able-bodied people chasing each vacant job, why is this government wasting our money bullying those less abled to “find work”? It’s a demeaning, bullying culture of fear; I know because so many of my volunteers at work are on the receiving end. Their health problems, far from disappearing (“Atos is the new Lourdes: you come out miraculously cured” as the joke goes) are worsened by stress and anxiety.

      Why are we wasting huge resources on this project when we could spend the money on getting YOUNG people into jobs? These are the cohort that, if neglected, will never work and will cause huge problems in the – sufficiently distant, so Cameron and Clegg and co will be long-gone – future. And these are the cohort that will be paying for our pensions – if there is still such a thing by then.

  3. James Oxenholme says:

    Hi Myfanwy, thank you.

    I don’t see how restricting benefits is bullying (that is different from defending a firm which may or may not operate ethically). Benefits are payments for welfare of monies to which people are not entitled, save for the humane legislation of the state. They represent a transfer payment from the haves to the have-nots. That is fine but such payments need to be very tightly controlled somehow – and have been exploited often. Now, I appreciate that such controls are an inconvenience to those who genuinely deserve these payments but we all pay the price for others’ behaviour (if no one committed crime, we could have a tiny police force and shopping bills would be much cheaper, etc).

    I think, as most of those who work from a socialist perspective, you are putting the horse before the proverbial cart. Spending money on young people or disabled people etc is all “dead” money at the time. If we only opted for genuine investments, yes we might train young people to a higher standard but we would certainly end almost all welfare payments and state pensions. There is no point in training young people for anything if we have no jobs for them. We will have no employment unless we keep wages reasonable. One very inflationary aspect of wages is taxation taken from them (plus other (indirect) taxes people pay later). Now welfare costs an astronomical amount in this country. We need to drastically reduce HMG borrowing then maybe cut people’s taxes somewhat to reduce the upward pressure on wages. Something has to give – as it is, we are in such a pickle that almost every aspect of HMG spending is being cut – and welfare, the least productive of all (save, I agree, admin), needs to be drastically slashed. In truth, HMG is only tinkering with it.

    In a lovely, Utopian Maxist world, we’d all have enough resources and everyone who needed welfare would receive all they needed. It doesn’t exist and we have to pay our way. We’re in cut-throat competition with the USA, the EU, BRIC and the following acronyms (eg RSA, Australia etc). If we lose few will have jobs and everyone will be in trouble. That won’t help the poor nor the young in any way.

    Finally, I blame the Labour HMG much more than the Coalition – look at the despicable mess they left the country in. Blaming the present HMG is lazy thinking. Their room for manoeuvre is tiny and, actually, they have cut far less than they needed to to help the economy precisely because of the mess Labour made.

    (At various times I have voted: Conservative, Labour, LibDem, UKIP, Independent). I am affiliated to none and speak from an economic perspective – my own economic perspective – rather than that of any party.)

    Still a good poem, though and a brill spoken one :)

    • Myfanwy Fox says:

      James, I am quite willing to concede that welfare is expensive and that we need to be as efficient about it as possible. (Please note that by far the biggest expense is pensions. Disability accounts for a small percentage.)

      My argument in the case of the Atos scheme is that it is NOT going to save any money for us.

      This is my objection: it is a pretence that it will save any money. In the name of that pretence it has become government policy to encourage demonisation of the less-abled in our society. People already at risk now have hatred heaped upon them.

      At best it redirects money from the disabled to Atos and the other private companies who deal in “back to work schemes”. Numerous reports show that such companies cream off the likely candidates and “park” the majority. Oversight of such projects is a major weakness.

      These schemes are expensive and inefficient.

      So social funding is being switched from social welfare to private companies. Quite how does that help anyone? – other than the shareholders of those companies.

      Of course, the Audit Commission is also axed, which conveniently means will be probably never know accurate figures for what has really been wasted.

      Meanwhile, our most vulnerable citizens are hounded. If there are not jobs for the abled, there are certainly none for the less-abled.

      Not sure of the exact figures but I think I am being generous to the government if I suggest we have less than a million jobs available; over two million officially unemployed; over SIX million “UNDER-employed”. The latter being people who are on “zero hours” contracts, part time and so on. They are not in the unemployment figures but they cannot live on their earned income and are either – in my case – lucky to have a partner who has a “proper” job or they are on top-up benefits already.

  4. I think what works very well in this poem (read or recited) is the contrast between the insanity in the supposedly logical, sane questions and the sanity in the manic/ insanity of the people expected to answer.
    As I mentioned on facebook, one symptom of a friend’s depression is her inability to cope or face filling in forms yet to get any help, the doctor hands her a form and tells her, without it she can’t be referred. So the form sits in her kitchen gathering dust and she doesn’t get the help she needs.
    And in response to James – maybe if there was more control on “economic migrants” being allowed into this country, there would be more jobs, housing etc available to those who need it. All very well telling people to get a job in a climate where so many are being made redundant and there are no “safe” jobs any more. Last year, half my colleagues were made redundant. Yesterday another friend had to interview for the job she’s been doing for 6 years. Either she or another girl will be made redundant. What choice do these people have but to claim benefits until they can find something else (if they can).

    • Myfanwy Fox says:

      Hi Darkdreamer, Lovely to see you.

      Thank you! Yes, that bonkers “sanity” with it’s cheery wording belying its purpose was what got to me as I read and re-read the forms.

      I do hope someone can help your friend with her forms. I suppose we all hate them but I know some people can be phobic about them (I know two, myself). One of my dearest friends was working for Age Concern and a large part of that was helping them access what was available but they had no idea. Lots of form-filling, document finding and so on. But she had to give up to deal with her own elderly parents. :(

      There are no safe jobs. It’s crazy that so much talent and education can be wasted.

      As for “trickle down”, I think that means they are pissing on us as they laugh.


  5. James Oxenholme says:

    Hi Myfanwy. I really don’t want to remove the focus from your poem to the political points nor elsewhere, so I’ll be very brief this time.

    Thanks for your reply. We’ll certainly agree that, if Government is adopting false economies, such is bad. We’ll also agree that vulnerable people need careful handling. And I personally have major reservations about many of the private mega-contracts issued by central government. But I still think we’ll have major disagreements about the extent of the welfare state and my strong view that wealth creation should always come before wealth distribution; income before fairness. If a Marxist economy worked that would be great. But…

    Anyway, I say it again – great poem, especially when performed. well done :)

  6. James Oxenholme says:

    PS Darkdreamer – Hi

    I entirely agree. I am a strong supporter of many UKIP policies (though, yet again, have sufficient disagreements not to join them). I would ban virtually all immigration and leave the EU. But I would also strongly incentivize people to have no more than two children etc. We are very over-populated and our jobs are threatened by new people – be they immigrants or home-bred.

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