“Death by 1000 Cuts” Reflective Poem

We asked our PTS Qualification students to express “What ‘System Change’ means to me”. Some interesting reflections from PTS Coach Shauna came via this moving poem we are sharing on #WorldPoetryDay.


A death by 1000 cuts. The government carelessly holds the knife and hides the murder, does anyone care or were they just a number?

A cut to benefits,

A slash to welfare.

A stab to community investment,

A puncture to public services.

How do we deal with the people who are wounded? Those who are injured by decisions made without their voices included.

We blame those who are bleeding rather than the ones holding the knife, influenced by a deficit system that should be scrutinised.

We hand out plasters rather than treating the injury, an unsustainable system which has led to a lack of sympathy.

People being stretchered through each system which reopens their wounds, adding in salt with the language they use.

Risk assessments resurfacing old scars rather than allowing people to heal. Everyone has a past, what’s the big deal?

People being attacked with assessment, tick boxes, and sanctions. Their experiences reduced to KPI’s for a funder’s satisfaction.

There are people looking for help but falling through the cracks, being told they don’t have the resources to get back.

The battle of the ‘us vs them’ narrative rather than working collaboratively and listening. It’s time to undo systematic conditioning.

Austerity related deaths, suicide rates, and poverty continue to rise. We need compassion as people try their best to survive.

This is just a small insight to see, a part of what system change means to me.


by Shauna Hemphill