Hanging on by a Thread – poem by Shirley Widdop

Quote by single parent about her experiences which inspired her poetry.



Shirley shares some of the difficulties she has faced with the social security system in her poem.

Shirley Widdop describes herself as an accidental activist. Shirley and Marissa from OPFS’s Glasgow office met as members of OnRoad Media’s ‘Talking About Poverty’ group, funded by Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

Shirley is a volunteer & ambassador for the charity Myelopathy, raising awareness of her condition Degenerative Cervical Myelopathy which she acquired at the age of 44, leaving her permanently disabled. She has been a lone parent for nearly 15 years. Home schooling her son, Jack,15 who enjoys cycling, graffiti art & learning how to skipper a canal boat. She also has two older sons Josh, 24 and Elliott, 22 who are no longer living at home.

All views expressed are that of the author, not the views of OPFS. 

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Hanging on by a Thread

Still in the red after 7 long years,

Hanging on by the proverbial thread.

No respite from austerity for me, mine or yours.

After 7 years missing, normally someone’s declared dead

Not I, but my hopes, dreams & ambitions left in shreds

Never reaching maturity or realisation…


No levelling up nor social mobility for the likes of us

The lumpenproles dredging along, sweeping up crumbs from the bourgeoisie above

Hoping for a crust or a bone to be tossed our way

Harking back to the Andover Workhouse Scandal,

Trying to survive another grinding, intractable day

Having to choose whether to heat, eat or miss out entirely.


COVID-19 exacerbates everyone’s situation

More folks dragged into poverty through furlough or lack of job protection

Divisions sown betwixt the haves & have nots

Whilst the Bransons of this world beg for bailouts

Ironic given they own an island or two

Or protect their obscene Rhys-Moggian assets in offshore accounts.


Yet it doesn’t have to be this way – the 5th richest economy is man made

Poverty can be solved – redesigned to ensure no one’s dragged away

By the rising tide of poverty that’s already swept 14 million plus astray;

Away from the anchor of Social Security

A lifeline to cling onto in the rougher seas of austerity

Which anyone can be washed overboard into.