One in three with paralysis not supported in return to work


back-upA third of people who are permanently paralysed receive no help to get into employment and 44% are not encouraged to consider work as an option, according to a new survey, published today by leading spinal cord injury charity, Back Up.

BackUp2Work, a new survey of experience and attitudes to work of 279 people with spinal cord injury comes just days after the Department for Work and Pensions announced a review of the Access to Work fund which helps people and employers cover costs of disabilities that might be a barrier to work.

The survey shows that:

  • 24% of people started to think about getting back to work within a few weeks of being injured
  • 82% of people who were not currently working did not feel confident about getting a job
  • 44% were not encouraged to consider work as an option while they were in hospital
  • 33% said they didn’t receive any support to help them into work.

An estimated 40,000 people in the UK are permanently paralysed as a result of a spinal cord injury. Paralysis can strike at any time to anyone and is caused by accident or illness. With the right support and encouragement there is no reason why a healthy person with paralysis cannot work but research indicates that as little as 17% of people are in employment.

Back Up’s survey shows that, overwhelmingly, the barriers to working perceived by people with a spinal cord injury concern employer attitudes and support services.

  • 41% want to see improved attitudes of employers to disabled people
  • 39% say that personalised support would help them back to work
  • 38% want to see more opportunities for flexible working
  • 36% say they need information about funding opportunities through Access to Work scheme
  • 31% would like more accessible transport and workplaces.
  • 12% of people wanted advice on setting up their own business.

Chief Executive of Back Up, Louise Wright, said:

“People who are paralysed still want to work, earn and contribute. Yet the barriers they face are immense. If they don’t get the support they need, as soon as possible, it can shatter their confidence and prevent them from ever fulfilling their potential in the workplace.”

Where people did receive support, around a third had received this from staff in hospital and 29% had help from their peers. Roger Whitting, 58, from Oswestry was disabled in 2013 in a motorcycle accident in Thailand and is self employed. He has benefited from practical help and meeting others with the same disability.Roger says:

I spent nine months in Oswestry spinal unit, where I started planning how to start a new social media marketing business. The Occupational Therapist advised me how to apply for Access to Work, which provided help with getting a desk, a headset and the dragon software I needed to be able to start my business. I also met Andy from Back Up who delivered wheelchair skills training. When I left hospital, Aspire helped with funding towards a computer , and my Job Centre Plus assigned me a specialist Disability Business Start Up Advisor. So I had quite a lot of practical help.

“My advice to someone who is newly injured and thinking that they won’t be able to get back to work is: get involved in your local community, join clubs, keep up with your interests and hobbies, get out and meet people. Be single minded and stick to your plan- there’s so much potential! “

Louise Wright adds:

“Back Up is calling for a greater focus on employment and increased support for the 1,000+ people who are paralysed each year. Employment is not only good for the economy but is good for your health and rehabilitation. The government is ambitious in its aim to halve the disability employment gap but potential cuts to Access to Work funding could see these ambitions under threat.

When people receive the right support and a positive approach from employers, they can and do succeed in returning to work. There is a huge amount of talent out there waiting to be tapped into. Back Up enables people who are paralysed to achieve their employment and personal development goals, by building their confidence and providing opportunities to practise ‘real life’ interview skills with our corporate partners.”

Since 2007, Back Up has provided residential ‘Back Up to Work’ courses which offer support, information and guidance to help them return to work. 72% of previous participants are in employment, education or volunteering. The organisation aims to expand these courses to develop a package of employment support services tailored to individual needs and available to anyone at any time, anywhere in the country.

Back Up launched its drive to raise awareness of employment for people who are paralysed on 15 May 2015, Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day. #BackUp2Work.

Back Up is a national charity that has helped thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds rebuild their confidence and independence after a devastating spinal cord injury. Their wheelchair skills training, mentoring service and rehabilitative activity courses are all run by people affected by spinal cord injury themselves. They also support people to overcome the challenges of returning to work or school.  Find out more at

Accessibility Tools

Discover more from Enable Magazine

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading