Going back to work after a spinal cord injury, or into work for the first time, can be a really difficult thing to contemplate and many people face huge barriers. Even of the lucky people who get specialist spinal cord injury rehabilitation, only around a third go back to work after their injury: we think that is shocking. Work is important to us in our lives: it’s beneficial to our physical and mental health, our independence and autonomy, and gives us a sense of purpose and achievement. Everyone should have the opportunity to be supported to have a successful journey into work.
At Back Up we’ve been supporting people (back) into work after a spinal cord injury for years – and we get great results with the people we support. But they are relatively small in number. We talk to hundreds of injured people each year and it shocks us that even after specialist inpatient rehabilitation, many people believe that they can’t work because of their spinal cord injury. In fact a spinal cord injury of any sort needn’t necessarily prevent anyone from working. Something in the system isn’t working.
Stef, our Head of People Development, sits on a national committee, MASCIP, an association for all kinds of professionals who work to support people with spinal cord injury. As part of her work with MASCIP, Stef has been leading the development of national guidelines for vocational rehabilitation after spinal cord injury. Evidence suggests the number of people going back to work could be doubled with the right support and we are determined to help spread the word so that staff and service providers get the guidance and training they need to be able to make it happen. The guidelines will be finalised and launched in 2017.