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Back Up to Work

  January 5, 2016   

The Back Up Trust provides support to those affected by spinal cord injury in the UK. Around 1,000 people a year will sustain an injury affecting their spinal cord. Whilst the impact lasts a lifetime, Back Up believes people affected can still live a full and fulling life. This includes employment.

There are many benefits to work, beyond the financial gains. Individuals gain from having a purpose and can develop their confidence, self-belief, belonging and social interaction. It’s an old cliché but having something to get out of bed in the morning for, does help improve your mental and physical health. There is more to life than watching day-time TV. We, as humans, are programmed to do more.

After sustaining a spinal cord injury, it can often feel daunting thinking about entering or returning to the job market. It may not be possible to return to the job or employer you were working for previously. Indeed, the employment rates of those with a spinal cord injury in the UK are stark, as low as only 20% according to some reports. There are many reasons behind this and in those early post-injury days when finding suitable housing, securing suitable care packages and the equipment needed, employment can naturally fall down that priority list.

Back Up to Work Courses

When individuals are in a position to think about their employment options, Back Up can help. It now runs three Back Up to Work courses a year, in different locations across the UK. In November 2015, one of these courses was run in Manchester in the offices of our generous hosts RBS. Eight delegates attended; all aiming to build their confidence in order to start working again.

Over the two days, delegates explore their own skills and competences and gain an understanding of the different roles in which these can be used. It’s not often we have the chance to properly examine ourselves; what our values are, or our key strengths. A life-changing event like a spinal-cord injury, can for some, provide that opportunity. Past delegates have explained how they have used the opportunity to their advantage and explored new avenues they would otherwise not have considered pursuing.

Delegates also explore how best to declare their disability to a perspective employer, and how and when to discuss reasonable adjustments. There are often no right or wrong answers here. Instead pros and cons of different approaches are discussed, so that individuals can determine what might work best for them in different circumstances.

New Potential

The course builds up to the final session in which delegates practice what they have learnt in semi-real interview scenarios. Whilst it is made clear that it’s a safe environment, that no jobs are at stake and it’s all about learning, the energy in the room is palpable. Volunteers from RBS, provide support by filling the role of interviewers. Nerves are apparent on both sides, but this is the session that nearly every single person enjoys the most.

One of the unique benefits of this course is the dual outcomes for our corporate sponsors. Volunteers support various sessions, these individuals build their knowledge and understanding of disability and spinal cord injury, specifically. They appreciate the nuances of a recruitment experience from a disabled applicant’s perspective and can often take this learning back into their workplaces to make changes and increase awareness. For many, it might be the first time of working alongside someone with a disability, so the increased understanding helps them build their confidence. It’s certainly a win-win situation!

As the course facilitator, you can see the confidence and self-esteem of all the delegates grow over the two days. They start to believe in themselves, in their skills and their value to employers. All are encouraged to continue to build their CVs, to gain further experience, through volunteering or work experience, if required, and to start searching for jobs. They have a clearer picture of what they can do and how to do it!

If you have a spinal cord injury and think you would benefit from attending the Back Up to Work course, please contact Ally Ward at


Back Up Trust are also celebrating their 30th birthday and to launch their birthday year they are asking you, your friends, family and colleagues to join them by taking on a challenge, however big or small, to support people affected by spinal cord injury. Find out more and get involved here.