At Back Up we’re here to support people to get the most out of life.  And for most people, work is an important part of our lives, our identity and our daily routine. Beyond the obvious benefits of increased financial independence and autonomy, decent work (whether paid or not) brings a sense of purpose, a social network, stimulation and is proven to bring enormous health benefits, both physical and psychological.

We support people to overcome the barriers to working, through our Back Up To Work service. This includes a residential course run 3 times a year that gives participants vital skills for securing work and the opportunity to discuss any concerns surrounding disability in the workplace, as well as ongoing one-to-one support and opportunities for work placements, mentoring and coaching. But we are disappointed that nationally, only around a third of people with spinal cord injury are in work. Too many people are coming out of rehabilitation believing that their spinal cord injury prevents them from working.  They struggle to envision a future where they’re employed because they don’t know about the support available to help them make that transition.

So we decided that as well as supporting people to solve their own work issues, we should also work to help prevent some of those problems in the first place. We can do this by using our expertise to support and influence the way rehabilitation is delivered.  If we get it right then someone who’s newly injured will get a chance to learn what’s possible for them, and be linked at the earliest opportunity into ongoing support to help them achieve it; even if they’re not necessarily ready to get there right at the start.

I’m a committee member of the Multidisciplinary Association of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals and was recently asked to chair the development of national guidelines on vocational rehabilitation for people with a spinal cord injury. This was an opportunity to help guide staff in spinal cord injury rehabilitation as to how best to plan and deliver their service. I was so grateful for the chance to bring together experts to agree a consensus on best practice in helping people get back to work. We have a very wide range of people across the UK and Ireland who are helping to contribute to and shape the guidelines. We are part-way through the process, aiming to launch in 2017, but it is heartening to hear that we’re already having a positive impact on spinal cord injury centres, allowing them to be ever more effective in their vital work.

Victoria Wagstaff Occupational Therapist at Pinderfields spinal centre is one of the people involved in this project:

“The guidelines development has already been helpful to us in our thinking about the vocational support we provide. We are now trying to engage people earlier to have a discussion about employment and think through their work plans. It has already proved helpful in enabling people to realise that fulfilling work is still possible for them, or exploring other options that they may not, previously, have considered.”

In our Back Up to Work survey last year, a third of people told us they did not receive any support in returning to work after their injury. I hope that MASCIP’s new guidelines will support collaborative efforts of colleagues across the sector and start to change this trend, ensuring that all newly spinal cord injured people receive the support they need to start their journey back into employment.

For more information about the new guidelines for vocational rehabilitation, contact Stef (


6 thoughts on “Stef Cormack: Work is good for you

  1. I think the level of injury, i.e. the severity impact greatly on your well-being both during and post rehabilitation. Everyone is aware that some sort of physical and mental activity assist in your well-being and self-confidence and the challenge is to make this relevant with somebody who feels that There is no point.
    The survey of the results should distinguish the level of injury which will in turn give confidence to a wide range of those of us to know there has someone else out there who has experienced a similar recovery.


    1. Hi Colin,

      Thank you for your comments. Next time we carry out a survey we will definitely bear that in mind.

      Kind Regards,

      Mark Reed.


    2. Hi Colin, thanks very much for your comment. Perhaps surprisingly, most of the research into coping and adaptation after spinal cord injury shows no relationship between the level of injury and how well people cope and adjust. So, people can struggle and people can adapt well no matter what their level of injury. We absolutely agree that it’s important to hear from and connect people whose situation feels relevant to you. Our mentoring service, for example, can match you with someone with a similar kind of injury to yours to talk about issues that are relevant to you – whether that’s about being more active, building confidence, or exploring thoughts around going to work. Let us know if we can help you in any way Colin; and thanks again for reading my blog and getting in touch!


  2. Hi, I was injured back in Feb 2015. Not very long ago in injury terms I’m led to believe. I’m paralysed from the chest down.
    I’m looking at returning to work in the next few months. I’ve had may talks with HR and adaptions have been made. I’m still very nurvous on the amount of work I can do, it’s been agreed on a fazed return. I still can’t help thinking I will be expected to be back to my old self in time. Can I work enough to bring home any kind of liveable wage? All I know is I’m going to try my hardest. I agree people need a sense of worth, routine and to be able to and engage with people. The more help available the beter. Sorry to waffle on with no real statement


    1. Hi Paul, my name is Andy and I work as the Back Up to work courses manager at Back Up. I wonder if it would be of interest to talk to someone who has been through the process in the past and experienced some of these challenges? If so, give me a call on my direct line: 020 8875 6729


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