Back Up launches Family Outreach & Support Coordinator role

Back Up launches Family Outreach & Support Coordinator role

We’re thrilled to announce that Andrew Dickinson has taken over a new role at Back Up as our Family Outreach and Support Coordinator.

This unique new role, which is funded by a grant from the Baxter International Foundation, is a first point of contact for family members of people with spinal cord injury, providing much needed support and advice.

In his role, Andrew will coordinate a team of volunteers – all of whom have a relative or partner with an injury – to visit spinal centres, run information sessions and connect with family members on relative days. Back Up will also be piloting a new telephone support service for families too.

“With this new role in place, we will be able to connect with families as soon as possible after their loved one has a spinal cord injury,” said Andy Masters, head of Back Up’s Outreach and Support services. “At this point, many family members can feel guilty about asking for help because they feel the focus shouldn’t be on them. Our new Family Outreach and Support Co-ordinator will proactively reach out to families, make those all important early connections to offer support and refer them through to our other specialist services.”

Many family members suffer feelings of depression and isolation after the injury of a loved one. Our research shows that 33% of parents are clinically depressed, and 76% of siblings experience feelings of neglect and isolation.

Andrew knows first hand how vital this support for family members will be. He first became aware of Back Up when a family member of his was involved in a car accident in 2009 which caused a permanent spinal cord injury.

“Immediately after Sam’s accident it was hard to imagine that life could ever be the same again. We were plunged headlong into this whole new world, caught spinning in a maelstrom of new terms like “autonomic dysreflexia.”  We were lost and travelling without a map.

However, what Back Up gave us was the reminder that just because we currently felt lost didn’t mean that we were the first ones to walk this road. What is so amazing about this charity is that they recognise that this sort of injury affects everyone. My entire family experienced a trauma in that car accident and every one of us could benefit from support.

That’s why I feel so excited to take on this role within Back Up as the Family Outreach and Support Coordinator. I’m looking forward to building relationships with families affected by this injury, working with our colleagues in the NHS to develop support within spinal units and creating a space for family members to share and learn from each other.

Andrew Dickinson - Mentoring Coordinator
Andrew, Back Up’s new Family Outreach & Support Coordinator

This is something that has never been done before, our estimates suggest that there are 4,000 new family members encountering this world with every passing year and I am very much aware of the monumental nature of the task ahead. I can’t wait to get stuck in.”

If you’re a family member and need support, please email Andrew ( or call him at our offices on 020 8875 1805.


Back Up Fest Coming Soon

Back Up Fest Coming Soon

On July 8 2017, we will hold our first ever Back Up Festival at Cokethorpe school in Witney, Oxfordshire. This event is the brainchild of our Youth Advisory Group who meet twice a year to influence and shape our U18s services. They came up with the idea of Back Up Fest as a social occasion where young people, family, friends, supporters and the general public can all come together to celebrate and promote the work of Back Up – as well as have a lot of fun!

‘‘Back Up Festival was suggested by  the under 18s who form our Youth Advisory Group as an alternative social occasion to the Back Up Ball, which they generally do not attend. The original idea was to have a place where all our young members could come together. However, our Youth Advisors believed the idea of Back Up Fest seemed too good to limit our audience and decided that it should be an event run by young people but open to everyone!’’ said Alex Provan, who works in the community fundraising team.

‘‘We have an incredible group of young people working with us from youth advisors and young mentors to young wheelchair skills trainers and young group leaders – all of whom have contributed to putting this idea together.’’

The day itself will showcase different bands to suit all age groups, fun games and stalls. There will also be inspirational talks from members of the YAG as well as other speakers.

Everyone is welcome to attend and we hope that local communities and disability groups will get involved too.

To find out more about Back Up Fest, please email Alex ( or call her on 020 8875 6774.

Wheelchair Skills Extra | Getting around your city

Wheelchair Skills Extra | Getting around your city

In 2016, we decided to change the name of Join the Dots to Wheelchair Skills Extra.

 Many of you will be aware of our Join the Dots wheelchair skills sessions, which are held in town centres near many of the spinal centres in the UK. These community based sessions are an expansion of the original wheelchair skills programmes which we have been running since 2001. In these sessions, our experienced wheelchair skills trainers have given thousands of people life-enhancing confidence.

We’ve decided to change the name of these sessions to Wheelchair Skills Extra. This is to make it clear what these sessions offer and how they follow on from our sessions in spinal units, putting those skills learnt on the ward into practise in daily life.

We know that getting around as a wheelchair user can be frightening. How will I get to the shops, play with my kids or just carry a cup of tea to the living room? Wheelchair Skills Extra gives people the independence they need to get back to living their life to the full.

Held in ‘real-world’ locations outside the hospital setting, you get the chance to practise and refine your skills and build your confidence when out and about. We tackle everyday obstacles e.g. pavement and slopes and support you to overcome any worries you may have about being out in public for the first time as someone with a spinal cord injury. By the end of 2017, we aim to establish our sessions in all the spinal centres throughout the UK.

These sessions are kindly supported by Irwin Mitchell Solicitors and Gerald Simonds Healthcare. Anne Luttman-Johnson, Client Services Manager, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors commented:

‘We know first-hand what a difference Wheelchair Skills Extra makes to those about to leave their spinal injury unit into what can be a daunting world for someone using a wheelchair for the first time outside of their hospital environment. Irwin Mitchell employees volunteer at the different sessions round the country gaining so much from the experience.  Not only is it fun, but they also appreciate that this versatile and practical help means a lot more to those taking part in the next part of their rehabilitation programme.’

 Find out more by clicking here or contact us at or by telephone on 020 8875 1805

Back Up awarded ‘most deserving snowsport charity’ by SIGB

Back Up awarded ‘most deserving snowsport charity’ by SIGB

Back Up has won the Snow Sport Industries of Great Britain (SIGB) Foundation’s award for ‘most deserving snowsport charity’. The accolade comes with a grant of £4,000 which will be used exclusively to help fund the charity’s ski courses in 2017.

The funding for the £4,000 grant is courtesy of The Slide Industry Trade Show – owned and organised by SIGB. The 3-day tradeshow is specifically for snowsport retailers.

Back Up was founded in 1986 to provide ski courses for people affected by spinal cord injury. 30 years on, the charity’s services have greatly diversified but Back Up continues to offer two ever popular skiing courses.

This year, 14 people will have the opportunity to learn to ski with Back Up in Sweden and Colorado. The participants will be able to push themselves outside of their comfort zone in an exciting and supportive environment.

The award was presented at a ceremony at The International Centre in Telford. Anna Turney, former GB Paralympic skier and Back Up ski course participant, was Back Up’s ambassador on the night. The tradeshow preceded SIGB’s AGM where the award was presented. Damon Street, President of SIGB said:

Giving people who have sustained a life changing injury the chance to use skiing as a way to build confidence is fantastic. Back Up are a truly worthy recipient of the SIGB Foundation Award, and we are delighted we are able to contribute to their ski courses.”

Anna delivered a ‘passionate’ speech about the importance of Back Up’s work and the support it had given to her. Although the course isn’t for potential athletes, in the last 10 years alone 7 members of the GB Paralympic ski squad have been on Back Up’s skiing courses. After accepting the award, Anna said:

Coming back home after the huge challenge of learning how to ski on a Back Up course makes the everyday challenges faced by the spinally injured seem much more manageable. This opportunity is truly life-changing, so support from the UK snowsport industry is massively appreciated.”

To find out more about Back Up’s Sit Ski and Ski Karting courses click here, or contact our courses team on or by telephone on 020 8875 6741.