Lucy Duncombe: Volunteering at Back Up’s Youth Advisory Group Weekend

Lucy Duncombe: Volunteering at Back Up’s Youth Advisory Group Weekend

This month of our 30th anniversary year, we are turning the spotlight on the amazing children and young people affected by spinal cord injury who help us shape and deliver our services. 

We are delighted that Active Assistance is the official sponsor of the children & young people month. They support people with complex and continuing health care needs. Their philosophy is based on the principles that each person should be enabled to live a fulfilling life to their own potential. 

Here, Lucy Duncombe, Clinical Development Manager at Active Assistance, tells a bit more about her experience volunteering at one of Back Up’s Youth Advisory Group training weekends.

Why did you decide to volunteer with Back Up on the Youth Advisory Group training weekend?

I have been privileged to work with young people with spinal cord injury for nine years now and always wanted to work with Back Up. Family commitments always got in the way but this year I promised I would commit to one event. I did not expect the Back Up bug would bite me! Instead I have joined Back Up twice this year and I have already put my name down for the Youth Advisory Group weekend in 2017.

What did you get out of the experience?   

My mind was blown! I have been a children’s nurse since 2003. In my “day job” at Active Assistance, I get to meet amazing children and young people with complex health needs or disabilities for whom every day is a challenge, but the Youth Advisory Group took it to another level.

genuinely wasn’t prepared for the amazing energy at the weekends – proof that disability isn’t a deal breaker, it’s more a change in the scenery.

My highlight will always be Beth and I performing our own “special” rendition of the classic of Fresh Prince of Bell Air to the group. We thought we were epic….alas they were all speechless. Sadly neither of us have a record contract to date!

What benefits do you see young people getting from this experience?

Life as a young person is a challenge. So many decisions, responsibilities and pressures. The Youth Advisory Group provides an open and honest forum for young people  – a chance to be part of something more than your injury. It’s  all about you and what you want to share with the group, whether that’s rugby, graphic design, wheelies or tops tips on GCSE revision.

It’s a chance to be with people on a similar journey to you, to talk about what really matters to you.

What would you say to other personal assistants who are thinking of doing something similar?

When are you free?! Genuinely the best 2 weekends of 2016. As a mum, it meant being away from my family for a weekend but when I got back home, I asked my 5-year-old how he felt about me being away. He said:

“If it makes them happy then you must feel happy too”.

I can’t say it any better myself. I gave a little but I feel I got so much more.

Top tips on getting the most out of the weekend or other Back Up courses to other PAs?

Just be yourself, come with energy and enthusiasm, and Back Up will provide the rest. We cooked, baked and laughed. Each weekend, I was supported by two Back Up team members and they were a delight to work with. The energy and passion of Back Up shines through each and every member of their team.

Inspired by Lucy’s story? Volunteer as a nurse or personal assistant on one of our courses. Find out more information here


Calvert Trust | Supporting Back Up since 1989

Calvert Trust | Supporting Back Up since 1989

In 2006, an accident changed Mary’s life forever. She was left permanently paralysed from the neck down. Life with spinal cord injury is hard but, with the right support, people like Mary can rebuild their confidence and independence.

A few years after her accident, Mary wanted to connect with people in a similar situation. That’s when she decided to get in touch with Back Up.

“I had my 50th birthday and I jokingly said to my family that I would a Back Up course when I came of age,” Mary said. The joke became a reality when Mary applied to go on a multi activity course in the Lake District.

Multi activity courses have been taking place at the Calvert Trust centres in Exmoor and the Lake District since 1989. Calvert Trust instructors are experts at being able to adapt a whole range of outdoor activities, so that people with spinal cord injury can participate as independently as possible.

“When I applied, I was anxious and I had never been away from home on my own since my injury,” Mary said.

During the course, Mary found it helpful to share experiences with volunteers and course participants who also lived with spinal cord injury.

Lake District Calvert Trust have hosted more than 70 courses that have helped over 350 people like Mary to regain their zest for life. “I did things doing the course that I never thought I would do again and it made me more optimistic about the future,” Mary said.

Some of the outdoor activities include indoor climbing, abseiling, kayaking, hand cycling and horse riding. Participants also have the opportunity to practise their wheelchair skills with Back Up volunteers.

“Everything on the course was brilliant and I had a fantastic week,” Mary said. “I got a lot out of the wheelchair skills training and I have been practising some of the tips.”

Mary’s favourite activity was to climb Latrigg, a hill that she had climbed before her injury. “It was exhilarating and I was crying tears of joy,” Mary said. “The view at the top was breath taking.”

The course at Calvert Trust helped Mary to feel more positive about her future. “I would really encourage everyone living with spinal cord injury to go on a Back Up course,” Mary said. “You won’t regret it.”

Partnering with organisations like Calvert Trust allows Back Up to help hundreds of people with spinal cord injury.

“We could not run our life changing courses without the support of organisations like Calvert Trust. Their teams including activity instructors, accommodation and back office staff ensure that people with spinal cord injury gain maximum benefit and challenge perceptions of what is possible,” Ally, Back Up Courses Manager, said.

Visit our website for more information about our courses or volunteer your time as a Back Up buddy


Coloplast | 8 years of working together

Coloplast | 8 years of working together

Each month of our anniversary year, we are focusing on a theme – an issue, an aspect of our work or a specific group of people with spinal cord injury and their families. In April, we are focusing on our partners and how through working together we can achieve more and make a bigger impact on the lives of people affected by spinal cord injury.

For the past eight years, Coloplast has been Back Up’s headline partner in delivering wheelchair skills training sessions in spinal centres across the country. Coloplast are a leading manufacturer of continence solutions.

Their financial support and staff involvement has been key to the success of the service, which has taught over 4,000 people with spinal cord injury. As a company dedicated to helping people live their lives to the full, their mission and values make them a perfect partner for Back Up.

Sarah Fraser, from Coloplast, said: “We are here to help as many people as possible enjoy a more active, rewarding life. Since the beginning, we’ve put our consumers first and we aim to make life easier for people with intimate healthcare needs, such as bladder and bowel management, which is obviously a huge part of adjusting to life after spinal cord injury.”

As well as working with us on the wheelchair skills training, Coloplast also regularly supports our events, such as the Back Up Ball and Snowdon Push. They’ve added value to Back Up in many different ways.

Sean, Back Up Corporate Manager, said: “It’s a fantastic partnership as both organisations are passionate about helping people with spinal cord injury live life to the full. The long term support we have from Coloplast has enabled us to grow in a sustainable way and we’re looking forward to working together for many years to come.”

You can find more information about the products and services Coloplast provides here

Get your company involved! Find out more on our website