Phil has lived with a spinal cord injury since 1978. He first spoke to Aspire’s Money Matters Specialist who referred him to the Welfare Benefits Advice team for a benefits check. They identified what benefits he was entitled to but hadn’t been receiving. Phil was supported to make various benefit applications, including Carers Allowance for his wife.

I broke my back over 40 years ago. I was 19 - loving life and getting up to everything you can imagine. I really enjoyed running and at 15 I used to be able to run a mile in four minutes. I loved playing sports, being in water and I’d water ski a lot.

Before my accident I was working hard as a plumber and played even harder after work. I was just your typical lad. It was a motorcycle accident - I came off the back of my mate’s bike. It was so long ago that I don’t remember much of the early days after it happened.

After the accident no one was telling me anything initially, but I don’t think that was to save my feelings; I don’t think they understood what happened completely. When I was eventually told how bad it was, I pulled the covers over my head, had a cry, but then decided that I needed to get on with it. I thought, if there is a tiny chance that I might walk again then I was going to make sure I did.

Phil by the sea in his wheelchair

At some point I managed to move my big toe, just a very tiny flicker and it took bloody months and long nights of trying and trying, but that flicker gave me hope.  I remember watching a John Wayne film too. He plays a pilot who breaks his neck and is paralysed but recovers some movement. I don’t know why I watched it, but that helped. I was determined to make some recovery and I didn’t want to stop at my big toe!

My friends and family were shocked at first, I think. One of my mates refused get on his bike after my accident because it scared him. Like with any hard time in life, you see who your true mates are. A lot of people just disappeared, but I still had some really good ones. My family were shocked, but we just carried on. There wasn’t another option.


I was in a general hospital and in a bit of a state because I couldn’t get into a Spinal Injury Centre. It was a different time then and they didn’t accept everyone, so I was in a hospital for ages with no specialist rehab. I remember my surgeon came around with all these books under his arm. We had a good relationship and I joked and asked him, ‘what you studying for?’ He said, ‘you Phil!’. They didn’t really know how to treat me, but I know they tried their best.

I was moved to Guy’s hospital at some point because I was having awful issues with my bladder, but still hadn’t had any real rehab. As luck would have it, my Dad worked for the Australian High Commission and was able to pull some strings to get me into a military rehab centre.  The thing about that was they were all ex-military Sergeants. There was no sympathy there and they were really hard on me. I spent about eight hours a day in the gym and I couldn’t make excuses to have a day off. The food was so good because you needed all the energy in the world to get through the gym! It was really hard, but I have always had this stubborn streak in me and I think it served me well there. When the doctors told me I would never walk again I wanted to prove them wrong and I thought if I was going to manage to walk, I’d do it there.

I went in there using a wheelchair, but came out on crutches. It makes me feel emotional just thinking about it. As much as I might have hated it some days, I know I wouldn’t have walked again if it wasn’t for their persistence”.

Phil and his wife

I married Karen at 27, she had actually been my nurse in Guy’s. We married 18 months after meeting and we’re still together. She’s definitely been the best support for me, she’s amazing. We had a couple of kids and spent many years fostering. I’ve had a good life. I’m still active. I love a project, I’m a classic car enthusiast and work on those and I’ve built a boat and made adaptions so I can go fishing easily.

Experience with Aspire

I have always been aware of Aspire as I’ve worked for a medical supplies company specialising in incontinence products so I’ve been to loads of the spinal conferences over the years. At one of them I met Back Up and they said I should contact Aspire for money advice. Their Money Matters Specialist Phil said that the Welfare Benefits Advice team would be able to check that I was getting everything I was entitled to.

Their advice was 100% helpful. I can’t say thank you enough times.

I couldn’t have done any of it without the help because I just didn’t know what we could get. I thought we getting everything and that we did a good job sorting it ourselves. That was wrong. Hari told us what we were missing and helped us get it.  I was dreading it all really, nobody likes to fill out these forms, but they really helped me through it. Hari was great and really patient because I can put things off. Now my wife gets a few extra quid for helping me out and I’m getting the right money, too. 

The extra income takes away a lot of stress. My wife retired early to help me so the benefits bridge that gap for us. It really helps.

Aspire’s Welfare Benefits Advice Service really is fantastic. They are always on the end of the phone and it’s nice to have a chat. When they say they’re going to ring they always do and seem to have some sort of super power to answer emails quickly!  I don’t know they manage it all. When we got things sorted, I got straight on the phone to my mate and told him he should call you. He’s really happy with it all too,

Thank you and the team for all your help, l could not have got this far without it.

Welfare Benefits Advice

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