Steven sustained an incomplete SCI in 1988 when he was aged 17.  Aspire’s Welfare Benefits Advice team has supported him since 2017, most recently with his Personal Independence Payment (PIP) review.

I had just left school and started working for Midland Bank. I joined their rugby team but unfortunately I was only three months into the job when I dislocated my C6 and C7 vertebrae in a rugby accident.  I was only 17 but I instinctively knew that I had damaged my neck. I was lying face down on one arm and I could feel that my body was on my arm, but I couldn’t feel my arm across my stomach. Everyone else got up but I obviously didn’t move. The first thing I said was “Don’t move me, don’t touch me, I think I’ve broken my neck”.  I knew it was serious. I stayed as still as possible until the ambulance arrived.

It was a confusing time for sure, but I never experienced anger or depression about what had happened. I was always matter of fact about doing whatever I could do and make the best of the situation I was presented with. Maybe youth was on my side with that, but I had always been very independent and I wanted to continue to be independent so I worked hard during my recovery. My friends and family took my lead and supported me fully. Nobody told me what I could or couldn’t do.

I went back to work at the bank six months after the accident, not long after my discharge from Stoke Mandeville. I have had the same employer for 34 years. The bank was and is incredibly supportive. They have always been very flexible with working arrangements and accommodating me.

Steven in his wheelchair

It was my physio who suggested I speak to Aspire, around the same time that I had decided that I should start using a wheelchair full time because of falls and ageing with a spinal cord injury. In 2017 I contacted the team for help with a Mandatory Reconsideration of my original PIP claim. I knew it was best to get professional advice from the start when the PIP review came around.

Their support and advice has always been hugely helpful. I am not generally somebody who finds things stressful, but I must admit that the first time around with my PIP Mandatory Reconsideration was a very stressful period. I thought I was going to lose the benefit and my Motability car. It was before working from home was fully acceptable and I needed to drive to and from central London because public transport is too difficult. I just didn’t know how I was going to manage without a car suitable to my needs. Thanks to Aspire’s help then I was able to keep my PIP benefit and my car to remain independent.

With my PIP review a few years later, I wouldn’t have felt as prepared or as confident as I did if I had done it without Aspire’s support. I really appreciate all the time they have given to get me such good results. The service has always been incredibly approachable and responsive. I think it’s really important that as many people as possible know about the work that Aspire does and the incredible support they can provide in these stressful situations. 

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