On Tuesday 1st May 2012, the Government’s Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller MP, visited SIA House in Milton Keynes, home to the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA), to meet with staff of the organization. The subsequent discussions revolved around support for spinal cord injured people seeking to return to work. Accompanying the Minister was MP for Milton Keynes South, Mark Lancaster, who, as a supporter of the work of SIA, had invited the Minister to come to Milton Keynes to see for herself first- hand the support that SIA is providing to spinal cord injured people, he commentedhe commented; ‘I was delighted that the Minister for Disabled People, Maria Millar, was able to come and see the fantastic work that the SIA does with helping spinal cord injured people.’
In the meeting the Minister learned about the specific issues that spinal cord injured people face, in particular around work related activity. As well as seeing a video produced by SIA which shows seven stories of spinal cord injured people in work, relating their feelings and experiences in returning to work after their injury, the Minister saw a practical demonstration of a new piece of computer software developed by SIA which can assist disabled people when considering the types of work that may be options for them.
The programme, called ‘New Leaf’, is a unique piece of career guidance software which provides specific employment advice to spinal cord injured people, and other wheelchair users, taking into account their level of physical function, interests and skills.
Individuals are able to access ‘New Leaf’ through SIA’s website, www.spinal.co.uk, free of charge. When using the software they are asked to complete an online questionnaire which will match their skills, interests and physical abilities with a list of potential career options. Detailed information on each career is then provided to the user, along with information on relevant schemes such as Access to Work. SIA hopes that other charities and organisations supporting people with physical disabilities will wish to use to use the software, enabling their user group to benefit from the service.
SIA has asked the Minister to request her Department to consider how they can help develop and promote this initiative to a wider audience so it can be used to support the wider disabled community for who it will be relevant when looking into work options. New Leaf is the only dedicated career guidance software for disabled people in the UK, ensuring they are provided with the same opportunity to find employment as non-disabled people. SIA plans to further develop New Leaf to include information on other areas of personal development for disabled people such as further education, training and volunteering, thus creating a ‘one stop shop’ for disabled people considering their career options.