Helping with those first steps
North Cork Initiative offering brain injury survivors a path back to education and employment
A new service located in North Cork is encouraging young people from across Munster with brain injuries to take that vital 'Step Ahead' along the road to getting back to education, training or employment.
Based at the Gilbert Centre in Mallow, the 'Step Ahead' initiative is a new initiative from Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, a national charity that focuses on helping those with brain injury rebuild their lives through neuro-rehabilitation.
Under the guidance of senior occupational therapist Sinead Stack and her team, the service is calling on the public and healthcare professionals from across the province to encourage brain injury survivors between the ages of 18-29 to seek the help they need to take that first step back to college or work.
"Brain injuries can happen to anyone, at any time. They happen from every day causes such as stroke, traffic accidents, falls, assaults or brain tumours and when an injury happens it can be devastating for the individual and their families," said Sinead.
"Depending on the severity of the injury and which part of the brain is affected, it can all too often put lives on hold while people undergo intense rehabilitation to relearn the things that they used to do without thinking."
Sinead said that following a brain injury a persons brain is often working harder that someone who has not experienced that trauma, causing fatigue, memory problems and frustration, which can all too often result is stress.
"That is why our Mallow Step Ahead service is a vital tool in allowing us to help assess where people are at and help them with practical strategies that allow them to managed their fatigue and cope with the kind of stresses that can occur when returning to work or education," she said. Sinead said the Step Ahead team will also work alongside employers to help with their understanding of brain injury do they can offer them the relevant support mechanisms.
"For many people after brain injury, concessions from employers can make all the difference - such as allowing someone to return part-time and gradually build back up to a five-day week," she said.
The Deputy Mayor of Cork, Cllr Thomas Moloney, former Junior Health Minister Kathleen Lynch and local Disability Officer Dermot Crosby joined Sinead for the launch of the Mallow service.
Mr Crosby said it was important that employers support young people seeking to return to work after a brain injury. That call was also backed by his colleague and fellow civil servant Steven Daly, who has himself returned to work after suffering a brain injury five years ago following a fall from a bike.
Mr Crosby pointed out that the Department of Employment and Social Affairs offer a suite of grants to support employers hiring employees with disabilities, including a Wage Subsidy Scheme and an Employee Retention Scheme, details of which can be found at www.welfare.ie.
For more information about the Mallow-based 'StepAhead' initiative and the referral process for young people with brain injury seeking to return to work or education, contact Sinead Stack on 086 603 4633 or visit www.abuireland.ie/stepahead.