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Last Updated:  Sunday, 23 February, 2003, 02:01 GMT
Keeping people with MS in work
By Jane Elliott
BBC News Online Health Staff

Suzanne Miller
Suzanne was diagnosed with MS 20 years ago
When Suzanne Miller first got multiple sclerosis she was working as an administrative officer for a local education authority.

Despite the devastating diagnosis and a gradually worsening condition Suzanne has been able to keep working.

Her career prospects even improved with her going on to be a director of human resources and then a management consultant, although she now works part-time.

But Suzanne, who uses a wheelchair at work and has a tremor in her writing hand, admits that many of the other people she knows with multiple sclerosis (MS) have not fared so well and some have even suffered discrimination.

"I tended to apply for work from people I know, but a lot of people who apply cold find that their having MS can go against them.

Finding a job or keeping it can be one of the greatest challenges facing people with a lifelong condition like MS
Mike O'Donovan of the MS Society
"I was very lucky because I was doing a job I could continue to do."

"I also knew one person with MS who used to work in maintenance, where he did a lot of work with his hands, and luckily for him the people he worked with did help him to retrain."

But many others do not have such understanding employers.

Each month about 100 callers contact the MS Society's Helpline with enquiries on employment for people who either find it difficult to adapt, or to get a job at all.

Training course

Now an innovative training course has been launched to help people with multiple sclerosis and other long-term conditions to keep their jobs or find work.

Suzanne is one of the project leaders for the course and said she hoped they could use it to ensure people with MS remain in employment.

"There are many barriers to employment for people with long-term conditions and this course sets out to lower them.

"We'll be tackling everything from writing job applications and preparing for interviews to understanding your legal rights and knowing what Disability Employment Advisers and others can do to help."

Transform

MS Society chief executive Mike O'Donovan said the training scheme could transform the lives of people with MS.

"Finding a job or keeping it can be one of the greatest challenges facing people with a lifelong condition like MS.

"The aim of this new course is to combine practical help and information with building the confidence to promote your strengths, identify your skills and manage your condition at work.

"It is designed to help you find out what sort of work is best for you, what adjustments can be made in the workplace and what an employer will expect from you."

The scheme, which is being run by the Multiple Sclerosis Society, is initially being piloted in the West Midlands, London and Sussex.

The training, 'At work with MS', is being led by people with the condition and is being funded by the National Disability Development Initiative, which is part of JobCentre Plus. The training is free.

For more information on the courses contact the MS Society on education@mssociety.org.uk





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