As part of Seven Families, a charity-led campaign to raise awareness of the financial impact of long-term illness or disability, Nikki will receive financial support and advice to help improve her home life, and aid her rehabilitation and return to work.
“I'm still not exactly sure what happened. I lost control of my bike and hit a car. After a couple of days in a Borders hospital, I was transferred to the National Spinal Unit in Glasgow. I spent the next 11 months and 1 week (yes, I was counting!!) there away from my husband and two small boys. I don't remember anyone actually telling me I would never walk again, I think it just became apparent over time,” Nikki said.
“The biggest change to my life has been the transition from being someone who is so fiercely independent to having to ask for help, and I’m still trying to get my head around that now. It has been really difficult, especially when I see our cars flying around with their blues and twos on. However, I’m looking forward to going back work part-time, whatever it is I can do. As long as I’m able to add something I just want to get back to work.”
Nikki Thornley was a front line uniformed police officer based in Aberdeenshire. The accident means she will never be able to return to this type of work again and has spent almost a year in rehab and adjusting to family life.
Having been off work for almost a year Nikki hopes to return to work in a part-time capacity in the coming months and said her employer had been very helpful.
“My old sergeant has been coordinating my return and as it stands I'm due to go into the DCU (Divisional Co-ordinating Unit) when I return, which deals with a whole myriad of things from policy to performance and lots of admin.
“I had a quick visit to the new office just before Christmas to check out the facilities, and what adaptations would be required, and they have said they will do their best to facilitate.
“After talking it through with the charity and my employer I’m hoping the Seven Families campaign will help me face up to many of my fears and concerns, particularly seeing myself as a chair user now. Any monies will help give me the time and space to be as best as I can before I return to work, and will also benefit my home life as well.”
John Leavey, head of corporate benefits at reward and benefit provider Benefex, said: "Until something like this occurs people do not often see the extreme value Income Protection can bring – both to the employee and their employer.
“For the employee who wishes to retain independence and dignity and the employer who, having trained and developed that employee, can retain the skills and experience necessary for their business. In these circumstances the financial impact can be severe.
“Whilst a full time return to Nikki’s previous role may not be an option, it does not automatically follow that her skills and experience need to be lost to her employer.”
Peter Le Beau, spokesman for the Seven Families campaign, said: “The campaign provides a tax-free income for one year and Nikki will receive £1,000 per month. Each family will have access to financial advice from a range of volunteering financial advisers to help with basic finances and budgeting and they will also have the opportunity to benefit from independent living, rehabilitation and counselling services.”
Jason Jaspal from Disability Rights UK, added: “We campaign constantly for much faster and more effective support when somebody’s life changes through an accident or health condition.
“We hear from people daily who have to wait months for assessments (for Personal Independence Payment), while receiving ineffective or no support to resume work.
“This project will help us learn how different it can be when people do have resources, information and access to support on their own terms. We plan to draw on this learning to campaign for changes in social security and independent living support, which is in line with our aim to strengthen the voice of disabled people.”
Liz Sayce, CEO of Disability Rights UK, added: “We also want to test the difference it can make to get fast, effective support when you unexpectedly become disabled or develop a serious health condition, so you can get your life on track. Our campaign is for improved social security and independent living rights, for everyone – not the 2-tier system we have at present.”