The Way Ahead annual Headway Conference

Posted by Kym Provan, 26th June 2019
Kym Provan, Partner in the Blake Morgan Injury Group, and Nick Buckman, Mental Capacity Specialist in our Court of Protection Team, had the privilege of attending the annual Headway Conference in Staffordshire last weekend. The Conference, called The Way Ahead, provides an opportunity for survivors of a brain injury and their families, to all meet and discuss the issues that are most relevant to them, as well as participating in a number of activities.

Headway is a nationwide charity that provides support, services and information to brain injury survivors, their families and carers, as well as to professionals in the health and legal fields. There are more than 125 groups and branches across the UK, and many of these were represented at the National conference. Their focus is on rebuilding the lives of survivors of an acquired brain injury (ABI), which may have resulted from a road traffic accident, injury at work, sport injury, stroke, brain aneurysm or any other cause.

Whilst they were there, Nick and Kym took the chance to attend a few of the keynote speeches. The first was presented by Dr Audrey Daisley, Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist based at the Oxford Centre for Enablement, in conjunction with Nicola Hughes, Chair of the Darlington & District Headway group.  They spoke about the impact of brain injury on the wider family and how important it is to work with and support the whole family to ensure the wellbeing and best outcome for all. Nicola is the wife of a brain injury survivor and her presentation about the emotional impact that her husband’s injury and the longer term effects of that injury have had upon her and her family, left very few dry eyes in the room and earned her a very well deserved standing ovation.

Kym noted: “Nicola Hughes’ talk was thought provoking in the extreme. As professionals working in the sphere of severe brain injury on a regular basis, we become very focused on the desire to try to rebuild the life of the injured individual, on occasion perhaps forgetting the significant changes to family dynamics that such injuries cause and the real need to address these changes and to support the family unit as a whole. Without such support, and space to adjust, sadly the statistics show that many relationships do not survive, causing further suffering to all involved.”

Nick and Kym also attended a presentation by Chris Bryant MP for Rhondda, South Wales. Chris chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on ABI and campaigns for better recognition of the difficulties that those with ABI encounter on a daily basis and the steps that government needs to take to protect those individuals and to ensure that they are able to fully able to participate in society. Chris explained that his interest in the ABI cause had stemmed from the love of rugby in his home nation, and the evidence that was coming to light of the number of rugby players who went on to develop problems with memory, concentration, overwhelming fatigue and cognitive function in later life, as a consequence of the repeated head injuries that they suffered during their beloved game.   His interest expanded into other sports as he became aware that this was not confined to the sport of rugby, and Chris explained that as he became more familiar with the widespread implications that an ABI has on the individual and their wider support network, this grew into a general desire to learn more about the subject and to lobby for political action to address the problems that arise.

Understandably, Chris’s support was very well received, as he touched on topics of welfare benefits, crime prevention and education, all of which he has brought to the fore in political debate.

Kym and Nick were also able to meet with fellow professionals working to improve the lives of those who have suffered a brain injury, including architects specialising in the creation of adapted living spaces, case managers, personal care and support providers, providers of intensive neuropsychiatric care, aimed at those whose behaviour has been especially affected as a result of their brain injury, and establishments who are able to provide very much needed and fully inclusive holidays and activity breaks.

However, when asked what was the highlight of the Conference, Kym said: “It has to be the opportunity to meet and mix with the members who attended in a wider social setting. There was a Quiz on the Friday evening and Headway’s Got Talent on the Saturday evening, with some fantastic performances that were talented, entertaining, funny, emotional and uplifting in equal measure. Some of the couples there explained that the Headway Conference weekend was in effect their annual holiday, and it was fabulous to see everyone enjoying themselves without being worried about what anyone else thought about them, and celebrating their achievements and simply who they were. This was epitomised by one of the Headway survivors who sang a joyous and heartfelt rendition of Avril Lavigne’s “I Will Be”. Headway provide an invaluable service to a community that is much wider than most people would imagine.”

As a partner in the Blake Morgan Injury Team, Kym acts on behalf of individuals who have suffered catastrophic and life changing injuries through no fault of their own. She has particular expertise in acting for clients with brain injuries and spinal injuries and works with a team of highly experienced specialist personal injury and medical negligence lawyers including a qualified doctor, former midwife and registered nurse. By their very nature, brain injury claims are complex and a thorough understanding of the huge impact that such an injury has on all aspects of the individual’s life is required to maximise their rehabilitation, independence, employment opportunities and social and family life. Kym strives to ensure that all her clients receive the compensation that they need to rebuild all aspects of their lives.

Nick and his colleagues in the Court of Protection team work with individuals who are not able to manage their own financial affairs on a daily basis, be this by reason of traumatic brain injury, mental illness or disease. Nick helps his clients to make decisions relating to property and financial matters, to ensure that they are both protected from exploitation and in terms of their basic needs, and empowered to be as involved as possible in the choices made on their behalf.

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