A STROKE rehab group that has been hit by a slump in fundraising is able to continue its vital work with young survivors thanks to a coronavirus fund grant.

Back On Track has been awarded £7,500 from the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund to continue its one to one support for stroke survivors as young as 24. The fund has raised more than £1.1 million and distributed £925,000 through 200 grants to groups tackling the fallout from the pandemic.

Group founder Bev Pace, who has been running it for nine years, first set it up while working for the Stroke Association. She received referrals from across north and west Wiltshire from hospital occupational therapists and provides free advice and guidance as well as a support group.

The lockdown meant all of the group’s planned fundraising events were cancelled. “My worry was that we wouldn’t have the money to keep going,” she said. “But because organisations like the Wiltshire Community Foundation have addressed Covid and the fact we can’t fundraise, it is such a help. I honestly thought there would be no one to help so it was such a surprise that we got the grant.”

Her clients are men and women of working age, many of whom are struggling to come to terms with facing their rest of their lives unable to work or live independently. “A lot of them don’t get back to work but if we can get them a good quality of life where they are doing something every day, or they are doing a volunteering job, that makes the whole family’s lives better,” she said.

“Coming to terms with the fact you are in your 30s or 40s and you will never work again is awful and that is why our clients generally stay with us a long while. Their recovery is ongoing but they do progress.”

Although she helps with therapy and encouraging clients to exercise, a lot of her work is as an advocate, particularly for those on their own who find it hard to communicate. “Some can’t read or write, or they can’t use the phone very well,” she said. “They find it hard to think on the spot so I will sit in with them and have the phone on loudspeaker when they are making calls to the likes of the Department of Work and Pensions.

“It can be very tough because they re-assess their benefits every year and some of the calls can last an hour-and-a-half.”she said.

“We have a counsellor and a psychotherapist because we have one or two clients who have been a bit anxious and depressed about being isolated. We have been encouraging people to meet one to one, so they get some kind of social contact but if you have had a catastrophic stroke and you are young, which most of our clients are, anything that would set them back, they don’t want to go there.”

Her goal is to help clients get back to something as close to normal life as possible and often getting back to doing a favourite activity is a huge motivator. “We do a lot of ongoing hand-holding to give them confidence,” she said. “If they want to go to the gym, I will go with them until they are confident enough to go on their own. I want them to push themselves to do things. I even went camping with one chap, I slept in my car while he slept in his tent.”

Find out more about the group by searching for Back on Track Stroke Rehab Service on Facebook.

To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.