A school support worker who blames disabling back injuries on the strain of pushing wheelchair users between classes is fighting through the courts for £50,000 compensation.
Helen Sloan, from Brighouse, claims the authorities at Rastrick High School failed to carry out a thorough risk assessment or provide comprehensive training before she began providing learning support for children with special needs.
Her barrister, Benjamin Caswell, argued that the school should have done more to test the weight of disabled children she helped – including the combined weight of child and wheelchair – and should have considered providing powered wheelchairs.
Mrs Sloan was specifically employed to help children with special needs – some of whom were in wheelchairs – and had worked at Rastrick High School for only 13 days before suffering her injury, London’s Appeal Court heard today.
She was laid low on September 17, 2008, when she had to push a child up a sloping ramp, although Mr Caswell said this was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” after successive days of strain.
She was left with lasting damage to her back and right shoulder, leaving her unable to lift her right arm above shoulder height.
Louise Green, for the school, said that, “on occasions”, Mrs Sloan’s role had “involved assisting manual wheelchair users by pushing them between classes.”
However, she insisted that the school had done its best to ensure she was not over-burdened.
The barrister pointed out that the schoolgirl Mrs Sloan was pushing at the critical time weighed only seven stone and dismissed the idea of providing powered wheelchairs as impractical.
The case reached the Appeal Court as Mrs Sloan, in her early 40s, challenged a Bradford County Court judge’s decision to dismiss her claim last year.
Her lawyers claim the judge’s findings were “perverse” and are asking Lords Justice Moore-Bick, Richards and Ryder to reinstate Mrs Sloan’s claim.
However, Miss Green insisted that “pushing a wheelchair is a simple, common sense, handling task” and that the training provided to Mrs Sloan was perfectly adequate.
After several hours of argument, the Appeal Court judges reserved their ruling on Mrs Sloan’s appeal until a later date.
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