UNEMPLOYED Sheffield man Barry Groom has fought his way out of a wheelchair to look for work - and today appealed to local employers to ‘give him a chance’.
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Determined Barry, who refused to accept a life on disability benefits after being struck down by a debilitating back condition, is terrified of being left on the scrapheap at the age of 53.
But he has spent months searching for work to no avail.
His job hunt follows two years of hard work rebuilding his strength following a problem with his spine which left him dependent on a wheelchair.
Now he is fully mobile and back on the job market - keen to start afresh and begin contributing to society again.
Having worked in the past as a chef, Barry says a job in a kitchen, canteen or cafe anywhere in Sheffield would be welcome - although he admits he is not fussy.
Barry, of Bennett Street, Sharrow, said: “I’ve got experience of kitchen work so that would be good, or maybe factory work, packing.
“But I will clean people’s toilets to be honest!
“I just want to get back to work. Having spent months getting myself fit, I want to do something with my life again.
“I’m only 53 - that’s too young to just be left on the scrap heap.”
Barry’s drive to get back to work comes as statistics released by the Government show the number of city residents claiming Disability Living Allowance benefits stood at 32,320 at the end of last year, 20 per cent up from the 26,880 claimants in November 2002.
Claimants are being reassessed by the Department for Work and Pensions, which aims to help those able to return to work to find suitable jobs.
Barry’s problems stem from a boating accident he suffered when he was just 19 years old.
Although he did not believe at the time he had been left with long-term problems, and continued to work in heavy industry, issues eventually came to the surface.
He said he ‘stupidly’ worked through the pain - which caused disc displacement and degenerative disease of the spine - until he eventually became reliant on a wheelchair.
The turning point came two years later when he moved out of his inaccessible council flat into a modified bungalow where he could begin to try to build up his strength again.
“It’s been a tough journey,” he said. “But motivation and sheer stubbornness have got me through.
“All I need now is an employer to have the same faith in me as I have in myself.”
His only request is that the job involves light rather than heavy work, since lifting and carrying are not possible without risking his old problems returning.
* Anyone with a vacancy that might be suitable for Barry should contact The Star on 0114 276 7676 ext 3354.
DIARY OF BARRY’S AMAZING FIGHTBACK
*The turning point comes when Barry moves house to a bungalow which allows him to get in and out of the property. He vows to use his new-found freedom to get himself back into shape.
* Barry starts running his own errands in the wheelchair, jobs for which he relied on others previously. When at home he begins doing push-up exercises in his chair to build up strength in his arms and back.
* He introduces leg exercises and stretches into the wheelchair based routine, particularly focusing on his left leg - building up the weak muscles which had not been used for years.
* With his legs and back feeling stronger, Barry begins using a walking stick to get around - initially just around his home, before starting to venture out and about.
* Barry ditches the stick and is strong enough to walk without any extra support - desperate to get back into work.