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Brain injury case management

“I overcame the label of my disability and I help clients do the same”

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Martin Gascoigne, founder and CEO of Neuro Case Management, the UK’s largest independent case management firm, tells NR Times how his own disability has played a fundamental role in his success.

When Martin Gascoigne, a social worker specialising in brain injury, set up his own case management company in 2010, he had little more than a pen and an impressive amount of perseverance.

“It was a real struggle,” he says.

“The second year I sent 15,000 emails and didn’t get one response. Solicitors would all say the same thing: ‘Why should I trust you with one of my clients, when you don’t have a reputation?’”

Almost 15 years later, Neuro Case Management is the UK’s largest independent case management firm, employing over 100 staff and supporting clients throughout the country. 

But Martin has rarely spoken about one of the biggest drivers behind his success.

At the age of 19, he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary eye disease which causes black pigmentation and gradual degeneration of the retina. 

“I’ve always found I’ve tended to work a lot harder than anyone else,” he says.

“Back then if you told anyone that you had a disability you were judged, so I set out to prove everyone wrong.

“I never wanted anyone to feel sorry for me, or come to me because I had a disability. I just wanted to stand toe-to-toe with every other case manager out there and be judged on my own merit.” 

Graduating from university with a degree in social work in 2002, Martin quickly identified a huge unmet need in the care being provided for people living with brain injuries in the community. 

“There were very well defined services for learning disabilities, physical disabilities, older people, mental health, but nothing for brain injury,” he says.

As a senior social worker, he was responsible for setting up the first brain injury team within his local authority and was later headhunted to manage a team of 150 support workers and 20 nurses at a 60-bed rehab facility.

With his sight beginning to decline, he knew he couldn’t continue in the role he was in, but giving up work altogether was never an option. 

“That drive to succeed when everybody else sees you as nothing, it’s very powerful,” says Martin. 

“I’ve often said, if I didn’t lose my sight, I wouldn’t be half as motivated as I am, and I wouldn’t have done half the things I’ve done.”

Even now, the condition has taken 80 per cent of his frontal vision, he continues to run his business, working seven days a week.

He continues: “I have about 50 battles every day, even sending an email now is hard, but when you are used to fighting for everything in life, it becomes second nature. 

“When you get up in the morning, you don’t think about the difficulties I am going to have today. You think, ‘what can I achieve today?’” 

Neuro Case Management is in the process of becoming CQC Registered and is working alongside partners in the sector to establish the first Institute of Regulated Case Managers (IRCM). 

He is also keen to expand his team of case managers in order to reduce their caseloads and improve the quality of care that clients and their families receive. 

Martin may not have been open about his disability in the past, but his own experience has been fundamental in his success as a case manager.

It has allowed him to connect with clients on a personal level and despite the growth of the business, he has maintained its grassroots culture.

He still shows up to have a cup of tea with clients wearing his trainers, and recounts times when he has tripped over the dog or missed the sofa, leaving them in ‘fits of laughter’.

“I have learned to overcome the label of disability and channel all of that energy into a positive outcome, which has then indirectly motivated a lot of my clients to go do the same,” he says.

“I can say things like, ‘Well, if you go out that front door tomorrow and go buy a newspaper, I will do the same. 

“I’ve never not been able to successfully get somebody back on their feet.”

One of his former clients was 17 when he met her, having just experienced a spinal cord injury which meant she would never walk again. 

Despite being told she would never get to university as they weren’t disability accessible, Martin secured her an adapted ground floor flat from the local council, a mobility vehicle, and even gave a talk educating staff about disabilities. 

After 12 years at university obtaining her PhD, his client now has three young children and works in politics.

Martin adds: “The thing that would make me most happy, is if I could be known as somebody who could re-engage people, to plug them back into society and change their life for the better, in the way that they want it to be changed.”

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