Debate on whether care workers should lift disabled people

We asked people to comment on the issue of care workers
lifting disabled people. To read an article from Community Care
magazine exploring both sides of the argument
click here

These are the comments we received:

With proper training, monitoring, and risk
assessment yes care workers should be lifting the people they
support, if the person they’re supporting prefers being moved
manually. Very often being lifted by hoist or similar is
uncomfortable, undignified and at times

Sue McLellan

I do not think it right to lift a disabled
person unless they are using the correct aid for lifting, I used to
lift my son who is disabled and through the years, due to this I’ve
had trouble with my back and think if I had the proper aid then to
lift him with may not have suffered the way I do
Caroline Brooker

It’s very concerning some people’s comments
and thoughts in this age “I believe hoists should not be used
and put on a big bonfire and burned” as quoted in Community
Care, and “lots of people have thick pile carpets – you
try manoeuvring someone in a hoist across that”. Well surely
the carpet should be removed and a suitable placement found.
Isn’t the care of someone’s back and spine more
important than a carpet, this is about solving the problem not the

A member of staff whom worked for me ended up with severe back
problems caused through one lift that should never have occurred,
but did through peer pressure. She was never able to work in care
again, and wasn’t particularly trained in any other area. She
had to wear a back brace for over eight months – thank goodness she
didn’t have a mortgage to pay or children to provide for. Her
parents funded her to re-train as a teacher – no lifting
involved there.

There is a reason for no lifting policies – it is to stop
severe injuries. Carers are becoming more and more aware that they
have rights and do not have to put themselves at risk. We already
have a national shortage of nurses and carers if these people are
then asked to put themselves at risk by lifting how many will
change career direction or go and work at Tesco where they earn

We must continue our search for better and more suitable lifting
equipment and adaptations that make disabled people feel safe,
secure and respected, this should always be a priority, but there
are many many new items on the market that just keep getting better
and better.


I have a real dilemma about this issue.  I am
a disabled person who happens to work for a local authority in
community care cervices, although I don’t work directly in care
management. I have a number of friends who are wheelchair users and
need to be lifted. I know that their lives would suffer
tremendously if this blanket ban were implemented. 

I fully agree with Helen Speight’s comments and obvious dislike
of hoists. They are not comfortable for the majority of people and
dignity – well forget it.

Sylvia Johnson comment that it would help the situation if
disabled people had hospital beds at home and that carpets should
be removed, I find quite insulting.

Surely the concept of independent living is that disabled people
are afforded the same opportunities to live a full and independent
life as anyone else. The idea of turning one’s home into some sort
of pseudo-hospital setting is frankly not one that should even be

I do sympathise with care workers who have been injured, of
course, but a total ban on lifting cannot be the solution. Full and
proper training for all care staff should be provided, whether they
work directly for an authority or employed by a disabled person or
agency. Training must be updated and reviewed regularly and this
should form part of the employment contract. Individuals also have
a responsibility to take care of themselves and to report any
injury, no matter how minor to their

Karen Fenwick
Senior Customer Services Officer
Royal Borough of Kingston
Community Services

In response to your article on lifting, It is
obvious that Helen Speight has had a bad experience of being
hoisted, but it is also obvious that the problems she describes
should not have happened. This is an example of poor hoisting
technique, wrong sling and probably poor training for those using
the hoist.

On another tack, she says her husband has to go with her if she
needs to be lifted, what is she going to do when her husband is so
disabled by this constant wear and tear on his back that he can
hardly move himself? No amount of training in good technique will
ever eliminate the wear and tear issues which is why we have all
the aids we do now.

The judge’s decision that it is unlawful to refuse to lift
someone clashes with other judges decisions under health and safety
law and employers liability (not care laws which were under
discussion in that case) where the judgements have been for the
claimant on the grounds that the employer should have eliminated
lifting. So where do employers go from here, allow their staff to
be permanently damaged and be penalised under compensation claims,
or be sued for looking after their staff by service

Linda Westrupp
Health and Safety Officer
now in a difficult dilemma

Care workers should certainly lift disabled
people.They should be trained to minimise risk, but also to support
the human rights of their clients.

Beverley Dawkins
National Officer for Profound and Multiple Learning
Mencap National Centre

This is not the response I had planned to
write, but Ruth Winchester’s article ‘Lift Off’ in Community Care
starkly illustrates why so many back injuries occur through
lifting. It is clear that in the case of the care worker the basic
principles of safe handling were not being observed and the
arrogance of the disabled person in firstly obtaining assistance
under false pretences, and then expecting that person to put
herself at risk by persuading her to go against the rules and
struggle with her when it appears she had had no training in
lifting and handling, is nothing short of reckless.

The disabled person obviously has no concept of the logistics of
lifting and handling in the way she blithely dismisses the use of
the sheet as a most effective lifting tool.

Having said that I applaud the high court ruling putting an end
to ‘no lifting bans’, and with 30 years of injury-free first hand
experience lifting the elderly and disabled I can see both sides of
the argument. But as much as I support the right of the patient /
client to refuse the use of the hoist there is a responsibility on
both sides not to incur undue risks. I completely agree that being
hoisted about in a sling can be undignified, uncomfortable,
frightening and even dangerous when used in the wrong circumstances
and I have always supported my patients/clients in their
preferences and personally I prefer to lift manually. There are
some cases where the use of a hoist is unavoidable, but there are
many other items of equipment available to make lifting and
handling easier and safer.

Existing regulations also require the attendance of two
assistants even for the most basic manual handling. This is often
unnecessary and a waste of resources. 

I believe that every case should be treated as individual, that
a proper risk assessment is carried out taking into account the
preferences and the capabilities of both the cared for and the
carers. A blanket rule for everyone not only causes untold misery,
but the financial implications on the package of care can determine
whether a person will qualify for help at

Wendy Enderby

As the two articles in your feature
demonstrate, it is necessary to lift. Hoists are undignified and
impossible to use in certain situations. What is needed is: higher
staffing levels, more innovation, more time to assess and devise
best practice for each individual case.

Councils should not ban lifting. Care workers should be
medically assessed before working with immobile clients. They
should be given appropriate support-including adequate staffing

Heather Pomroy

I feel it is unwise for carers to lift
disabled people, as if they injure themselves, they will not get
support from their employer. It will be recorded as excessive sick
days and they may lose their jobs.

If someone has fallen it is best they are medically checked over
by an ambulance crew. They are trained to lift and if all is well
they will be lifted up back into their chair or bed. If they
discover a fracture then they will take the person to hospital. You
as a carer are then covered as you have done the best for the
person you are caring for. If a person keeps falling then the GP
should be informed for their input and that might mean arranging a
more in depth study at hospital. If there are two carers, then only
lift if you both have been trained and the person is certain they
have no pain any area. If in doubt don’t lift call for

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