Within the European Community there are more 944,000 people suffering from cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a problem with movement and posture that makes certain activities difficult. These difficulties are caused by problems in the brain. A child might have an injury to the brain, or had a brain that did not develop properly. These problems affect the way the brain controls movement and posture. Cerebral palsy is the commonest cause of physical impairment in childhood. It occurs in 1 in 500 births, or 10,000 new cases a year in the EU. This rate is increasing due to the higher rate of survival of premature babies and the increase in older mothers .

The difficulties someone with cerebral palsy faces range from clumsiness to an inability to walk; 30 % are unable to walk and will use a wheelchair. The majority of those in a wheelchair require a full time carer to assist with day to day care, such as toileting, bathing and getting into bed. 80% of children with cerebral palsy will reach adulthood ; this is not just a childhood illness.

The 27 European member states spent approximately 1.7 trillion Euros on healthcare in 2009, 8.7% of this was for disability assistance. The cost of supporting an adult in their own home is €49,000 per year through the UK NHS, however a large number of adults care for their relatives at home, both as children and as adults.

The usual method used by parents with a child who has cerebral palsy is to manually lift the child. As the child grows, and their weight increases, this can create health problems for the carer. A study by the NHS in England determined that the effect of caring by carers was physical strain (e.g. back):11%, made an existing condition worse: 6%, developed their own health condition: 6%. Parminda Raina state that ‘the psychological and physical health of caregivers, was strongly influenced by child behavior and caregiving demands’ and ‘decreased caregiving demands were associated with an increase in physical and psychological well being of caregivers’.

Research has shown that health care personnel, such as nurses and care home workers, suffer especially from musculoskeletal problems, and that the lifting and transferring of patients are typical situations leading to accidents. Concern is expressed by the European Agency for Safety

and Health at Work about the continuing increase of musculoskeletal problems. The prevalence of work-related accidents is on average 34% greater in the social and health care sector than in other occupations in the EU.

A parent or carer with back pain as a result of lifting a disable child will not be able to give them the best care. In addition to this they may reach the stage where they require medical care themselves, increasing the burden on the medical services.

A range of home care aids, such as a toileting hoist, a bath hoist, a wheelchair, slider boards to get into a comfortable chair or into the car are available. These are problematic in a number of ways: expensive to purchase, time consuming to understand and work and tend to clutter the home and give it a disabling look - affecting the moral of the disabled user.

By the age of 4 most children are between 15 and 20kg. 15kg is the maximum recommended lifting weight for a female, and 20kg is the recommended lifting weight for a male. The weight of a 15 year old male tends to be between 46kg and 96 kg, and the 95 percentile weight for a male is approximately 116kg. Given these weights it is understandable that most carers of those unable to walk will use a hoist system, as they risk serious injury lifting these weights on a regular basis. It also explains why most hoist systems are bulky, and many use ceiling tracks to move the user around the home. However most users require access to a few main features in the home and our consortium believe that there is a method of providing access to these without the time, cost and space restrictions of the current solutions.

Consortium Kickoff meeting 18th Feb 2014

The Project Kickoff Meeting was held between all Partners to the Consortium on February 18th 2013 at Pera Innovation Premises in the UK.... more

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme managed by REA-Research Executive Agency under grant agreement n° FP7-SME-2012