What do you need to know? Our Resources cover everything from managing a spinal cord injury to travel, entitlements and holidays. If you do not find the answer to your query here contact SII on or phone 01-2355317

Medical card

Employment after Spinal Cord Injury

Returning to employment can be a positive experience enhancing physical health, earning potential, social interactions and confidence. Whether you choose to return to your previous job, follow a new career path, set up your own business, enter into voluntary work or return to education, SII can support you to make your choice a reality.

Exploring employment options while still at the NRH

You can start exploring your options during your rehabilitation, through our ‘Future Me’ Programme. Find out more here.

My benefits and employment

If you are currently receiving social welfare benefits and wish to take up employment, you should check how this will affect you. You can check at your local Department of Social Protection (DSP) Office or your local Citizens Information Bureau.

In general, the following rules apply:

  • Invalidity Pension and Illness Benefit: If you are receiving one of these benefits you cannot undertake paid work. You can undertake voluntary unpaid work. If you wish to work as a volunteer, you must get written permission from the DSP before you start. If you are receiving Invalidity Pension you cannot do more than 19.5 hours per week of voluntary work. If you are receiving Illness Benefit there is no limit on the amount of hours of voluntary work you can do per week.

If you wish to undertake paid work you must transfer to the Partial Capacity Scheme.

  • Disability Allowance: If you are receiving this allowance you may be allowed to undertake work or training that is considered rehabilitative or therapeutic. If you wish to do this you must get written permission from the DSP. You must also get written permission from the DSP if you wish to undertake voluntary unpaid work.
  • Partial Capacity Benefit: If you are in receipt of Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension you may qualify for Partial Capacity Benefit. Disability Allowance is not a qualifying allowance for Partial Capacity Benefit.

Partial Capacity Benefit is a social welfare scheme that allows you to return to work or self-employment (if you have reduced capacity to work) and continue to receive your Department of Social Protection payment.

To qualify for Partial Capacity Benefit your restriction or capacity for work will be assessed as mild, moderate, severe or profound. If you are assessed as mild you will not qualify and your continued eligibility for Invalidity Pension and Illness Benefit will be reviewed. It is important to discuss the process with your GP and consider all possible outcomes before applying for this benefit.

If you transfer to the Partial Capacity Scheme you can retain some secondary allowances (such as Free Travel, Households Benefits Package) but will lose others (such as Fuel Allowance). More information can be found on the Citizens Information website here

Supports for employers and employees

There are different supports for people with disabilities to assist with finding and keeping employment. Grants that may be helpful to support you and your employer to return to work or begin a new job include:

  • Grants for employers to retain employees with disabilities
  • Disability Awareness Training Grants
  • Grants for adapting or equipping the workplace for staff with disabilities
  • Wage Subsidy Scheme

Information about these grants and others are listed on the Citizens Information Website here

Employer Disability Information Service

The purpose of the Employer Disability Information service is to provide employers with an expert peer source of advice and information on employing staff with disabilities, with a view to enhancing the confidence and competence of individual employers to employ, manage and retain staff with disabilities.

Can I keep my medical card?

One of the most common concerns about returning to work is whether or not it is possible to keep your medical card.

If you are returning to full or part time work you can keep your medical card for 3 years provided that you have been getting one of the following allowances for 12 months or more:

  • Jobseekers Allowance
  • Jobseekers Benefit
  • One Parent Family Payment
  • Illness Benefit
  • Invalidity Pension
  • Disability Allowance
  • Blind Pension
  • Or you have been on an employment incentive scheme or educational opportunity scheme.

More information can be found on the Citizens Information Website here


If you’re interested in setting up your own business, there are a number of supports available to you.

SII Community Outreach Officer

Your SII Community Outreach Officer can assist you in accessing your local supports in setting up a business.

Local County Enterprise Office

You can contact your local County Enterprise Office who will provide information about grants, subsidised training courses and mentoring. You can find your nearest Local Enterprise Office here

Local Development Company

Your Local Development Company or LEADER Partnership may also have a ‘Start Your Own Business’ Course or local grants available to you. You can find your nearest Local Development company here

Back to Work Enterprise Allowance

If you would like to set up your own business you may be eligible for the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance. If you are eligible, you can keep a percentage of your social welfare payment for up to 2 years. You are likely to be eligible for this is if you have been in receipt of one of the following payments for 12 months:

  • Jobseekers Allowance
  • Jobseekers Benefit
  • One Parent Family Payment
  • Blind Pension
  • Disability Allowance
  • Carers Allowance
  • Farm Assist
  • Invalidity Pension
  • Incapacity Supplement
  • Widow / Widowers or Surviving Civil Partner’s Pension
  • Or Illness Benefit for more than 3 years

You can keep extra benefits such as Fuel Allowance, Medical Card and Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance whilst in receipt of BTWEA.

Enterprise Support Grant (ESG)

If you are approved for the BTWEA you may also be eligible for the Enterprise Support Grant (ESG) which can pay a total of €2500 in a 24 month period. There are strict application procedures associated with this grant and you must be able to make a matching contribution of 20% of the grant.

More information about the BTWEA and the ESG is available on the Citizens Information Website here

Medical Card

If you have a medical card you are currently entitled to the following:

  • Free GP services
  • Prescribed drugs and medicines
  • In-patient public hospital services, out-patient services and medical appliances.
  • Dental, optical and aural services
  • Maternity and infant care services
  • Public health nursing, social work services and some community care services.
  • 8 counselling sessions with a professionally qualified and accredited Counsellor / Therapist

* To avail of the 8 free counselling sessions, referral must be made by your GP to the Counselling in Primary Care Service.


Am I entitled to Occupational Therapy / Physiotherapy in the community?

Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy are classified as community care services. In general, medical card holders are entitled to community care services free of charge. There may be a waiting list for these services.

Non-medical card holders may be entitled but it is not always possible. If you are a non-medical card holder and hold insurance, some services may be covered by your insurer. Always check with your provider first.

Please note that rules about which community care services must be provided vary for different areas. In some cases, the HSE is obliged to provide services while, in others, the HSE has discretion about whether to make the service available or not.

If you are having difficulty accessing a community care service in your area, please contact your SII Community Outreach Officer who will help you find a solution.

Your Health Office

Your Local Health Office or GP is your entry point to community health and personal social services. Services that are provided through health offices include:

  • GP Services
  • Public Health Nursing
  • Child Health Services
  • Community Welfare
  • Chiropody
  • Opthalmic
  • Speech Therapy
  • Social Work
  • Addiction Counselling and Treatment
  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Psychiatric Services
  • Home Help

A list and explanation of community care services that may be available to you can be found here

A list of HSE Local Health Offices can be found here

If you are having difficulty accessing any of the services above you can contact your HSE Access Officer, a list of which can be found here

Medical Card Entitlement

As a person with a spinal cord injury, you are not automatically entitled to a medical card.

To qualify for a medical card your weekly income must be below a certain figure for your family size. All assets are included in the assessment including cash income, savings, investments, property and any settlement you may have received as a result of your spinal cord injury.

How do I apply for a Medical Card?

If you are entitled to a medical card it is likely that while in hospital, your Social Worker will have submitted this application with you. If your circumstances have changed or this did not happen, you can apply online for a medical card at

Or you can download a medical card application from the Citizens Information website:

If you would like a paper copy to be sent to you in the post, please contact our Information Officer on / 01 2355317

If you are refused a medical card, the process of appeal will be outlined in the refusal letter.

* If you are not happy with the outcome of the assessment, it is very important to begin the process of appeal quickly. Please contact your SII Community Outreach Officer if you would like assistance with this process.

What is the Hardship Scheme?

The Hardship Scheme is available to people with a medical card. This allows you to access prescribed medical supplies, that are not directly available through the medical card.

To access the scheme you must ring your Local Health Office for a form. Your doctor or consultant needs to complete the form to confirm what you need in terms of extra medical items. This should then be stamped and sent back.

Unfortunately, SII has been informed by the HSE that Health Offices are not obliged to fund this scheme and will only do so if they have the funds to. Some parts of the country don’t have the funds for this.

The Drugs Payment Scheme

Under the Drugs Payment Scheme, an individual or family in Ireland does not have to pay more than €144 per month for approved prescribed drugs, medicines and certain appliances. You should apply for this if you have a GP visit card or you do not have a Medical Card. You can find out more information or apply for this on Your SII Support Worker can also help you with this process.

The 12 Item Medical List

This is available to people on the Drugs Payment Scheme.

The 12 Item List contains items that people with SCI are entitled to if needed through the Hardship Scheme (although please note that the Hardship Scheme may not be available in some health areas).

Members who do not have a medical card are also entitled to the items through the Drugs Payment Scheme. The items currently on the list are as follows:

  1. K.Y. Jelly
  2. Glycerine Suppositories
  3. Incontinence sheets (for manual evacuation only)
  4. Non Sterile Disposable Gloves
  5. Wipes
  6. Urethral Catheter
  7. All Silicone Urethral Catheter
  8. Urinary Incontinence Sheath (urinary condom drainage)
  9. Leg Bags
  10. Overnight Drainage Bags (2 litre)
  11. Strapping
  12. Gauze Dressing

If you are on the Drugs Payment Scheme and not receiving the 12 items, you need to notify us here at SII and we will notify the Drugs Payment Board. The Drugs Payment Board will send you a form to complete and return. Your pharmacist will then be notified that you are entitled to the items on the list as part of the Drugs Payment Scheme. Please note that entitlement to these items is part of the €144 on the drugs payment scheme. If your total monthly pharmacy bill does not amount to €144 you will not receive these items free of charge. Please contact your SII Community Outreach Officer or / 01 2355317 if you would like more information.

Spinal Injuries Ireland,
Unit G3,
Pottery Business Centre,
Pottery Road,
Dun Laoghaire,
Co. Dublin,

Tel: +353-1-6532180