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Cllr Ian Palmer, originally from Ashford, now a Dover town councillor after becoming disabled

By Sam Lennon

A former prison officer who suffered crippling injuries is offering hope to others who have become disabled.

Ian Palmer is wheelchair-bound after an accident at work but now has a new lease of life as a town councillor.

He hopes he has shown how a devastated life can be rebuilt.

Cllr Ian Palmer: Life after disability
Cllr Ian Palmer: Life after disability

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He said: "If somebody can see me as an example, see the route that I've travelled, then thats a positive.

"No matter how invasive a life changing situation may be, how different life can become after a physical injury , there is a possibility to find a new direction.

" It doesn't have to be the end although it does feel devastating at the time.

"You can put yourself back together and try to find new life in whatever form that takes."

In December 2009 Cllr Palmer worked at Dover Immigration Removal Centre and he and colleagues rushed to deal with a violent incident on a wing.

He skidded on oil on a manhole cover and ended up in a pothole. rupturing two spinal discs and and having his right kneecap ripped out.

Cllr Palmer explained: “The manhole cover was like an ice rink and that oil should never have been there.

"I ended up taking the prison service to court through my trade union for compensation.”

He underwent surgery but his condition worsened until he needed a wheelchair.

Cllr Palmer said: “I don’t feel bitter about what happened but I feel sad.”

Last year he had to retire completely from HM Prison Service after 15 years due to ill health.

Ian Palmer: "It doesn't have to be the end."
Ian Palmer: "It doesn't have to be the end."

But on September 7 this year Ian Palmer, now 38, was elected to Dover Town Council as a Labour member for the St Radigund’s ward.

He said: "I have a tenacious side, one that will not allow me to simply convalesce quietly.

"I have skills and experience that I hope will be of good use for Dover.

The role is flexible enough to forgive my limitations and with some teamwork we can minimise any hurdles.”

He hopes to set up fortnightly surgery at the Triangles community centre in his ward, in Poulton Close.

Cllr Palmer revealed that he has another health problem to deal with.

Late last year he was found to have a hormonal problem that left him chronically tired.

He said: “The NHS believe it could be a tumour and tests are ongoing.”

He expects to be given the results by November 24 this year.

Ian Palmer grew up Ashford, where he qualified in IT, and later became a database programmer in Whitstable.

He went on to work for a large IT company in Surrey until it folded.

He came back to Kent and became a mental health nursing auxiliary at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford.

Cllr Palmer says: “My life found a whole new humanitarian direction.

"I went on to work in a variety of health settings before finally joining the prison service where I enjoyed a positive career.”

In his last two years of work he was a civil servant at the HM Prison Service headquarters in London.

He said: “I championed equality rights and decency for staff and offenders.

“I specialised in providing expert insight, support and guidance for LGBT issues as chair of a nationwide network.

“I worked alongside both BAME (black and minority ethnic) and disability strands.”

Cllr Palmer is also a local photographer with several years of media and studio experience.

He lives with his partner of 17 years.

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