What is EMPoWER about?

EMPoWER stands for ‘Early Mobility and Powered Wheelchair Evidence Review’. We are going to estimate the costs and benefits of providing powered mobility, for example electric wheelchairs or ride-on-cars, to disabled children aged under 5 years, compared to over 5 years.

More than 70,000 children in the UK use mobility equipment to help them move around. There are many reasons why children experience mobility limitations, and for some children powered mobility is their main way or only way of moving around on their own. Helping children aged under 5 years to move around on their own could have long-term benefits for their physical and mental development, independence, and participation in everyday life. It may also benefit their parents’ health, and reduce later health, social care, and education costs. But we don’t know if providing powered mobility for children aged under 5 years is more beneficial than waiting until children are older.

In the UK, different NHS services have different policies and practices for providing powered mobility, particularly for children aged under 5 years. There is no national guidance to help NHS services decide the best age to start providing powered mobility, or what costs and benefits to consider.

In the EMPoWER study, we will gather together research and evidence from across the world about the costs and benefits of powered mobility for children. We will look at how good this information is, for example how biased it is, and whether it is relevant to the UK. We will pull the information together to get an idea of the extra costs and benefits of providing powered mobility to very young children, rather than waiting until children turn 5. Then, we will develop an economic model to estimate whether any extra benefits of early powered mobility outweigh any additional costs.

Who is working on EMPoWER?

The project is being led by Dr Nathan Bray and is a collaboration between Bangor University and Newcastle University. You can read more about the project team here.

We’re also delighted to be working with an international advisory network, including parents, researchers, practitioners, decision-makers, and charitable organisations, all of whom have kindly agreed to share their expertise within the project.

Children and young people are actively involved in EMPoWER. Read more about our Young Research Advisors here.

Who is funding EMPoWER?

EMPoWER is funded by the NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme.

Where is the project up to?

EMPoWER started on 1 April 2018. Our main job so far has been to finalise our protocol (the detailed description of how we’re going to do the project). The protocol is now registered with NIHR PROSPERO.

Our next step is to work closely with our international advisory network, and start searching for relevant research and evidence about early powered mobility.

How can I keep up-to-date with EMPoWER?

Contact Jennifer.mcanuff@newcastle.ac.uk or @JenniferMcAnuff to be added to the EMPoWER mailing list. The project team will also be tweeting regularly about the project.