Independent Lives' community researchers, Polly, Gareth and Cara [L-R]
Independent Lives community researcher – Cara Redlich (right), shares her experience of starting work with Independent Lives and working on a project she feels really passionate about.

In June 2023, I started a new and exciting job with Independent Lives. This charity focuses on helping people with disabilities and carers. My job is to study how the cost-of-living affects disabled people and carers in Sussex. What was special about this job was that someone who understands what it’s like to live with a disability was essential. I have a condition called Multiple Sclerosis (MS), which I was diagnosed with in 2009. Before, I used to try to hide my disability, especially when looking for work. But at Independent Lives, my experience with MS was actually seen as a good thing.

I have studied a lot in my life, even reaching to the transfer level of PhD. But working on community research at Independent Lives is different from my studies. In university, I used to read a lot of books and write essays. But here, it is important to talk to people and learn from their experiences, especially about how expensive life is. We’re also finding new ways to share what we learn. Instead of just writing reports, we are looking at things like videos and photos. This will make it easier for people to understand our findings.

Another new thing for me is working in a team. I used to do most of my studying by myself. But at Independent Lives, I joined a group of researchers. We even started a special team of disabled people called a steering group to help guide our research. I really like working with other people.

Our first big task was to create a survey in November 2023. This survey was to understand the problems people with disabilities and their carers face because of the cost-of-living. After we got some initial responses, we shared the survey with more organisations and people in Sussex to get a better idea of what everyone was going through.

From December 2023 to early 2024, we’re planning to talk directly to people with disabilities and carers. We want to hear their stories and learn how the cost-of-living has affected them. This is important because it helps us understand what they need and the challenges they face every day.

As we talk to more people, we’re collecting a lot of stories and information. This isn’t just about numbers or data. It’s about real people’s lives and the difficulties they face. We’re learning so much about their daily challenges and what they need to make their lives better.

When we finish our research, we’re going to share everything we’ve learned with the NHS. This is an important part of our job. We hope that by telling the NHS about what we’ve found, we can help them make better decisions about healthcare for people with disabilities and carers. We want our work to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

Working at Independent Lives is more than just a job for me. It’s been a chance to use my own experiences with a disability to do something meaningful. I’m very proud to be part of a team that listens to and values the experiences of people with disabilities. I’m excited to see how our work can help improve things.

To find out more about Cara’s work with Independent Lives and our research into the impact of cost-of-living then please visit:

If you would like to get involved in the project or share your views and experiences then please contact