Julia Holding

Julia Holding was a serving police officer with BTP for 17 years until she contracted meningitis in 2006 which left her with a serious hearing impairment. She became a member of police staff and currently works for the DMS team at Manchester.

In July this year, Julia received the Police Staff Long Service Award from Chief Constable Paul Crowther.

Here, Julia reflects on the day she realised that she would never be able to return to frontline policing and how she has successfully continued her career with BTP.

How long have you worked for British Transport Police?

I joined BTP in 1992 and spent 17 years at Preston as a PC. I loved my job; there was something different every day, it was a good team and we worked well together. I thought I would be a police officer for 30 years until I retired.

But then you became ill with meningitis…

Yes, I hadn’t been feeling well for a few days and it got worse and worse and I knew I was ill. I went to see my GP and collapsed in the surgery and was taken by ambulance to hospital. I was in intensive care and didn’t regain consciousness for a week.

At first, when I woke from the coma, my hearing was fine and I thought I’d been stabbed because there were so many needle marks in my arms but my daughters (who were in their early 20s)explained what had happened.  Then after 48 hours my hearing started to deteriorate and, in a day, it disappeared altogether. I knew I would never get my hearing back and I did cry at that point.

I spent a month in hospital and my son, who was only five at the time, found it very hard at first to understand what had happened to his mum and why I couldn’t hear him properly. Julia Holding

 Quote-2 I am very lucky to be in employment with an organisation that looks after its staff and does a great job keeping members of the public safe. qupte


How much can you hear now?

I wear a hearing aid in my right ear and I have a cochlear implant in my left ear. Together they give me a small amount of sound, but without them I would hear nothing. I rely on lip reading to understand what people are saying. I used to love music and going to concerts but I only get the vibration and muffled bass notes now so I don’t bother, I really do miss that.

How did you cope with such a huge change in your life?

The day I became deaf I knew I would never be an operational police officer again. That was devastating; everything changed so fast and so completely. I thought, what am I going to do? Suddenly I had to reassess everything.

I had six months off work and BTP were very supportive. When I came home from hospital, my supervisor and the Area Commander came to see me and they made it clear that BTP would be there to help me, whatever I chose to do. I also had great support from the Police Federation rep and from Occupational Health.

I had six months off sick but I knew that I wanted to get back to work and I wanted to stay with BTP because my whole career had been with the Force and I didn’t want to leave all that behind. So I started to look at my options and discuss the possibility of returning to work as a civilian. As a PC, I never minded the paperwork and the Justice department at Liverpool needed more staff so I decided to give that a try and I’ve never looked back.

How does your hearing impairment affect your work?

The main thing is that I can’t use the phone so I communicate by email. I’ve had three different roles since I became deaf – in the Justice Unit, the Crime Management Unit and now in DMS – and officers and staff quickly get used to communicating with me by email.

I am lucky to have worked with very supportive managers and colleagues who have adapted to fit around me. Occasionally team members will make or take a phone call for me – and they have to make sure there is always someone with me in the office in case the fire alarm goes off – but communication technology nowadays means that I work independently most of the time. 

I also rely on lip reading and that requires a lot of concentration so it can get very tiring. My hearing loss also affects my balance so travelling to and from work, and climbing stairs, is hard work.

Does your experience as a frontline officer help you in your current job?

Yes definitely. I bring a lot of operational knowledge and experience to my job which is good for BTP. I understand the pressures of being a police officer and the challenges around paperwork and processes and working shifts and balancing work with family life, so I always try to bear that in mind when I’m rostering officers and, in the past, it’s helped when I’ve been dealing with crime recording and incident management.

Would you recommend working for BTP?

Yes, BTP is a great police force and a good place to work. I’m very grateful for the support I’ve received at all levels in BTP. It’s about making the best of your opportunities and I am very lucky to be in employment with an organisation that looks after its staff and does a great job keeping members of the public safe.

What message would you give to other employers?

Just give disabled people a chance to show what they can do and keep an open mind about any adjustments you might need to make. Most barriers can be overcome and it doesn’t have to cost much, it’s often just a case of finding an alternative way of doing something. As long as there is flexibility on both sides, it can work very well.

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