Introducing Kent charity Compaid’s new CEO Steve Sherry

CommunityAd recently spoke with Steve Sherry CMG OBE, the new CEO of Compaid.

 

Compaid is an exciting charity based in Paddock Wood which delivers transport services and digital training services right across Kent to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. Steve has been in the sector for over 12 years providing vital support for people with disabilities and health conditions. He is passionate about communities and reducing social isolation.

 

What was the reason behind starting Compaid and when did you first form?

CommunityAd Exclusive - Introducing Kent charity Compaid’s new CEO Steve Sherry

Lorna Ridgway

Compaid’s inception traces back to the vision of Lorna Ridgway, a renowned figure in education policy and practice during the 1960s and 1970s. Her accolades included a notable appearance on an episode of “This is Your Life” in 1970 and the honour of being made a Member of the British Empire.

In the pursuit of empowering disabled individuals, Lorna initiated a day service within the confines of the Leonard Cheshire Home’s dining room. Here, residents with disabilities were introduced to the world of computers, aided by specialised adaptations and software tailored to accommodate various physical and learning challenges. Recognising the potential for expansion and greater impact, Lorna identified unused premises within Pembury Hospital’s vicinity. Consequently, in September 1986, Compaid emerged as a charitable organisation, finding its new home in these repurposed spaces.

Although Lorna passed away in 1994, her efforts in cultivating a supportive network for the charity ensured the continuity of its vital services beyond her lifetime.

 

What would you say have been Compaid’s proudest moments in their near 40-year history?

Besides the establishment of our purpose-designed training centre in Paddock Wood, one of the proudest moments was when the impact of our work was recognised by the Big Lottery in 2013.

This financial support enabled us to expand our community transport service to support disabled people in Kent and Sussex to access medical appointments and social activities. The transport scheme increased its capacity through recruiting and training additional drivers and extending our fleet of vehicles. From our humble beginnings, we are now proud to have a fleet of 24 owned vehicles supporting over 2000 people a year.

We continue to fight hard to retain the delivery of these services and are pleased to be working in partnership with KCC (Kent County Council) and other local authorities to deliver the Kent Karrier Service and dial-a-ride transport services in many areas of Kent, including Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells. Notwithstanding the pressures on local authority budgets, it is vital that these services are retained.

 

Can you tell us how you have been able to remove barriers and improve lives for disabled, older, and other vulnerable people in Kent?

Compaid is focused on providing accessible transport and digital skills training, both of which begin to reduce barriers and help create communities for vulnerable people.

Our door-to-door transport takes passengers to destinations of their choosing from their homes, ensuring everyone is supported safely throughout their journey.

With our digital skills training, we provide one-to-one personalised sessions guiding learners to gain skills with digital devices and the internet at their own pace, and according to their disability or learning requirements. By meeting the specific needs of each learner, many have increased their confidence and self-esteem, and have the opportunity to live as they would want.

 

Are you currently looking for any volunteers and, if so, how can readers get in touch to find out more?

Yes!

We currently have volunteer positions available in our Transport department and in our Paddock Wood Digital Skills Training Centre to help us provide support to our ever-increasing number of clients and passengers.

More information can be found on our website or by calling Judith Williams on 01892 351055.

 

What are your immediate short-term plans and long-term goals over the next 5-10 years that you have for Compaid?

Our immediate goal is to re-secure the Kent Karrier contract in Kent this summer when it comes up for retender – this is vital for Compaid and our passengers. I expect KCC to deliver on its obligations under the Social Value Act.

We are working with our Board of Trustees to design and launch an exciting new strategy in 2025. Everything we do is about improving lives!

In the meantime, the charity is already delivering high-quality services at Paddock Wood, and we are not only increasing the number of attendees here, but we are also responding to requests to deliver out-reach services alongside partners. Our outreach delivery is in the Job Centre Plus in Tonbridge (this office covers Royal Tonbridge Wells residents). I expect to exceed a 10% growth in client numbers by March 2024.

Therefore, we will also need an increase in our wonderful team of volunteers and watch this space for details of an Open Week this summer. If you want to volunteer, contact Compaid for an exploratory chat! I am also interested in hearing from Commercial Organisations who are looking to support a local charity with volunteer days and/or sponsorship of events or equipment. Just give us a call.

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