25 years of IT empowerment.

Who are they?

Where are they?

How big are they?
Income of under £500,000 pa

What do they do?
Provide facilities and training to improve access to IT for disabled people.

What did they receive?
Microsoft Small Business Server 2003.

The outcome?
Server software now fit for purpose; services now able to expand.
 Compaid provides a range of services to disabled people in Kent – but its core function is to empower its clients to use IT by providing high quality facilities and training. It’s a role that has changed immensely over the charity’s twenty-five years of operation, as Stephen Elsden, its Chief Executive, explains:

“When we started, we were designing specialist hardware and software for personal computers – back in the days of the early Sinclairs and the BBC Micro,” he says. “Nowadays, these adaptations tend to be produced by industry, or included in mainstream software, and our role is a training one – teaching people to use the software that people in business are using.”

Clearly, the role of IT in society has changed beyond recognition during the intervening years. Whereas the charity was once helping people to access a niche of emerging technology, IT skills are now a pre-requisite for so many aspects of modern life.

“We carry out training at our centre, and on outreach. Charities might have a computer room that we come in to – we’ll train their users there or, increasingly, skill-up their own staff. Many of our clients use us because it improves their access to paid employment; some have learnt design and artworking, and others might be using the computers to write their memoirs, for example” Stephen says.

The charity recently took a donation of Microsoft Small Business Server software, a much-needed upgrade for its systems. “We have three staff involved in admin, design and print work, and running our payroll support service,” he explains. “Our existing server was struggling – it was donated to us three or four years ago and although we’ve acquired new accounts software, reports – for example – were taking an age to run. We spoke to some external companies about systems and prices to upgrade, and we were talking several thousands of pounds.”

In the end, the charity managed to find a reconditioned server that fitted the bill, and with the new Microsoft software installed, a transformation has occurred. “We can process more quickly - everything takes a third of the time and we have much more financial control and daily information,” Stephen says. “We’ve also been able to scale up our service to payroll customers,” he adds, referring to the back-office support that the charity provides for disabled people who wish to employ their own carers. “We were on limit before.”

Stephen plans to return to CTX to see whether other software packages could benefit the charity’s client base. He heard of the scheme via Compaid’s partnership with Microsoft’s Digital Britain programme – does it work well for charities like his?

“Absolutely,” he replies. “Indeed, I’ve recommended it to others. I’m an advocate of CTX.”



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