By Andy Tong andy@timesoftonbridge.co.uk

PICK-ME-UP Compaid’s new minibus in action; the charity’s transport benefits more than 1,800 people

COMPAID in Paddock Wood has become one of the first charities to benefit from a grant from the new Kent Social Enterprise Loan Fund [KSELF].

The fund is designed to bridge the growing funding gap for social enterprises by offering unsec-ured loans of between £10,000 and £100,000.

Compaid has been providing transport services to the disabled, elderly and other vulnerable clients across West Kent for 30 years, and currently supports more than 1,800 people.

It received a £32,000 loan with a £3,000 grant to buy a specially adapted minibus which will join its existing fleet of 14 vehicles.

The funding is delivered by the Kent Community Foundation in partnership with Access: The Foundation for Social Investment, the Big Lottery Fund and Big Society Capital.

For many disabled and older people in rural areas, a lack of transport services leads to exclusion from local amenities and community life.

Many villages have seen a significant withdrawal in public bus services, so Compaid’s adapted vehicles are becoming increasingly vital.

Staff and around 40 volunteers take clients to hospitals and doctor’s surgeries as well as shopping and leisure activities such as theatre visits.

In 2016-17, the wheelchair-adapted vehicles made 35,000 journeys, covering almost 350,000 miles.

“As a small charity, our funds are used to deliver our services to disabled and older people across Kent,” said Chief Executive Stephen Elsden.

“This means we have limited reserves for major expenditure, such as replacing one of our wheelchair accessible minibuses.

“The fund gave us access to capital to buy a new vehicle, with fixed cost repayments that we are able to make over a number of years.

“The minibus is now helping hundreds of vulnerable people each month to overcome loneliness and isolation.”

The charity’s Social Impact Report of 12 months ago found that 73 per cent of their service users agreed their loneliness and isolation had decreased, with 78 per cent reporting an increase in independence, while 58 per cent had grown in confidence and 51 per cent saved money through shopping locally and independently.

Compaid features on the Community Chest of the new Tunbridge Wells version of Monopoly.

If you are a social enterprise interested in applying for a loan, call James Horne, Kent Community Foundation’s Investment Fund Manager, on 01303 814 500, or visit www.kentcf.org.uk/apply/apply-for-a-loan