Meet the Team

Lee Bensley

Lee is one of the Co-founders of the Charity. Lee searched for a service post 18 for his son to attend who has profound learning disabilities. He became so passionate about helping others to achieve their full potential that he has dedicated his time and skills to the charity. Lee is a master builder with decades of experience in the industry. He has used his skills, knowledge and experience to provide training to those who attend Next Steps. Lee has been instrumental in securing large orders for bespoke furniture from large organisations such as True Student @ Glasgow, this has really put Next Steps on the map and showcased the talents and skills of those who present on the Autistic Spectrum and/or have a Learning Disability. 

Louise Bensley

Louise is also one of the Co-founders of the Charity. Louise is Lee’s wife, she was extremely apprehensive when her son left education due to the lack of services available for his age group and disability, it soon became clear that something needed to be done, with help and perseverance Next Steps was set up. Louise is the manager of the finance department and works with trainees to encourage maths skills and financial understanding, she has a real passion for promoting disability in the workplace.

Gary Keen

Gary has been with Next Steps Development from it’s conception in May 2018. A Trustee and valued member of the team, Gary’s knowledge and expertise in all things mechanical and electronic are vast. Whether it’s working with components in TV’s, Computers or anything else, Gary finds a way to fix it. One of Gary’s other talents is Mechanics. A qualified Master Mechanic, Gary has a wealth of experience in the Motor Trade.

 Gary has known the founders of the charity for many years and was eager to be a part of it as he has first-hand understanding due to his own disability. Passionate about raising awareness, understanding and elevating the students that come to Next Steps, Gary puts his all into the projects and freely gives his time to those students who work with him, and those who just wish to get some information or have a chat.

Sarah Poyser

Sarah is one of the management team and chair on the trustees board here at Next Steps, working endlessly to maintain and keep the charity running smoothly. Although a successful business woman, running her logistics company for more then 15 years. Sarah was born and raised locally where she studied health and social care which started off her career path whilst raising her family which includes twins, this led her to start up a multiple birth group aimed to share support and advise to other parents. She was a school governor for more then two years but her passion to support and help others lead her to join our Next Steps family. Sarah is hoping to set up workshops for vulnerable people from abusive backgrounds, an issue that is closed to her own heart and a community advise group inspired by her young grandson who was born with an extra chromosome, mapping the steps of the future of our training centre.

Karen Johnson (Development Officer)

Karen came to Next Steps from the care industry, starting as a community support worker and then progressing to writing the care plans for clients, as a Locality Officer.

As a mother of 4 (now grown) children, one of whom suffers from Hyperactivity and one who suffers from severe Dyspraxia, Karen is not a stranger to having a child with additional needs.

Karen joined Next Steps in August 2018 and is now our Development Officer. She may be the first person you will see as a new trainee and will be responsible for writing the development plans and along with Damian, will steer you towards the relevant AQA’s in your chosen pathway.

Lynda Gordon

Lynda has worked in the care sector for almost 30 years, managing services for charities and Local Authority Social Services, holding Care Quality Commission registration for multiple sites. She has 3 grandchildren with additional health needs, 2 with an ASD diagnosis and other disabilities. Lynda met the co-founders of Next Steps Development through a chance meeting, she identified with the challenges the family faced about the future opportunities for their loved one, absolutely loved the whole ethos of the charity and the sense of “family” so evident in the interactions  between trainees, volunteers and staff. Lynda knew this was a charity she wanted to support and be involved in and joined the team in a dual role as Catering Manager and leading on Access to Work opportunities within the charity.

Marian Letorey

As a mother with a child who has additional needs Marian linked up with the co-founders and became a trustee. Marian enjoys her role and has been a strong supporter of Next Steps for a long time. Marian helps as a volunteer at our charity shop and can be found at events throughout the year, even though she has been working at Tesco for over 40 years and helps at a newsagent in Ilfracombe. Marian also is heavily involved in community projects in Ilfracombe eg: Victorian Week, local bingo events and much more.

Donna Squires

Donna is the parent of one of our learners, Jack.

He has complex needs which requires round the clock care, as a parent it's important for Next Steps to learn from the parents and carers of the young people we work with.

Although Donna is very busy she is a valuable Manager at our new Charity Shop, Friends of Next Steps Development, High Street, Barnstaple, she always manages to support and plan any events that we have going on.

Damian Boland (Training Manager)

 Damian has spent over a decade in the care and support industry in a variety of roles. These have ranged from secure services for adults to working with children who present with Learning Disabilities and/or present on the Autistic Spectrum.

He has managed several organisations during this time and was instrumental in developing a follow-on service for children moving into adulthood services. One of the first of its kind in Manchester.

Damian went on to study teaching/tutoring for health & social care and became an assessor for this field. One of the specialist areas was to teach functional skills to those who had learning difficulties as a Learning Support Tutor, an area he enjoys up to today. Damian has extensive experience in developing learning tools and strategies, using accelerated learning techniques to embed knowledge and understanding.

Damian come to Next Steps Development in August 2018 as Training Manager. He heads up the Training Department and AQA.


Next Steps Development

Registered Charity: 1182222

Vicarage Lawn, Barnstaple, Devon EX32 7BN

01271 314413

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©2018 Next Steps Development