Ensuring the welfare, rights, and equality of opportunity has been a major driver for Neeraj Sharma, the new Chief Executive Officer at Daisy Chain.

Neeraj, who has trained as a solicitor and spent the last seven years at the helm of the Citizens Advice Bureau in Darlington, will now bring his skills and talents to the Stockton-based charity which supports families affected by autism.

Neeraj has had a major impact on Citizens Advice Darlington bringing in sources of revenue and establishing relationships with the community, funders and stakeholders. He introduced a range of new services including the introduction of a social isolation programme for older people as well as a youth employability programme for those aged 16 to 30.

Neeraj said: ‘My work has centred on ensuring that struggling families and individuals are supported to overcome key developmental barriers through access to free advice, information, advocacy and training. It is important that families and individuals access all the support they are entitled to so they can have the best possible life outcomes. Up until now, my work has been with people who have been deprived of the support they need and have reached crisis point. I seek to harness the skills that I have acquired working in a rights based arena and redeploy these to field of autism support services provided by Daisy Chain. 

‘The Daisy Chain day centre, farm and outdoor activity spaces provide a vital safe haven and productive platform for both children and adults. I am delighted to be tasked with the opportunity to expand upon the beneficial and vital autism based support services across the Tees Valley.’

Originally from Darlington, Neeraj, now lives in Middlesbrough with his wife Manisha, who works in social housing, and two sons Nile, 21, a third-year medical student and Kion, 18, who is completing his A levels.

His career started when he was 17 working in the Civil Service in Darlington for Department for Education, by the time he was 20 he was managing his first pension administration team and by the age of 22 managing 16 pensions schemes for William Mercer in Leeds. During his working career, Neeraj spent much of his time working in a pension legislative environment. Neeraj said, ‘It fired a spark in me and invigorated me to retrain as solicitor with Teesside University and the College of Law. My work eventually brought me to the world of Citizens Advice originally as the legal representative, then moving to head office in London in charge of financial capability support.’

After more than three years commuting, Neeraj felt he was missing out on so much family life that he moved back to Darlington Citizens Advice as CEO where he has re-designed, developed and introduced an impressive range of community and advice services.

Neeraj added, ‘I am honoured to take on a new challenge with such an inspirational local charity. There is still a huge need for more awareness of autism support for what is often perceived as an invisible condition right through from childhood, diagnosis to employment and adult life skills.’

Ian Kinnery, recently appointed as Daisy Chain Chair of Trustees said he was delighted to welcome Neeraj to the organisation which has just celebrated 15 years of supporting families affected by autism.

He added: ‘Neeraj’s appointment marks another significant step in the evolution of this great and local organisation which plays a major part in the lives of over 2,000 families affected by autism across the Tees Valley. I look forward to working with him and contributing to the future success of Daisy Chain.’