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The Queen Elizabeth Foundation for Disabled People

queen Elizabeth foundation's Care and Rehabilitation Centre in Leatherhead
queen Elizabeth foundation's Care and Rehabilitation Centre in Leatherhead Image credit: architecturemagazine.co.uk

The Queen Elizabeth Foundation for Disabled People (QEF) has been in service for more than 85 years supporting around 10,000 people with disabilities every year.

Working alongside children and adults with physical and learning disabilities, QEF helps people develop life skills so they can lead as much as an independent lifestyle to the best of their ability, such as driving an adapted vehicle or living in their own home.

The charity offers an extensive range of services such as specialist care, neuro rehabilitation as well as support and care.

Launched in 1934 by Dame Georgiana Buller and Stanley Evans with the support of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (then Her Royal Highness the Duchess of York) the College was officially opened on 27 June 1935.

In the early days QEF’s focus was to offer employment training to people with disabilities. Over the years the services expanded, the charity opened a holiday home, a neuro rehabilitation centre, mobility centre and a sheltered workshop.

On 1 November 1934 the College introduced its first sixteen trainees, but within the next five years the charity would play a much more important role.

When World War 2 broke out in 1939 the College formed part of the Disabled Section of the Munitions Training Scheme of the Ministry of Labour and National Service where munitions were trained in engineering, tracing and welding.

On 12 January 1989 a fire at Leatherhead Court destroyed a number of rooms at the College, fortunately no one was injured. On 12 November 1992 Leatherhead was reopened by The Queen Mother, 57 years after her first visit.

A new section of the College, Dorincourt, was opened on 1 November 1958 which was described by Dame Georgiana as a ‘unique opportunity for combining an industrial unit, already designed for that purpose, with an established Training College in a district eminently suited for the purpose and offering the fullest opportunity for further development.’ 

Dorincourt catered for disabled people unable to work in an open industry environment due to their medical history. The site now provides specialist care, therapy and tailored day schedules to support people with disabilities leading an independent life.

In 1956 Banstead Place opened in the Dorincourt estates to assist ‘young chronic sick’ people in daily living. Eighteen years later in 1974 Banstead changed their attention to becoming a specialist unit for children of a school age with disabilities.

Over the past twenty years Banstead has become a brain injury rehabilitation unit, in 2020 the service moved to QEF’s Care and Rehabilitation Centre, near Leatherhead (pictured above)

QEF’s Mobility Services was developed at Banstead Place to provide residents with mobility and assistive technology. The department opened to the public in 1983 when it formed the UK’s first mobility centre.

The service is still in operation today offering assistance with scooters, wheelchairs, a driving school for people with disabilities and assistance technology. There is also a support service to ease disabled people suffering with anxiety and stress before and during air travel.

To celebrate its 80th anniversary in 2015 the charity undertook a year’s heritage project to bring more awareness of their work to a wider audience. 

The project, which received extra funding by the Heritage Lottery Fund, saw 1,000 photographs, film reels, and thousands of documents made available online. The initiative also saw QEF working with disabled actors stage performances centred around disability and technology to fifteen schools in Surrey.

QEF's vision is to ‘work together to deliver caring and creative solutions for people with disabilities of all ages, enabling them to live life to the full.’