Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People (QEF) was established in 1967 but its origins go back to the 1930s when a training college for disabled people was opened at Leatherhead Court.
In 1932 a conference was held by Dame Georgiana Buller, Vice Chairman of the Central Council for the Care of Cripples, to discuss the possibility of establishing a training school for disabled people. With the help of a contribution of £8000 from the Bernhard Baron Trustees, Leatherhead Court and 12a of land were purchased and the first sixteen trainees were admitted to the ‘London and District Cripples’ Training College’ in November 1934. Courses on book-keeping, cooking, engineering and gardening were offered, later expanding to include courses on such activities as welding, spray painting, engineering draughtsmanship, bench carpentry, electrical servicing, bookbinding and leatherwork.
In 1941 the College was renamed ‘Queen Elizabeth’s Training College for the Disabled’. The Duchess of York had attended the first meeting appealing for funds, held at the Mansion House in 1933, and subsequently maintained a close interest in the College. In 1941, following a visit to the College, the Duchess, now the Queen (later Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother) expressed the wish that the College be renamed after her. Further visits followed in 1948, 1950 (when Her Majesty opened Springbok House, the new hostel for women trainees), 1960, 1970, 1977, 1984 and 1992 (when she opened the new building at Leatherhead Court, following a devastating fire in 1989). Her Majesty also attended a thanksgiving service in the Guards Chapel in 1995.
Post-war, the College steadily expanded its activities, introducing new courses to keep up with the demands of business; by 1989 it was offering 19 courses, evenly divided between clerical and technical training. Specific training courses for people with disabilities, latterly known as QEF Vocational Services, ceased in August 2015.
From the 1950s, the College became more widely involved in providing facilities for disabled people. In 1953 Dorincourt Estates, jointly sponsored by Queen Elizabeth’s Training College and the National Association for the Paralysed (NAP), was formed as a voluntary organisation and a registered charity. It consisted of 3 units: a residential rehabilitation centre at Banstead (Banstead Place), opened in 1956; a residential sheltered workshop at Dorincourt, Leatherhead, opened in 1958; and a holiday and convalescent home (Lulworth Court) at Westcliff-on-Sea, formed by NAP in 1959 and taken over by Dorincourt Estates in 1962. In 1967 the Training College and Dorincourt Estates were amalgamated to form Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for the Disabled (renamed in 1991 Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People).
The role of Banstead Place was changed in 1974 from medical rehabilitation (which by then was an established facility within the National Health Service) to become a new pioneering venture as a multi-disciplinary assessment centre for severely handicapped school-leavers. Its facilities were subsequently extended to the development of a Mobility Centre offering advice on mobility and driving assessments, available to disabled members of the general public. The Mobility Centre moved to Carshalton in 1991.
Having provided on-site employment in a sheltered workshop from its beginnings in 1958, making, amongst other crafts, ceramic tiles, Dorincourt opened an Arts Centre in 1982, promoting craftwork for non-commercial ends. Subsequent years brought status as a residential care home (under the 1984 Registered Care Home Act) and as a specialist Further Education establishment in the early 1990s. By 2000-2001 the Centre, now known as the Development Centre, had re-registered for adults up to 40 years of age, and was caring for long-term residents. In 2003 a building programme was undertaken to improve facilities. Dorincourt is now (2016) run as a unit offering independent living services, providing a variety of residential units where clients are able to develop their independence and also experience different types of living environment before committing to something permanent in the community.
Lulworth Court continued to provide holiday and respite care until its closure in December 1999. In its place the Care and Respite Fund was created to provide financial assistance to physically disabled people to take a holiday or respite break at a venue of their choice.
A partnership with Kent County Council led to the development of a Resource Centre, providing a range of services, activities and information for adults in North West Kent. This was operational at Bridge Court, Dartford, between 1991 and 2008.
From 1989 QEF developed a Disability Information Service for Surrey (DISS), providing comprehensive information on all aspects of disability, including the DissBASE database enabling access to products and services available to disabled people. Originally concentrating on Surrey, a combined service with West Sussex was operational from 1994-2003.
QEF has responded to changes in NHS provision and the developing needs of disabled people and now (2016) provides the following services:
Brain Injury Centre providing residential and non-residential services at Banstead Place, including intensive neurorehabilitation, vocational rehabilitation and education support to young people who have been severely affected by an acquired brain injury;
Development Centre at Dorincourt, a residential centre for severely disabled young adults, providing the opportunity to acquire key life skills and greater independence;
Mobility Centre at Carshalton, providing mobility assessments and driving tuition for people with disabilities.
Records from the Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People have been deposited at Surrey History Centre under reference 9541.