Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People, known as QEF for short, is a charity that works with over 4000 people with disabilities each year and hosts fundraising events that are a prestigious part of the London and Surrey social calendar.
Recently, Sir John Major hosted a dinner at The Oval cricket ground for QEF and Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the great explorer and adventurer, entertained QEF supporters at Epsom Downs Racecourse. QEF’s annual ‘Guinness & Oyster Luncheon’ at Mansion House in the Square Mile attracts city traders as it’s traditionally held on the day Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. So with the markets quiet, it’s a great opportunity to socialise with colleagues and support QEF.
The ‘Queen Elizabeth’ in QEF’s name refers to the Queen Mother, the organisation’s patron. The Queen Mother’s interest in the welfare of people with disabilities was almost certainly linked with growing up in Glamis Castle in Scotland when it was used as a convalescent centre for wounded soldiers coming back from the First World War. The teenaged Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, as she was then, helped run this service and it must have made an impression on her.
The idea that people with disabilities could be trained to learn a trade was new thinking in this early part of the 20th Century but as a result of the Queen Mother’s involvement, a college was founded which in 1941, after she had married King George VI and became Queen, was named after her as ‘Queen Elizabeth’s Training College’. This college was a great step forwards to the idea that a person should not be defined or limited by a disability and over subsequent years it grew beyond just being one college into a range of services. The name changed to ‘Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People’ to reflect this.
QEF’s Mission Today
In addition to the original college that continues to offer vocational employment training, over the years the QEF family has developed other services. These include QEF Independent Living Services, a residential unit that provides an inspiring and supportive environment for young people with complex disabilities, enabling them to develop practical life skills with specialist support from life coaches so that they can move towards greater independence. Also there is QEF Neuro Rehabilitation Services at its Brain Injury Centre in Banstead, where lives are rebuilt after traumatic head injuries or strokes, and the QEF Mobility Centre where people with disabilities can find help to learn to drive or increase their personal mobility with assistive technology.
More recently the family has also taken several local charities under its wing including Sutton Shopmobility, VASD, which provides wheelchair accessible holidays, and MERU, which creates specialist equipment primarily for children with disabilities, such as the amazing Bugzi powered micro-wheelchair. For many young children, a Bugzi is their first experience of independent mobility.
The Future of QEF
As QEF enters its 80th year exciting times are ahead as planning consent has just been granted to rebuild its main site in Leatherhead, Surrey into a state of the art charity hub that will revitalise its services. So the future’s bright for QEF and there’s a little bit extra to celebrate at this year’s fundraising functions!
If you would like to have further information on QEF, Tel: 01323 841100.
E-mail: [email protected] Visit: www.qef.org.uk