Working to support inclusion, promote equality and challenge assumptions about learning disability and autism.

About Us

Our ultimate aim is to provide services and support that help people with learning disabilities and/or autism or learning difficulties build connections, have happy and independent lives, whilst having fun in the process.

Our Vision

Our vision is for a better world, social justice and equality of opportunity for people with learning disabilities and/or autism or learning difficulties.

Our Mission

Our mission is to empower individuals with learning disabilities and/or autism or learning difficulties by providing comprehensive support and services tailored to their unique needs. We strive to foster connections, promote independence, and cultivate joy in their lives through meaningful activities and experiences. Our ultimate goal is to enable people regardless of their abilities to lead fulfilling and empowered lives, filled with opportunities for growth, happiness, and fun.

Our Values

Our values of trust, care, choice and opportunity reflect our history and have been developed in consultation with our staff, service users and trustees. These values are embedded into our mission, vision and overall aim and objectives of the organisation and all our projects. All our work is also underpinned by the following values.

Learn more about learning disability, autism and learning difficulties definition...

We respect the experience of our staff, volunteers and supported employees, which include people with a learning disability and/or autism.
We are creative and encourage innovation in the solutions we adopt. We believe in people's potential and will help realise their ambitions.
We value co-production and seek the input of volunteers and the community we support "our beneficiaries" in all the work we do.
We are challenging and courageous advocates on behalf of our 'beneficiaries' with local and national institutions in order to achieve our vision and mission.
We value cooperation and partnerships based on honesty and trust. We believe that people working together can achieve positive and lasting change.
We value equality and diversity and strive to give equality of opportunity. We believe the organisation and society is enriched by its diversity.

Our Plans For The Future

In October 2022 we engaged our staff and volunteers, our board of trustees and service user representatives in some exciting thinking about our strategy and future ambitions.

Learn about the Elfrida Society's work priorities to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities and/or autism or learning difficulties here:

Welcome to the Elfrida Society Leaflet
Leading the Way

Our History

Celebrating 104 years working to support inclusion, promote equality and challenge assumptions about learning disability.

For over 100 years, The Elfrida Society has supported people with learning disabilities and/or autism or learning difficulties (LDAD).

Our mission is to help people take control of their own lives. We do this through advocacy, user-led consultation, research, and fun social activities. We want to create a world where everyone can live independently, make connections, and find happiness and success.

Celebrate our long history and great work by watching our short Centenary video. Together, let's keep working for a more inclusive and supportive society for everyone.

See the journey of The Elfrida Society in our inspiring Centenary video. Watch now!

Our Founder

In 1916, Elfrida Rathbone began teaching in Kings Cross at a special kindergarten started by her cousin, for children deemed 'ineducable'. In 1919 Elfrida established an Occupation Centre in Kings Cross for 'ineducable' children excluded from school and recruited supporters to sit on the Care Committees of Islington's Special Schools. She formed a Girls' Club in 1923, followed by a Married Girls' Class with a creche, and in 1930 established a befriending scheme for children in institutions.

The Elfrida Society was founded in 1919 by Elfrida Rathbone to campaign on behalf of those who needed more support in life. Over 100 years later, the Elfrida Society remains a cherished part of the community at the forefront of support to those with learning disability and/or autism or learning difficulties, in Islington and in recent years across London, and English counties.

Our Executive and Board of Trustees Team

Maria Dolly Galvis Zapata - CEO
Dolly is an experienced Chief Executive Officer with a robust track record in the charity sector. Since assuming the leadership of the Elfrida Society in September 2019, she has brought a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the organisation. Dolly's extensive experience includes prominent roles in senior management at the Refugee Council, Toynbee Hall, and Age UK Bromley and Greenwich. Her leadership skills have been honed through navigating services in a dynamic political landscape, influenced by both UK policy and the global political situation.
Martin Wallin
Martin, has been a dedicated member of the Elfrida Society for approximately 10 years, actively involved in consultation, co-production and quality assurance work. Martin's practical knowledge as a caregiver to his wheelchair-using mother, coupled with his advocacy skills, makes his contributions unique representing the voice and concerns of disabled residents in Islington. Martin is engaged in various roles, including the Islington Learning Disability Partnership Board and the "Community Mile" program, encouraging and engaging peers in sports and exercise programs. He is an enthusiastic supporter of Arsenal Football Club, and he enjoys playing tennis and cricket in his spare time.
Adrian Brown
Adrian has been a dedicated member of the Elfrida Society for over eleven years, actively involved in consultation, research and co-production work. As a spokesperson, he ensures that the voices of his peers shape service development, emphasising accessibility. Adrian, as a wheelchair user, brings valuable insights into mobility and access needs. He passionately challenges societal perceptions around disability, advocating for inclusion. In addition to serving on Elfrida's Board of Trustees, Adrian has contributed to external projects including being a spokesperson at the 2023 Worldwide Disability Conference in Helsinki. Beyond his commitments, he supports Chelsea Football Club and enjoys being a DJ.
Samira Hotobah-During
Samira, with a finance background and 15 years of experience in local government, investment banks, and the private sector, brings over 20 years of international experience, collaborating with development agencies, research organisations, and governments. Her expertise spans various areas, including Policy and Strategy Development, Resource Mobilisation, Advocacy, Strategic Partnerships, Restructuring, Change Management, Government Advisory, Financial Management, and Agricultural Sector Development with a focus on Food Systems Transformation. Beyond Samira's professional pursuits, she has a passion for exploring new places and immersing herself in different cultures and learning about wildlife.
Alex Leeson-Mill
Alex is a member of the Board of Trustees at the Elfrida Society. He first joined in June 2018, assumed the role of Chair in May 2019, temporarily stepped down in June 2020 due to a conflict of interest, and returned in September 2022. With a background that spans both the public and third sectors, Alex graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Social Work from the University of Edinburgh in 2012. His experience encompasses various fields, including Criminal Justice and Learning Disabilities. Over eight years, he held multiple roles in a Local Authority, culminating in two years as Deputy Head of Learning Disability Services. Alex also holds a postgraduate qualification in Autism. In 2021, Alex underwent a career transition, retraining as a Software Engineer. For the past two years, he has been contributing to Housekeep, an online platform for booking and managing home services.
Inarm Osborn, BSc (Hons), PGCert, FRSA
Inarm has been a Board of Trustees Member since April 2018. He is the Chief Executive Officer of Centa Co, an organisation in Chatham that provides day services for adults with learning disabilities. He also runs an organisation called AutiQuest, which is focused on supporting autistic adults to gain employment and supporting them once in work, as well as training companies on how best to support them in the workplace. Inarm graduated from the University of London with a First-class Honours degree in Business Administration and is currently studying Applied Neuroscience at postgraduate level at King's College, London, with a particular interest in the genetic and environmental causes of autism.
Patience Wilson, Chair of the Board of Trustees
Patience is a retired senior civil servant with vast experience in government policy, particularly in the Department of Health and Social Care. She has dedicated her career to advancing health and social care issues, equality, and human rights. Her expertise includes strategic policy leadership on adult learning disability and autism spectrum conditions. Patience's commitment to supporting independent living and inclusion for individuals with learning disabilities is deeply rooted in her personal experience as the sister of someone with a learning disability. She actively contributes to organisations such as the Enfield Carers' Centre and Enfield Healthwatch. Outside of her professional and voluntary roles, Patience enjoys spending time with her family and pursuing interests in cooking, gardening, and the theatre.
Paul Bartram, Interim Treasurer
Paul has an impressive 17-year tenure at JPMorgan, where he serves as a Managing Director within Global Markets. Prior to his role at JPMorgan, he gained invaluable experience at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in London and New York, and kickstarted his career at Goldman Sachs. Currently, Paul holds a senior position in the Institutional Client Management team, overseeing Markets and Platform sales while providing strategic advice to clients across various markets. With a knack for problem-solving, he specialises in catering to financial institutions, particularly Global Hedge funds, with a focus on credit and rates markets, as well as prime brokerage. Paul holds a BA from Oxford University in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. Outside of his professional endeavours, he enjoys family life with his wife and three boys, including identical twins.

Contact Us

Get in touch with the Elfrida Society - 9.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday, for more information on our services offer, to make a referral or about making a complaint or giving a compliment.

Buses: 30, 4 and 43
Bus stop: Islington Town Hall (Stop R) - the office is located on 34 Islington Park Street, 5 minutes' walk from the Town Hall.
Nearest Underground Station Highbury & Islington - Our offices are within 7 minutes' walk from the station.

Stay in Touch

Stay connected with the Elfrida Society and stay informed about our impactful work!

Our regular newsletters are packed with relevant and helpful information about our initiatives and local activities.

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We look forward to keeping you in the loop!