The London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) began as the Westminster Health Society in 1903, a time of poverty and shockingly high mortality. Distressed at the conditions they saw around them, three individuals embarked on an ambitious plan to change them.
Over 100 years before the first official children’s centre and 45 years before the NHS, the Westminster Health Society helped to introduce the first health visiting programme in London. This included health education and training, clinics for maternal & child welfare and training in domestic skills. It was largely due to our three founders that maternal and child welfare and personal health services became available in Westminster.
During the Second World War, we opened our first nursery to support mothers working in the war effort. During the Blitz the nursery was temporarily housed in the air raid shelter of the Tate gallery!
As the needs of the community changed over the 20th century and health conditions improved, we focused our services on providing Early Years education and care through our nurseries. This enabled parents to go back to work, and children to get the best possible start in life.
In 2006 we began the journey to become a social enterprise to make us financially self-sustaining, and allowing us to offer the same high quality nursery experience to families across the city regardless of their background. In 2009 the organisation was re-named London Early Years Foundation as we moved out of Westminster, recognising the importance of spreading our model.
Today we are one of London’s largest and most successful charitable social enterprises, inspired by the same passion and bravery of our pioneering founders, working to change the world one child at a time.