The National Society for the Employment of Epileptics (NSEE) was launched in 1892 by a group of London philanthropists and medical men. The aim of the Society was to establish a 'colony' for people with epilepsy who were capable of work but couldn't find employment due to their condition and the prevailing social attitudes of the time. At that time, many people with epilepsy were confined to workhouses or asylums due to difficulties in finding work and lodgings.
By 1900 there were seven permanent homes accommodating 90 men and over 40 women. Men and women were strictly segregated, with a 'neutral zone' between their respective quarters. Colony residents were not allowed to marry.
From 1909, children were admitted to the colony, after two homes and a school had been built, funded by the local school authority. In addition to their school lessons, they also did manual work for 12 hours a week. Scouts and guides were set up, and the children had many treats and outings. In the 40s, a dozen or so blind children with epilepsy were also admitted, an initiative negotiated with the National Institute for the Blind. However, this only lasted a few years.
Over the years, the numbers of residents rose, reaching a peak of 575 in 1942 - this included around 100 children. Due to falling numbers, the school was closed in 1957 and the remaining children were transferred to Lingfield, to what is now Young Epilepsy (formerly the National Centre for Young People with Epilepsy).
In the 1970s, there was a significant increase in the amount of epilepsy research being carried out at NSE by the resident physicians, particularly research into anti-epileptic drugs. This was seen as appropriate given NSE's first hand experience of epilepsy management.
By the 1980s, the Society's medical and scientific staff had gained an international reputation in the field of epilepsy, and a further development was the establishment of outpatient clinics. The Society had always aimed to promote the welfare of people with epilepsy generally, and this now became part of NSE’s work. A health education and information service was set up, providing literature and videos, including information packages for professional groups.
At the turn of the century, NSE’s world leading research and medical services went from strength to strength. Residential care focused on those with severe epilepsy and associated learning or physical disabilities. The range of expert support services empowered more and more people to live independently. Epilepsy information services grew, including a country-wide support and information service in NHS hospital clinics.
As ofJanuary 2011, the name changed to the 'Epilepsy Society'. Currently the only UK epilepsy charity to deliver a full programme of medical research in epilepsy. Providing medical care, residential care and information services including leaflets and videos, helpline and information clinics in NHS hospitals.