Our Charitable Purpose is to advance the profession of occupational therapy and support the development of occupational therapists. We do this by commissioning special projects and research and by providing funding for the professional development of occupational therapists.
Who was Dr Elizabeth Casson?
Dr Elizabeth Casson was born on April 14th 1881. Not only is she seen as the founder of occupational therapy in England, she was also the first woman to be awarded a medical degree by the University of Bristol. Heavily influenced by the work of the social reformer, Octavia Hill, whom she worked for in her early years, Dr Casson’s passion for the healing power of occupation drove her lifelong work in establishing occupational therapy practice, education and its professional association.
In 1929 Dr Casson borrowed funds to establish the Dorset House School of Occupational Therapy in Bristol; Constance Owens was its first principal. There followed a relocation of the school to Oxford in 1946 and in 1948 Dr Casson established the original Casson Trust to support her developmental work in occupational therapy and the Dorset House School of Occupational Therapy. A wonderful history of the school can be found at the Dorset House archive. When the School merged with Oxford Brookes University in 1993, the Elizabeth Casson Trust was established in its present form.
Dr Casson’s obituary, printed in Occupational Therapy, the journal of the Association of Occupational Therapists in 1955, talked of Dr Casson’s drive and determination:
“It was her faith in our healing work that enlivened and enlightened medical opinion regarding occupational therapy, it was her courage and foresight that first established professional training, and it was her determination and perseverance that carried it forward in the face of opposition and indifference.” (Occupational Therapy 1955)
What is the Elizabeth Casson Trust?
The Trust is governed by its Memorandum of Association, which sets out the primary purpose of the Trust: to further the profession of Occupational Therapy.
What does the Trust aim to do?
The original Objects are regularly reviewed to ensure that the work of the Trust and the language in which it is written, meet the current needs of occupational therapists within the UK and beyond. Today the Trust’s Strategic Intentions (its Objects) and Operational Framework focus on supporting three main areas of work:
1. The development of occupational therapists, helping to build their professional confidence, capability and wider inclusion to take the profession forward in all settings, including within the Trust
2. Further development of the evidence base of occupational therapy in order to strengthen the understanding of the efficacy, utility and unique contribution of occupational therapy
3. Commit to robust governance to ensure legal compliance by the organisation and future development of the profession and our services
The strategic intentions can be read in more detail here, and the operational framework here. The Trust achieves these Objects by giving grants to occupational therapists who apply for funding. Applications are made online and against sets of criteria which are then used to assess the applications.
A final word from Dr Elizabeth Casson
“When I first qualified as a doctor …I found it very difficult to get used to the atmosphere of bored idleness in the day rooms of the hospital. Then, one Monday morning, when I arrived at the women’s wards, I found the atmosphere had completely changed and realised that preparations for Christmas decorations had begun. The ward sisters had produced coloured tissue paper and bare branches, and all the patients were working happily in groups making flowers and leaves and using all their artistic talents with real interest and pleasure. I knew from that moment that such occupation was an integral part of treatment and must be provided”
Quoted in The story of Dorset House School of Occupational Therapy 1930 – 1986, [Oxford: Dorset House School of Occupational Therapy, 1987], p.1
Our closing thought ……………….
Dr Casson was a pioneer and an opportunist. As Professor Jenny Butler (an Elizabeth Casson Trust associate) quoted in her Casson Memorial lecture 2004, she knew that the ‘ordinary’ can become the ‘extra-ordinary’ by taking opportunities that present themselves, by believing that possibilities are always there, and by being bold. So, in honouring Dr Casson, the Trust extends its invitation to all occupational therapists, especially those in the UK, to take the opportunity to follow in her footsteps and use the Trust’s awards to expand your knowledge and practice so that you too can further occupational therapy.
The strategic plans for 2020-2025 are:
The following operational framework emerges from our strategic intentions: