About us

Yellow Submarine is an award-winning Oxfordshire charity that believes people with learning disabilities and autism deserve to live life to the full.

We tackle the problem that many people with learning disabilities leave school with limited life skills and as a result poor life chances. This often leads to isolation and being marginalised. Our projects start working with young people in community settings from the age of 11 onwards, to build their social skills, confidence, independence and ultimately their employability. At the same time we are supporting families and carers with respite.

We’re unusual in the world of charities (and local authorities) in that with the same team of staff we assist young people on their journey through childhood into adulthood. This allows us, often over many years, to gain both trust and a real insight as to how best to create a person-centered plan to support each individual.

What makes us different? We are willing to go the extra mile and are unashamedly ambitious to make things better. Our approaches have an emphasis on fun and innovation, embracing enterprise and technology. 

The terms “learning disability” and “autism” cover a huge variety of needs. Our specialism is helping individuals with mild to moderate needs. Find out about our projects here.

How did it all start?

Yellow Submarine started with the Staveley family. One of their number, Max, wanted (and needed) a holiday and his dream destination was Disneyland! However, Max had Down Syndrome, meaning the cost of holidays were astronomical, including not just Max, but the costs of multiple carers, their food, tickets and accommodation.

The family felt it was unfair that someone with an already limited income must bear these costs in order to spend away from home. And so, the seeds of Yellow Submarine were sown! Toby and Lucy Staveley drew on their existing skills and began running holidays for people in Max’s position. The emerging charity set about helping those who needed a break the most and by proxy, their families or carers too.

They piloted a modest number of small group breaks, bringing together people with similar interests and keeping costs low, utilising willing friends and family as volunteers. This ensured that breaks were affordable and fun, whilst providing the necessary support and care.

These breaks proved very popular and the infrastructure for delivering the holidays was established. Trustees were appointed and Yellow Submarine Holidays was registered with the charity commission, it became possible for the Staveley’s to ‘scale up’ these holidays and employ the first member of staff!

Sadly, Max has since passed away, but his memory lives on in Yellow Submarine. The charity has grown considerably since its inception and continues to support disabled people by providing respite holidays and activities throughout the year.

Download our handy leaflet that explains how the charity began and developed to the present day.

Our structure

We are a small to medium organisation which is primarily volunteer led, with about 30 staff members, including 7 people with learning disabilities. We have a strong and active board of trustees which includes parent representatives, and significant professional expertise. We have been registered as a charity (no. 1136735) since 2010. All our staff, who have completed their induction/training, are paid at least the living wage.


October 2015: “Guardian Charity Award” [The Guardian, shortlisted]
October 2015: “Enterprising Collaboration Award” [Lloyds Bank Foundation, National runner-up]
September 2015: “Award of Distinction” [Oxfordshire Restaurant Awards]
July 2015: “Enterprising Collaboration Award” [Lloyds Bank Foundation, Regional winner]
May 2015: “Charity and Community Award” [Oxfordshire Business awards]
February 2015: “Charity of the Year”  [OCVA awards]
December 2014: “Cafe of the Year” [Oxford Mail, finalist]
March 2014:  “Best Youth Project”  [Oxfordshire Youth awards]
September 2012: “Best New Charity”  [Charity Times national awards, shortlisted]
October 2011: “Best New Voluntary or Community Group”  [OCVA awards]


About two thirds of our income is now self-generated through our enterprises. We rely, however, on the generous support of many donors and fundraisers to be able to pioneer new initiatives and to provide some of our most needed, but costly, projects.

See our impact

Learn more by having a look at our latest annual return, our photo diaries or some of our videos below…

10th Birthday Celebration
10th Birthday Celebration
A video from our 10th birthday celebrations at Hill End on the 14th September 2019.
5 Years of The Compass Project
5 Years of The Compass Project
A celebration of our sheltered work experience project Compass
Yellow Submarine Pathway to Employment
Yellow Submarine Pathway to Employment
One of the wonderful outcomes from our traineeship
Apprenticeship magic
Apprenticeship magic
On the BBC news
Volunteer driven
Young People's Activities in South Oxfordshire 18-19
Young People's Activities in South Oxfordshire 18-19
A peak at only a handful of some of the things we got up to with the cohort from the south of Oxfordshire