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Silenced & ignored

A party of learning disabled Villagers, supported by their Co-workers, from the Botton community near Whitby (North Yorkshire) are taking their grievances directly to the Prime Minister. Today Tuesday February 24th at 3.15pm they will present a petition - which has been organised and signed by the Villagers themselves – at No10 Downing Street.

The signatories, who represent the overwhelming majority of the 96 Villagers, state in the petition: “We, the undersigned, want to keep shared living with Co-workers in Botton, where we can choose to share our homes with volunteer Co-workers and their children.”

The Villagers organised the petition in response to growing fears that managers working for the charity Camphill Village Trust are moving to evict their Co-worker families from their homes, specifically in order to separate them and force the learning disabled into segregation.

One of the Villagers presenting the petition, Clare Burge - who is also spearheading a fund-raising campaign on the website www.actionforbotton.org said : “I’ve lived in Botton for 30 years and all that time I’ve been in Castle House, longer than anyone else. Most of us have been together a long time and we get on well and we run our household together. I do all the ironing. I’ve lived with Jonathan and Christine for 28 years and I’ve seen their children grow up and I don’t want them to leave and have somebody else coming in instead who doesn’t live here..”

“I just wish that CVT would listen to us instead of just ignoring us all the time. Cos they are, I don’t think they’re really bothered about what happens to Botton. I think its time now they just left us alone & let us get on with our lives. They should go somewhere else and ruin someone else’s life.” added Allan Hobson another learning disabled resident at Botton, “I think CVT’s now either got to listen or we’ll just keep on demonstrating ‘til we get them to listen to us. The same is for Huw John. I think it’s time now that Huw John stopped bullying people like myself”

Since Botton was founded over 60 years ago, the learning disabled Villagers and vocational Co-workers – who are unwaged – have lived and work alongside each other. They live in shared family-like households so that each Villager can be supported and helped to participate in all aspects of community life including fulfilling and meaningful work. Everyone shares in running the sustainable community, according to their abilities and wishes and for the benefit of all and everyone’s needs are met. Until the recent events it has been a peaceful, pastoral, genuine, living, real and, above all, loving community.

5,000 supporters belonging to the campaign group Action for Botton and are helping Co-workers and Villagers resist CVT’s planned changes, one of which is to force the Co-workers to become paid employees, and thus live separately from the learning disabled or – together with their own families - face eviction from their homes.

Neil Davidson, chair of Action for Botton, said: “I fully applaud this party who made the long trip to London to present the petition which clearly demonstrates their courage and the strength of feeling that exists at Botton. We believe these controversial changes will completely destroy this unique community by forcing the Co-workers to become shift working employees living separately from the learning disabled Villagers.”

CVT is already under scrutiny with campaigners highlighting serious questions including a worrying lack of transparency in their accounts and, this month, a sudden Trustee resignation citing governance issues including concerns relating to the Articles and Memorandum. In addition, there are claims of harassment being made to local Police, pending actions for compensation by ex-community members who claim to have been bullied out of their roles and a lawsuit pending over human rights abuses. Finally a letter before action from campaigners, including parents from one community now devoid of Co-workers, has been issued over potential breaches of the charity’s articles and a form of manipulation of membership before last year’s AGM.

Interviewees on the day

Clare Burge - Downs syndrome
“I was born in 1963, the same year that Walt Disney died and President Kennedy was assassinated. I’m a Londoner and I know all the Cockney rhyming slang. My Mum died a few years back and my Dad lives in Gloucestershire. I had a brother but he died when I was little. I’ve lived in Botton for 30 years and all that time I’ve been in Castle House, longer than anyone else. Most of us have been together a long time and we get on well and we run our household together. I do all the ironing. I’ve lived with Jonathan and Christine for 28 years and I’ve seen their children grow up and I don’t want them to leave and have somebody else coming in instead who doesn’t live here”
Like all of the residents Clare is frightened that her family of 28 years will be taken away from her and the community be destroyed. She fears this forced segregation and that ultimately she will be subjected to strangers coming into her home on a three shift system (similar to that employed at Winterbourne View).
You can view Clare on the Channel 4 news report here along with another resident;
http://tinyurl.com/pkw9llm
http://tinyurl.com/o6p6da2

James Skinner - Autism
James is 34 and comes from Ashford, Kent. He is autistic. He has been in Botton for about ten years. After having lived in a few different houses, he moved into Rock House five years ago. He is living with another three residents with whom he has been living together for more than four years and three co-workers. He appreciates the other six people as wonderful friends.
In the morning he works in the Wood Workshop, where he does several tasks such as cutting & drilling to make wooden toys. In the afternoon he works in the Seed Workshop, where he does some gardening work and also cleaning/packing seeds. He is very keen on environmental issues and is in charge of sorting out recycling in the house.
He is talented and does very precise drawings of cathedrals & their windows and had an exhibition in the Hall in Botton. He has two sisters whom he visits when he goes on holiday to his parents.
James strongly opposes the changes being forced onto him by management and wants to remain living as he has chosen to do.
You can view James Skinner talking a little about this on BBC Look North’s recent report here;
http://tinyurl.com/ohfsm66

Allan Hobson - Traumatic head injury
This is a lovely chap who previously worked for the council. He suffered a near-fatal car accident 28 years ago and, as a consequence has lived at Botton ever since.
He has publically claimed to the press that he has been harassed, followed, photographed and intimidated. Like other residents he was also subjected to the misinformation about the Mental Capacity Act purported by CVT against the learning disabled residents in order to try to ‘gag’ them. He has been denied visiting rights at his residence by several people including the local BBC reporter. He feels that the intention has been to intimidate and to force him into accepting things and doing things he clearly does not want.
Allan carefully hand-wrote a letter begging for help in July to NYCC social services and they never bothered even to reply , and he felt shocked and frightened when they did not respond to his pleas for help and became distressed. Eventually he founded the petition in an attempt to be heard after his letter failed.
You can view him here talking about the intimidation and harassment he has suffered since speaking against the changes - and also talking about his opposition to the changes being forced on Botton by CVT at the Danby meeting;
http://tinyurl.com/l6p7n4w
http://tinyurl.com/mbgj43f
http://tinyurl.com/opy5vme
http://tinyurl.com/lhlkjl3

About Camphill Botton Village

The Camphill Movement was started over seventy years ago by German/Austrian Jews fleeing from the Nazis at a time of great persecution of the disabled. They did this to give learning disabled adults the chance
1. to live closely with the land and in a beneficial environment,
2. to live in a community where all are equal, irrespective of their abilities
3. to have a meaningful and fulfilling working life

CVT was founded in October 1954 to support the first adult community of Botton Village, which was started by Villagers, their families and volunteer Co-workers as an ‘intentional community’ in 1955. The formation articles of incorporation expressly specify that the charity’s purpose is to establish a community into which the disabled can be incorporated in order that their lives be fulfilled according to the above principles.
http://www.actionforbotton.org/files/CVT_Mem__Arts_highlight...

The community was therefore formed to include and support people with a wide range of disabilities. Those with learning disabilities live with the volunteer (unwaged) Co-worker families in shared family-like households so that they can each be supported to participate in all aspects of community life including fulfilling and meaningful work.
http://www.actionforbotton.org/Botton-Village/living-togethe...

Fundamental to the movement is sustainable farming, and as a result CVT has grown to be the single largest holder of bio-dynamically farmed land in the UK with Botton in particular winning awards.
http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/local-news/honour-for-bott...
The entire community shares all the work in running the sustainable community, according to their abilities and wishes and for the benefit of all. Everyone agrees to these principles when they join the village. The result of this has set a world-leading standard in terms of community living, with Botton village famously leading the way in sustainability.

The community has been based for the last sixty years on vocational volunteer Co-workers receiving no salary, living modestly, pooling resources, having their needs met by the community.
http://www.actionforbotton.org/files/Three_Perspectives.pdf

Since its foundation, the Village has been widely recognised as an exemplar of a sustainable, inclusive community and has been much copied, inspiring over a hundred communities of the Camphill movement world-wide - 75 separate Camphill Communities worldwide and 36 in the British Isles, nine of which are currently CVT communities that grew out of the original site at Botton.

Popular for its caring and inclusive values, Botton Village has attracted generous donations and support from the public over the years with supporters keen to make sure that this unique way of life is continued. Much of the property owned by the charity was offered by the Macmillan (publishing) family, and/or built, bought and/or renovated with the help of donations intended for the purpose of supporting the remarkable community that is Botton that donors know, admire and are keen to support.

Four years ago the appointment of a new management team at CVT heralded a catastrophic departure from Botton’s founding structure and values, with management making repeated attempts to undermine the ethos and core caring principles of Camphill and ignoring the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the charity.
Links to more details on this are below;
http://www.actionforbotton.org/Hijacking-a-charity
http://www.actionforbotton.org/files/Summary_of_alleged_abus...

Pressure group Action for Botton has been set-up by stakeholders including friends, families, former Co-workers and Co-workers to oppose these changes. For further information see
www.actionforbotton.org and
http://www.actionforbotton.org/files/Camphill_Values_v2.2_sh...

In December 2014 representatives of the group, which now has more than 3,500 supporters, entered into mediation talks with Camphill Village Trust in a bid to find common ground over the planned changes. Despite several deadline extensions, reassurances from CVT about halting the changes whilst talks were in progress were not forthcoming and the talks did not progress and since then Action for Botton – along with other Camphill communities at Delrow (near Watford) and the Grange (Newnham-on-Severn) have vowed that they will continue their campaign.

Notes to editors

Laws campaigners say CVT have breached
Human Rights Act
Mental Capacity Act
Harassment Act
Companies Act
Charity Commission regulations

Links to additional information

Example letters from residents and families can be viewed on the following link;
http://tinyurl.com/klg9vqr

Example of support messages for the campaign and communications;
Families writing to Camphill Village Trust and to North Yorkshire County Council
many more letters from families and friends of Botton to CVT

Recent Coverage
http://tinyurl.com/pkw9llm
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgA7_1Sq69g
http://tinyurl.com/lbbcygz
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFN5CU78wS8
http://youtu.be/N-5y6EaLOYA

Independent report that outlines the devastating effects of these changes on other CVT communities. The unintentional destruction of intentional communities by Bob Rhodes and Richard Davis, published in March 2014. It is available at;
http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/library/by-az/regulati...
How bureaucrats destroy public services
http://tinyurl.com/k56k37p

Interviewees

Please contact the press office if you would like an interview with any of a wide range of stakeholders including;
Campaigners from Action for Botton including the chair
Co-workers (anonymously) and former Co-workers
Legal experts
Accounting experts
Parents and family members of the residents
Learning disabled residents

Contact Information

Action for Botton
Neil Davidson – Chair
Email: action@actionforbotton.org

Press
Kay Clark
Email: kay@tru-pr.co.uk
Tel: 0845 833 8292

This press release was distributed by ResponseSource Press Release Wire on behalf of Action for Botton in the following categories: Health, Education & Human Resources, Public Sector, Third Sector & Legal, for more information visit http://pressreleasewire.responsesource.com/about.