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As a prelude to an application for an injunction and High Court proceedings, campaigners have issued a letter before action over worrying governance issues within the UK’s 60th largest charity.

Camphill Village Trust (CVT), a charity originally set up to support the formation and maintenance of intentional communities that fully integrate the learning disabled into every aspect of community life, has been facing a storm of criticism over its attempts to dismantle the key elements of its communities.

Now those involved in three CVT communities - Delrow (near Watford), the Grange (Newnham-on-Severn) and Botton (in North Yorkshire) - have had enough and issued the letter before action, following the shock resignation of a long term Trustee Ian Bailey last month.

On resigning, Mr Bailey cited governance issues ranging from being excluded from parts of board meetings and not being provided with minutes through to failure to follow the Charity's Memorandum and Articles of Association which is CVTs foundation trust document.

A legal opinion from the UK's leading charities' QC maintains that there are serious concerns with the activities of CVT which, it is asserted, is acting outside the powers as laid out in the Memorandum and Articles, the result of which is the dismantling of the core element of the very communities that the charity was formed to protect.

What's more, legal advice indicates that CVT's board has behaved improperly in manipulating control of the charity by
1. more than doubling the voting membership whilst refusing applications from those deeply involved in the actual communities. Many of the "new members" appear to have had no knowledge of community ethos, operation or founding principles and it is thought that the only reason for their being solicited to become members was to provide votes to support the current Trustees and prevent attempts to wrest back control by those actually involved in the communities.
2. the number of members likely to vote against the policies being forced through has also been reduced by management insistence that Co-workers leaving give up membership as a condition of receiving any compensation package and / or other payments.
3. in at least one case the management unilaterally removed voting membership without even informing the member concerned or following their own required procedure for removal*

CVT has, in response to these accusations, been dismissive of the formal Letter Before Action, has failed to provide the information reasonably requested and has refused to attend any formal mediation proceedings, thus incurring the risk of substantial legal fees and possible costs to be covered from funds intended for wholly charitable works.

Charity Commission consent is required before CVT can be taken to court. As a result the necessary application is being made. The net effect of CVT's action has been and continues to be the tearing apart of living vibrant communities and acute distress of community members, including Co-workers and most importantly, the learning disabled residents, who have themselves recently created and courageously presented a petition at no 10 Downing St asking the Prime Minister to intervene on their behalf.

The residents, with the support of worried family members in the campaign groups, feel that their concerns have not been heard and their choices to live with their Co-worker families in a shared-life setting are being completely ignored.

CVT is already under scrutiny in other areas, with campaigners highlighting serious questions including a worrying lack of transparency in its accounts and, claims of harassment being made to local Police as well as pending actions for compensation by ex-community members who claim to have been bullied out of their communities. Finally a further letter before action from some of the affected learning disabled residents themselves has been issued over potential breaches of the Human Rights Act.

Notes to Editors

*Member removal process specified in CVT Memorandum and Articles

6.4 if, at a meeting of the Trustees at which at least half of the Trustees are present, a resolution is passed resolving that the Member be removed as a Member on the ground that his/her continued membership is harmful to, or is likely to become harmful to, the interests of the Charity. Such a resolution shall not be passed unless the Member has been given at least 14 clear days’ written notice that the resolution is to be proposed, specifying the circumstances alleged to justify removal, and has been afforded a reasonable opportunity of being heard by, or of making written representations to, the Trustees. A member removed by such a resolution shall nevertheless remain liable to pay to the Charity any subscription or other sum owed by him/her.

Recently CVT has been making a number of false and misleading claims to members of the press, we should like to set the record straight;

Claims about Shared living

At no time has CVT ever mentioned to Co-workers, residents or their families that the offered traditional Camphill shared life model is an option going forward. On the contrary managers and trustees have always stated to all stakeholders and the press that this would never be possible for employees, whether former Co-workers or otherwise - they would not be allowed to live in the same households as the learning disabled as a matter of statute; this was emphasised strongly in their correspondence. After the unsuccessful mediated dialogue last December, the CVT CEO did say that he would set up a workshop to explore the possibilities for shared living and invite guidance from an outside group (“Shared Lives”), however, even though he suggested a date for this of Feb 10th the meeting was never held. We are therefore extremely surprised that in recent press statements a ‘spokesperson’ for CVT claimed this was a possibility, however we have no evidence that this claim is true.

Residents being upset

Claims made by CVT regarding the learning disabled being upset are misleading, they are upset precisely because of CVT's actions for three reasons:
1. firstly because they are not being listened to, their clearly stated opinions are being ignored and
2. secondly because CVT has made reported and very underhanded attempts to gag them and prevent them speaking about their objections to the changes. These attempts include failure to acknowledge their capacity under the mental Capacity Act and banning the press from coming into the homes of the residents when they have been invited by residents and where the residents are lawful tenants. This is a breach of their right to free speech: they are entitled to speak about things they object to and find upsetting.
3. the learning disabled residents know that CVT plans to segregate them from their Co-worker families.
The cause of their upset is CVT’s actions, not the fact that they are able to speak freely about being upset. Action for Botton has facilitated the learning disabled being heard by the media which they have found very empowering and are deeply grateful that someone at last wants to help them.
CVT are being disingenuous in accusing Co-workers of spreading misinformation amongst villagers; please see an analysis that shows how it is in fact CVT that subtly but systematically misleads the most vulnerable in their care. We urge readers to read this example of CVT's deception campaign in the following link and consider how this contrasts with CVT's mantra of 'the beneficiaries at the heart of all we do'.
http://bit.ly/1BdxrD3

Misleading Claims re HMRC and Tax

CVT has deliberately sought to convert Co-workers into employees and has made false claims in order to do this, initially claiming that it was necessary to do this due to changes in tax law, which it now agrees is untrue. Furthermore CVT could easily support and facilitate the Co-worker tax model if it chose to - something HMRC has made completely clear in correspondence;
1. In short, there is a technical document which sets out how to determine a vocational Co-worker’s income which is then subject to taxation, which can be viewed on the HMRC website (BIM22040). This is still valid as confirmed by the Treasury and HMRC in writing only a few months ago.
2. Many other Camphill communities in the UK, outside CVT, operate the normal vocational Co-worker model, where the community clearly is allowed to continue to exist, perfectly satisfactorily in line with this taxation document.
3. CVT, however, knowingly undermined the existence of community by enforcing changes that it did not have to make - this was its choice and strategy and by ceasing to recognise the communities as separate from the charity and Co-workers as living and working within the community, it has deliberately changed the facts on the ground to eliminate the vocational position. i.e. it is CVT’s choice to try and force employment on the Co-workers
4. CVT stated it wished to employ all Co-workers from 6th April. It produced information which failed to acknowledge the existence of a community and regarded vocational Co-workers as “engaged” as employees. The vocational Co-workers would not have any contractual relationship with the charity or indeed the community in which they live and work. HMRC's website states that "Co-workers assist the vulnerable members within each community, living together in houses, sharing money and making joint decisions.”
5. It is misleading to state that CVT would be fined in these circumstances. The “fine” being referred to is the difference the HMRC might seek to recover from the charity if the Co-workers were deemed to be employed by the charity by HMRC in a challenged “engagement” investigation. So yes they could technically be fined and or income tax collected on the deemed employment of Co-workers if HMRC deemed this to be the case in a challenged investigation. This is not the case as the HMRC is clearly stating that CVT “the engager” is stating that they intend to employ - it was not the HMRC who dictated the nature of the “engagement”.
6. Co-workers are not engaged in tax avoidance.
7. HMRC has confirmed that they are presently reviewing their opinion in light of new information supplied to them that CVT selectively did not supply them before their initial opinion was rendered.
A detailed breakdown plus supporting documentation of these can be viewed on the Action for Botton site.

Laws campaigners say CVT have breached

Human Rights Act
Mental Capacity Act
Harassment Act
Companies Act
Charity Commission regulations

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

Links to additional information

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 can be viewed here
http://www.actionforbotton.org/Publications/newspaper-articl...
http://www.actionforbotton.org/Publications/audio-and-video

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

Guidelines about care of the learning disabled can be viewed here
http://tinyurl.com/kmj54e6
or
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachm...

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. The original 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...

About Action for Botton

Pressure group Action for Botton has been set-up by stakeholders including friends, families, former Co-workers and Co-workers to oppose these changes and enjoys the support of 84 Botton parents and family members the majority of the 95 learning disabled residents at Botton as well as over 5,000 supporters locally and worldwide.

In December 2014 representatives of the group 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.

For further information see
www.actionforbotton.org and
http://www.actionforbotton.org/files/Camphill_Values_v2.2_sh...

Contact Information

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

Press National
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, Business & Finance, Public Sector, Third Sector & Legal, for more information visit http://pressreleasewire.responsesource.com/about.