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Mike Beckett, Neil Davidson, Ian McInnes

Supporters of the campaign group Action for Botton have been told that their fight against changes being imposed by the Camphill Village Trust (CVT) had reached a crucial stage. Neil Davidson, the group’s chair, said: “Our battle now moves to the Courts and legal action on several fronts is underway. We have only got this far thanks to your hard work and generosity and with the volunteer Co-workers now facing eviction from their homes we have certainly reached a decisive moment.”

He also confirmed that donations to the group’s legal fighting fund were now coming in from across the world and over £150,000 had been raised so far with a further £6,000 donated at the meeting itself.

Over 300 supporters of the group packed out Danby Village Hall (near Whitby) to hear the latest news on the campaign including the launch of the Botton Buddy scheme whereby members of the local community will support Co-workers who face being isolated as CVT stop supporting them. The scheme’s organiser (www.bottonbuddies.org) local entrepreneur James Fearnley said: “The response was fantastic and already over 150 people have joined the scheme. It seems unbelievable that people who have dedicated their lives to working and living alongside the learning disabled should now face running short of food but that is the reality of the situation. The Botton Buddies will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Co-workers providing support in various ways.”

During the meeting Co-worker Jonathan Reid explained why the vast majority of Co-workers had rejected CVT’s demands that they become employees. “It is not a legal imperative but a situation that has been deliberately engineered by CVT who have introduced an employer/employee relationship which is completely alien to the long-standing community ethos at Botton. I do not want to be paid to be someone’s companion and the change creates a subtle form of apartheid as it drives a wedge between the Villagers and the Co-workers.”

Two parliamentary candidates at the forthcoming General Election were also at the meeting and spoke up in defence of the Co-workers. Mike Beckett for the Liberal Democrats, said: “Intentional communities are a way of life and any changes to them should be resident-led and not imposed without choice. When you impose something on somebody with learning disabilities without their informed consent, that is classically abuse.” He continued “In addition, the wishes of local people should be taken into account in a consultation which involves a community as important as Botton.”

While Labour candidate Ian McInnes commented: “I first visited Botton during the Open Days over 25 years ago. Where there once was peace there is now anxiety. It shouldn't be like this! I have been communicating with Labour's Shadow ministers and they are keen to have an understanding of the issues involved”. He added “Action for Botton, the co-workers, villagers of Botton and local community are all working together in a spirit of solidarity and I am delighted to be able to offer my support.”

Several of the Villagers also spoke at the meeting and emphasised how they wanted to continue living with their Co-worker families. One of the Villagers – Mary Mascaro - also read out a special poem she had composed.

Parent Andrew Faulkes from York stressed how they had chosen Botton for their daughter because of the settled rhythm of life at the community which gave the whole place a sense of security. He emphasised how the changes being implemented at Botton had proved disastrous when enforced at other Camphill communities.

The net effect of CVT's actions has been, and continues to be, the tearing apart of living vibrant communities and acute distress of community members, the Co-workers and the learning disabled residents, who have recently created and courageously presented a petition at no 10 Downing St asking the Prime Minister to intervene on their behalf.

CVT is already under scrutiny with campaigners highlighting serious questions including a worrying lack of transparency in its accounts and, last 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 and pending actions for compensation by ex-community members who claim to have been bullied out of their communities. 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.

---ends---

Notes to Editors

Betrayal of Trust - side panel regarding trust position

CVT is a Trust that was originally set up to hold and manage assets which belong to an intentional community and are held in a state of Trust specifically to be administered for the benefit of that community.

To put it simply, the set-up is comparable to the way that parents might leave monies ‘in Trust’ for their children and have trustees administer the funds specifically for the benefit of those children.

The trustees have a duty of care to make sure that any money is used in the way the Trust says and the trustees MUST make sure this happens.

The Camphill community at Botton consists of both learning disabled residents and the Co-worker families who together create the community. The community includes people of all ages from children to pensioners.

The trustees are given very clear instructions as to how the community should be run particularly about shared living and the support being given freely and not brought in exclusively by employees. The community managed its own affairs and choices internally.

Instead of holding the assets and administering the finances as they are supposed to, the Trust secretly decided to get rid of the volunteers and stop shared living. Effectively it therefore attacked the beneficiary (the community) and is presently trying to evict community members from the site when it should be supporting them.

This is the equivalent of the trustees of a child’s Trust ignoring what the parents wanted and using the money for something else entirely different. Effectively by, as it were, evicting that child from the family home and by multiple different means trying to prevent the child from benefiting from the Trust Fund whilst disposing of the funds in a manner that is detrimental to the child.

Senior barristers now say that the actions of CVT mean that the Trustees are in breach of trust and acting outside their authority. Specifically they have no authority to evict any community member from their homes which are community assets to be used for the benefit of the community.

The trustees appear oblivious to their potential liability as they are personally liable for the conduct of the Trust. They are called "Trustees" because they are trusted to behave properly.

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

CVTs False Claims to the Press

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

False claims about HMRC's position on 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 agree 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-worker 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

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

Regional
Richard Graham
Tel: 01765 640736
Email: richard.graham@rgpr.co.uk

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.