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Unite members at Botton Village

Learning disabled residents at an intentional community, Botton Village in North Yorkshire, are unionising to fight their charity Camphill Village Trust (CVT) for the right to keep doing meaningful work and have a family life.

In direct contravention of its founding remit (which was to hold assets for, and provide support to, the Botton Village community) and in a bid to force a more conventional institutional care model instead, CVT is trying to alter the long-established shared living arrangement in residents’ homes, effectively creating a state of learning disabled ‘apartheid’. In addition, it is also making major changes in their workplaces the combination of which will alter the entire ethos of the community.

One of the most distressing elements of this forced segregation is the threat of closure to residents’ workplaces as highly skilled Co-workers, who founded and built the community, have been ‘instructed’ that they will no longer be allowed to run the communal village workshops. Many of the residents are consequentially fearful that replacing their dear friends and colleagues with support workers will leave their work places trivialised, unfriendly, unsafe and unsecure.

In an additional move earlier this spring that caused outrage amongst the overwhelming majority of the learning disabled residents, their families, and the wider community, the Co-workers’ families were served with eviction notices. It seems apparent that CVT intend to replace them with low-paid support workers who will not live with but rather ‘service’ the residents’ needs on a strict shift based system, whilst residing elsewhere. Notably these low-paid support workers will require significant in-work benefits to supplement their income diverting unnecessary public monies into CVT’s coffers, these benefits which are not claimed or required by the vocational volunteer Co-workers (VVCs).

In a show of strong opposition to these changes, 80% of the residents have created and signed a petition calling on the Trust to reverse their controversial plans and revert to their founding principles. Despite delivering their petition to the CVT Trustees at their headquarters, the County Hall at Northallerton, and even to the Prime Minister, the residents believe that their voices and choices are still being ignored.

While campaigners prepare to present their case to the High Court, the residents have looked to Unite to help them protect their way of life. Some 70 Co-workers and residents have formed a Community branch of Unite and are – along with other Unite activists - planning to raise the profile of their struggle and to organise effectively against the changes.

There was a particularly warm Unite welcome for resident Allan Hobson who had been an active union member prior to a traumatic head injury 29 years ago. Allan comments: “I was a union man when I worked for the council for 14 years. It feels important to join up again now because it means we can speak up more. We're hoping for lots of support from our union friends”.

Resident Gabriel Werth, who sits on the new committee and has lived in Botton for 26 years, said: “I joined the union because I want to make Botton safe. I like the workshops very much, I work in the weavery and the doll-shop. I’m scared that the CVT are going to chuck out the Co-workers and I have been to court about it. I like Botton, I feel like it is my home, it feels like I live with my second family here”.

Eddie Thornton is a former employee of the charity but resigned and became a Co-worker when it became clear no compromise was going to be made with the community. “The residents have been silenced by their charity and let down by their local authority. We hope that by joining a union with a million members that their voices will be amplified to a level that no one can ignore.”

John Coan, Unite, commented: “Unite Community is proud that we have constituted a union branch in Botton. Their ethos of cooperation and community fits exactly with what we are about, and we are offering the residents and their Co-worker friends solidarity in their struggle.”

The forced segregation situation is set against the backdrop of national concern about the treatment of the learning disabled, with the launch of the Green Paper by Norman Lamb ‘No Voice Unheard, No Right Ignored’. In a recent BBC interview Mr Lamb relayed that he felt the learning disabled are being “treated like second-class citizens with decisions being made about them without them being involved and without their families being involved”. This, say campaigners is exactly the treatment being meted out to the learning disabled at Botton Village.

Political support for the Community’s struggle against the enforced changes is growing with concern for the situation expressed by Baroness Hollins in the House of Lords at the start of the month, over 30 MPs of all political colours writing to Ministers to express their concern, and an Early Day Motion raised in Parliament about Botton, and the Minister for Disabled People Mark Harper MP holding an enquiry at another CVT site, The Grange, in his constituency.

As well as nationwide support from sitting MPs, the Action for Botton campaign has also attracted support from the local Labour, Lib Dem, Green and UKIP parliamentary candidates at the forthcoming General Election who attended the last Hustings at Danby Village hall and spoke up in defence of the Co-worker model for the Villagers.

CVT was already under scrutiny in multiple areas with campaigners highlighting serious questions about the way the charity is run including a worrying lack of transparency in its accounts which, in spite of requests, has yet to be clarified; a potential conflict of interest with a director whose own company supplies services to CVT for unidentified remuneration; claims of harassment being made to local Police and pending actions for compensation by former community members who claim to have been bullied out of their roles and communities.

In addition, in February there was a sudden Trustee resignation citing assorted governance issues including concerns relating to the Articles and Memorandum. Finally legal mediation is expected to be taking place in about 6 weeks’ time relating to the High Court claim brought by campaigners, including parents from one community now devoid of Co-workers, over alleged breaches of the charity’s articles resulting in an end to the shared-living model of care.

One can only wonder how CVT’s Chair of Trustees Felicity Chadwick-Histed, also a Partner at Publitas Consulting LLP can continue to ignore the plight of the learning disabled for whom the Trustees are ultimately responsible.

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 the charity’s beneficiaries.
- 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 appears to have secretly decided to try to get rid of the volunteers and stop shared living. Effectively it therefore attacked the community and is currently trying to evict community members from the site when it should be supporting them.
- This is the equivalent of those trustees of a child’s Trust ignoring what the parents wanted
- Senior barristers now say that the actions of CVT mean that the Trustees are in breach of trust and acting outside their authority.
- The trustees appear oblivious to their potential liability, as they may be personally liable for the conduct of the Trust. They are called "Trustees" because they are trusted to behave properly.

CVT Trustees who are responsible for the conduct of the Trust

Christopher John Beckett Retired
Stephen Stanley Butterworth Consultant on public to private sector transfers
Felicity Anne Chadwick-Histed Partner in Publitas
Christopher Cook Retired architect
Diana Mary Parrish Part-time educational consultant
Peter Sveinbjarnarson Chairman of Sólheimar community in Iceland
Robert James Thompson Director of consultancy - specialising in service reconfiguration
Karen Elizabeth Walker Educational adviser

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;
http://www.actionforbotton.org/cvt-misinformation-corrected

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 they 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 imposed layers of intensive management thereby changing the facts on the ground. 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 should not (according to the charity’s constitution) 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) Co-workers are categorically not engaged in tax avoidance. (BIM 22040 deals with their liability to pay tax)
A detailed breakdown plus supporting documentation of these can be viewed on the Action for Botton site.

Claims about Shared living

CVT never mentioned recently to Co-workers, residents or their families that the 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

Laws ETC campaigners say CVT have breached

Human Rights Act
Mental Capacity Act
Harassment Act
Charity Commission regulations
The Charities’ own Articles and Memorandum of association

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
Centre for welfare reform – ‘who cares’
http://tinyurl.com/k56k37p

Guidelines about care of the learning disabled can be viewed here
http://tinyurl.com/kmj54e6

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. Tellingly CVT refused to call those talks ‘Mediation’ at the time, but are now using that term for PR purposes.

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

Scans can be downloaded from this link
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/r4h2ihlsq36m7fn/AABnhxGVgRkozS13X...

Contact Information

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

Botton Buddies
See www.bottonbuddies.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.