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Campaign group Action for Botton is celebrating following the decision of the Charity Commission to give the go ahead for the second of two sets of proceedings in the High Court against Camphill Village Trust (CVT) to commence.

The claim has been brought by a mix of 23 Co-workers and residents’ family members drawn from three CVT communities - Delrow (near Watford), the Grange (Newnham-on-Severn) and Botton (in North Yorkshire). It is based on their assertion that CVT is acting Ultra Vires i.e. that the Trustees have acted outside their powers in making the changes that they have to the structure and ethos of the Charity. It is claimed the changes are seriously impacting on the lives of the Trust’s beneficiaries, effectively forcing segregation of the learning disabled from their able-bodied Co-worker families.

Amongst other comments Bethan Wilkins-Jones in her permission letter to claimants’ solicitors granting permission from the Charity Commission stated: It is disappointing to read that the other party is not prepared to engage in ADR unless and until the Commission authorises proceedings. In those circumstances we are satisfied that the applicants have properly sought to resolve matters by alternative means and that they remain committed to doing so.” In further points she added: “The matter relates not to assets but to the manner in which the charity operates and its ethos which is of great importance to those interested in the charity.”

And finally the commission also considered “Whether the grant or refusal of an order authorising the proceedings would interfere in a disproportionate or unjustified way with rights protected by the Human Rights Act 1998. Proceedings are brought by the applicants to protect their homes, their private lives and the way they associate and, ultimately, to establish whether the charity’s governing document offers this protection. The interests they seek to protect correspond to interests protected by articles 8 and 11 of the European Convention. In light of the potential impact of the actions for which they seek interim injunctive relief in terms of beginning to crystallise out the changes they seek to guard against, it would not be proportionate to prevent their access to court with a view to protecting their position in the interim.”

A spokesperson for the Delrow parents group said “We are delighted that the Charity Commission has given us permission to take this matter to trial. We have always wished to avoid this and have repeatedly urged the charity to enter into formal dispute resolution to find common ground for the sake of our beneficiaries. We sincerely hope CVT now sees sense and comes to the table with an open mind to end this hugely damaging dispute.”

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.

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, operations 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 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 recovered from funds intended for wholly charitable works.

The net effect of CVT's restructuring actions have been and continue to be the tearing apart of living vibrant communities and acute distress for 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.

This 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 Care Minister 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 last 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.

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

The full letter and permission from the Charity Commission can be viewed on these links
http://tinyurl.com/n5yfdto
http://tinyurl.com/mmmvlow

*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.

Betrayal of Trust

- 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. Until recently, 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 its beneficiary (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.

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 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;

Misleading Claims re HMRC and Tax

False claims about HMRC's position on Tax. CVT has deliberately into actions which they must have known would 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-worker 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 website on the following link:
http://www.actionforbotton.org/cvt-misinformation-corrected

Claims about Shared living

CVT has never mentioned until recently 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 in fact CVT’s actions and 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
Companies Act
Charity Commission regulations
The Charity’s own Memorandum and Articles 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

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 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 the 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 these 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...

Contact Information

Botton Buddies
See www.bottonbuddies.org

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