An order obtained by Bindmans LLP temporarily halting the far-reaching and controversial changes being made by Camphill Village Trust (CVT) to the living arrangements of three of the learning disabled residents of Botton Village – a community administered by CVT – was made by the High Court on Friday 13 March 2015.
The claim for judicial review was issued that afternoon following the refusal of CVT’s solicitors to properly engage in correspondence or provide the information and documents requested on behalf of the residents. The Claimants’ case is that the dismantling of the current arrangements at Botton Village in which learning disabled residents live in homes with non-disabled house-parents (known as co-workers) and, in many cases, their families – a model which has operated successfully for over 60 years – amounts to a breach of the residents’ rights under Article 8(1) ECHR, given the close and inter-dependent relationships between the residents and their house-parents which have built up over the many years that each has lived in Botton Village.
One of the central tenets of Botton Village has always been that the co-workers have not been paid for the care they provide to the residents, instead, they receive accommodation, food, and other expenses are met on the basis of need. In the autumn of 2014, CVT’s Chief Executive informed the co-workers that in the light of a non-binding ‘opinion’ provided by HMRC, based on information predominantly supplied by CVT themselves, as to the status of the co-workers, all co-workers would be treated as employees in respect of their employment and tax status from April 2015. On 18 February 2015, CVT’s Chief Executive gave all co-workers who had refused to accept employment, notices to quit the homes they currently occupied, and confirmed that their financial support from CVT would come to an end on 31 March 2015, and they would have to leave their homes by 31 May 2015 (or July for those with children).
A number of significant changes to the make up of Botton Village have already taken place. Since May 2014, eight co-workers have left. Seven are in the process of leaving. The locks on 10 houses/ flats have been changed by CVT, as have the locks on the maintenance building, a number of offices and the Pottery, with no co-worker or villager given the new keys to enable access. Tenants have been moved in to three of the previously run co-worker houses, and residents moved out of two houses, with, in one instance, the house being handed over to ex-co-workers, and completely refitted, and in another, the house handed over to new support workers.
It was against this desperate background that the claim for judicial review was issued.
Laura Hobey-Hamsher of Bindmans LLP, who represented the three claimants, said: “Going to court was not a decision lightly taken, but in the circumstances, my clients were left with no choice. One of my clients has lived in Botton Village for over 20 years, the other two have lived there for 10 and 5. All view it as their home, and their house-parents as their second families. What then is being proposed is the breaking up of real family units. The changes made to date have already caused these three vulnerable individuals real and palpable distress. The thought of the family lives that they have developed being destroyed is frightening and incomprehensible in equal measure” She adds “The fact that the order sought was granted in a matter of hours is a good indicator that the claim is meritorious, and has provided no small degree of reassurance to my clients.”
Jackie Riis-Johannessen, mother of Luci, one of the residents of Botton Village said: “To be able to tell our daughter that she no longer needs to feel frightened by unwelcome CVT managers coming to her house, coming to meet her to tell about their plans for her future care, was a great relief. Lucinda, as well as feeling thoroughly dis-empowered and frightened by CVT's actions, feels she has to tackle this problem alone and has a huge sense of responsibility to protect the people she lives with; far too big a load for her. This news is clearly an enormous weight off her young shoulders in every way.”
Fran Franics, mother of Dan, one of the residents of Botton Village said: “This was one of the best presents I have ever received. I know there is still a long way to go and the outcome is not guaranteed but at this point we have the order that we were seeking and renewed optimism. Dan has been so anxious and distressed knowing he might not be able to continue to live with his house parents and their children and not understanding why. When I phoned him and told him the judge had said that for now, his co-workers can stay and the judge will decide soon if they have to leave at all, it was great to hear the relief in his voice as he quietly said, ‘That’s good, I don’t want my house parents and the children to go.”
Brian Knight, father of Tracey, one of the residents of Botton Village said: “When I explained to Tracey that a judge was now going to decide if it was necessary for Claire to leave at the end of March she was so very pleased and happy. Botton Village has been Tracey’s home for over 20 years and she simply cannot understand why everything that she loves and enjoys has to change and be taken away from her.”
Laura Hobey-Hamsher is the solicitor instructed, with Martha Spurrier of Doughty Street Chambers as Counsel.
This situation is set against the backdrop of national concern, with the launch of the Green Paper by Normal 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”
Political support for the community’s struggle is growing with mention of the situation by Baroness Hollins in the House of Lords last week, over 30 MPs of all political colours writing to express their concern, the minister for Disable people Mark Harper holding an enquiry at another CVT site in his constituency, The Grange, and both the Labour and Lib-dem local candidates expressing their support for the campaign opposing changes at Botton.
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 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.
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 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.
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
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 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.
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.
4. The cause of residents 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'.
Laws campaigners say CVT have breached
Human Rights Act
Mental Capacity 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
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;
How bureaucrats destroy public services
Guidelines about care of the learning disabled can be viewed here
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.
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.
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.
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.
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;
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...
Action for Botton
Neil Davidson – Chair
Tel: 0845 833 8292
Tel: 01765 640736
Tel: 020 7833 4433
Tel: 020 7833 4433
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