Action for learning disabled village residents raises questions in the House of Lords

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Ian McInnes , Neil Davidson ( Chair of Action for Botton) and Mike Beckett
Ian McInnes , Neil Davidson ( Chair of Action for Botton) and Mike Beckett

Questions raised in the House of Lords about the forced restructuring of Botton Village as the Action for Botton campaign continues to gain political traction

Following the petition last month presented at Downing St by learning disabled Botton residents and now with over 30 concerned MPs of all colours writing to David Cameron, and other government departments, Baroness Hollins has highlighted the plight of the community at Botton Village with reference to the pervasive mis-application of the Mental Capacity Act in a speech this Tuesday. She said.

“The second example is about Botton Village. It is an intentional community where, until recently, all residents and co-workers lived alongside each other as equals, sharing a home. It is said that:
“Residents feel needed, valued and respected and it shows”.

“The umbrella term used by social services would be ‘shared lives’. However, the model is under threat, with a division being made between those who are considered carers or staff and those being cared for. It appears that financial decisions are driving change without the inclusion of residents in best interest decisions about the future direction of their lives, with many relatives of people who live there being gravely concerned that this loving and inclusive community will be lost, without their individual voices being listened to”

“It appears that, after an inspection, Camphill Village Trust, which owns this community, made the decision to change it from a community or family-based organisation to a commercial/institutional model, which the families have perceived as being to the detriment of the inhabitants of Botton Village. In the words of the Welfare Reform Trust, “When did care become a business?”

“The intentions of the Mental Capacity Act are not to create an additional layer of bureaucracy and regulation that takes away people’s rights; it is supposed to enhance their rights. I draw particular attention to the more than 1 million people in England living with a learning disability. This is nearly double the number living with dementia, and yet we often think about people with learning disabilities as being a very small group. The point is that a learning disability, by its very nature, is not time limited and will be present their whole lives”

Earlier in month when launching the Green Paper consultation, ‘No Voice Unheard, No Right Ignored’, in a BBC interview Norman 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”

Meanwhile, Mike Harper, the Minister for Disabled People, is working on behalf of his Forest of Dean constituency which has three CVT centres. The changes have already been forced through at two communities there, but with resistance still being shown at The Grange, where a few Co-workers remain, supported by families of Learning Disabled residents, who wish to retain the Co-worker, shared living arrangements so beneficial to the residents.

As well as nationwide support from sitting MPs two local parliamentary candidates at the forthcoming General Election attended the last Action for Botton public meeting in Danby and spoke up in defence of the Co-workers.

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.”

While 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.”

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.

With growing political awareness of the issues one wonders how CVT’s Chair of Trustees Felicity Chadwick-Histed, also Partner at Publitas Consulting LLP can continue to ignore the plight of the learning disabled for whom the Trustees are ultimately responsible.

16 COMMENTS

  1. It makes me so happy that politicians are speaking out for Botton, and that this very special lifestyle/caremodel receives the attention and appreciation it deserves.

  2. It is great that politicians are showing interest and seem to support real communities. Botton residents deserve their voices to be heard!

  3. At last an article on the plight of Botton Villagers in a mainstream care publication. Thank you very much. Getting the authorities to take notice of people with learning difficulties is a huge uphill battle and it’s good to see some recognition of their needs.
    As for the CVT, it is astonishing that they show so little interest in their beneficiaries in the communities they manage. When the beneficiaries from Botton demonstrated outside the CVT offices in Malton no one from the charity deigned to speak to them. What an extraordinary response.
    One cannot help wondering why Felicity Chadwick-Histed, chair of the trustees, wants to be involved in this charity as she so clearly does not support its aims.

  4. A petition signed by the learning disabled residents of Botton was presented to CVT. There has been no response from CVT. They exist to support people with learning disabilities and yet those very people are having changes they don’t want forced upon them with no say and no one listening when they object. And this is a charity that is supposed to be there for them!!!!! That is their sole reason for being!!!

  5. Thank you for your article. My brother has Downs syndrome and has been living in Botton for over ten years now. He has blossomed in this time there, he works in a job he loves, he can travel around the village independently, he has friends and arranges to see them himself, he has a busy, full life as a valued member of his community. He could not live like this anywhere else. At home, he couldn’t go out on his own as he couldn’t cross roads, he would easily get disoriented and lost, people would pick on him, he had no friends and couldn’t manage a job as he was too disabled.
    He chose Botton and he loves it. CVT want to change it into a glorified care home, they have lied about their intentions, refused to talk to families, residents, co workers, dropped out of mediation and just keep insisting they have to do this. Yet their reasons are hollow, they say for regulatory purposes but Botton worked hard and made changes and are compliant, they say for tax purposes but HMRC were fine with the tax situation and other Camphill Communities are still running with the same tax arrangements. If it was fir tax reasons, why not sit down with hmrc and explain the community and work out a new tax agreement?. If these reasons were true CVT have still refused to enter into a dialogue, they could have said that they had to make changes because of these reasons and then worked with everyone involved, residents, families and co-workers to find a way to satisfy regulations while minimising change . But they don’t want to minimise change, they don’t want to work with, they are just powering through with their own agenda which they refuse to sharex all the time saying they have to, all the time saying things won’t change and yet bringing in massive changes!!!!!! My brother is so anxious he is getting terrible stomach aches that put him out of action (he used to get these a lot but they stopped when he went to Botton). My mother is barely functioning, she is so worried about what will happen. We are all stressed. We thought we had settled my brother somewhere where he was happy and could be as independent as possible while being kept safe. This is now all falling apart. We all feel totally helpless. This has been going on for a year now, getting worse all the time and its making people ill with stress. This is a charity that is given public money to support learning disabled people. I don’t know how they can behave like this, it is totally unethical and goes against all their stated aims. They should be ashamed of themselves. They are behaving more like a ruthless corporation than a charity.

    • I entirely agree. My sister has also enjoyed living in Botton for the past nine years, over which time she has similarly grown in her self-confidence and independence thanks to the nurturing community that the co-workers have created. Botton village is a special place that needs defending from changes being railroaded without people’s consent. CVT may think they are making ‘necessary’ changes, but they are trying to set Botton on a markedly different course from its 60 year history and are doing so without consulting the learning disabled residents themselves – completely disregarding the wishes of individuals and ignoring the Mental Capacity Act by assuming that they can make such changes without consultation. In terms of actions of a charity supposed to support those with learning disabilities this is a gross misconduct.

    • I am so moved by your message. It describes so clearly what is happening to Botton and what this is doing to people. I wish you would publish this in many other places too, like some newspapers that have published about Botton. People need to read this!

  6. We live in a pluralistic society. There are a great variety of educational establishments offering freedom of choice
    co-existing peacefully alongside each other.This is however not the case for people with learning difficulties, as they must come under a state regulated system of care and support whether they like it or not or so we are told by CVT, the care providers for Botton Village. They have decided to break up the families who until now have shared their lives with vulnerable people from adulthood to the grave. Do they realize how distressing it is for somebody to be separated from their house-parents and to see them walk out of their lives and leave the village for ever? This is tantamount to a bereavement. Such a blow cannot be explained away with a few easy read leaflets. If CVT cannot see the effect of the planned changes on those involved, maybe they should not be in the business of caring.There is no reason whatsoever why different support structures cannot co-exist side by side in the same village, why a family cannot live next to supported or independent household. This is after all what living in a community is all about. It is deeply unfair to break up the way of life of innocent people for the sake of politics.I have a son living in Botton Village who was abandoned before we adopted him. He has found a home in Botton where he is happy and feels safe and I envisage the imminent changes to his life with deep concern and foreboding.

  7. It is so heartening to read this article about the need to maintain the community form of living in Botton Village. Thank you for publishing it. This is really a story about one of the most cost-effective ways to provide serious care within a real community. Figures show that the average cost of a volunteer co-worker is around £14,000 pa – whereas putting in paid support workers on a minimum wage costs over £50,000 pa, including three shifts to cover the same time, and by people with far less experience than Camphill co-workers. Since the “hostile takeover”, management costs have skyrocketed. The co-workers had been frugal and careful in their handling of the charity’s assets, in comparison to the present trustees squandering millions of pounds on legal fees, for example, to try to get rid of some of the UK’s most highly-qualified, specialised workforce in learning disability. So right for Baroness Hollins to ask the question, “Since when did care become a business?”

  8. My brother has lived at Botton for 30 years and I first visited the village in 1967 after a diagnosis for his disability was found.
    The “Intentional Living” home care model at Botton has, as far as I know, been highly successful for 60 years and I have seen it develop and my brother has flourished within his disability.
    CVT’s desire to change this model, to an “Industrial Living” institutional care model run by the CEO and his managerial acolytes from 2011 was to me an unusual move, because, until now CVT had always been the “good guys”.
    Clearly, this suggests, that prior to 2011, moves were afoot high within CVT’s Executive Committee to change direction.
    If there is any truth in the suggestion in the main article above that there was “manipulation of membership” or gerrymandering in any way, North Yorkshire Police should investigate the circumstances under Section 2(2)(a)(b)of “Fraud by False Representation” under the Fraud Act 2006.
    I have applied for membership to CVT twice in 3 months and have got nowhere. It seems, I’m not wanted?
    Under these circumstances Ms Felicity Chadwick-Histed should resign her chair,

  9. The saddest thing in this whole sorry affair is the failure of anyone to listen to the voices of those who should be listened to first and for whom Camphill was founded, our vulnerable loved ones.

    My daughter’s chosen lifestyle is threatened, her safety compromised and the people she considers family are being driven from their homes by the very charity who should be protecting and supporting her and them. To think Camphill was actually founded by refugees from a totalitarian, barbaric state in an attempt to overcome evil. What would those brave pioneers be thinking now?

    This policy of destruction, to turn what was a beacon in the care of vulnerable adults into any other social care chain, is borne by greed and arrogance. It is the uniqueness of Botton that makes it so special. It should be celebrated, nurtured and recognised for the truly great place it was and should be again.

  10. A new care act, but I wonder who really cares?
    Our daughter is a villager at Botton. It is heartbreaking to see how CVT seems dead set on destroying what has been a leading light in the care for learning disabled over the last 60 years. One of our biggest frustrations during the last couple of years has been that we, the villagers and their families, are being ignored. Not surprisingly by CVT, who is ploughing ahead with fundamental changes to the Camphill communities without any regard to the countless reminders of the villagers’ rights, but also by the local council who also has ignored repeated complaints that they are not fulfilling their obligations to ensure the villagers are being heard and have a choice.

  11. I heartily endorse the comments of William Walker. My sister who is autistic has lived happily at Botton Village for forty years. Up to now she has thrived in this intentional community and our whole family have formed friendships with the co-workers who shared their homes with her. A few weeks ago CVT told her that she must move house and gave her little choice as to where to go. As her next of kin I was not consulted nor invited by CVT to be present when she made her reluctant decision to go to a house which is run by shift workers.
    In the 1970s and 80s my mother’s Friends of Botton committee raised thousands of pounds for building projects at Botton on the understanding that they were supporting an intentional community inspired by the ideals of Rudolf Steiner. Now CVT are driving out the co-workers who maintained these ideals and are breaking faith with our family.

  12. Thank you for letting the voices from CVT communities be heard. This is a case of reducing the choice of care and living in an already very limited field for LDAs. What is so astonishing is that the decision has been made for the beneficiaries of the Camphill Village Trust, by the Trust itself,that should be supporting Intentional Communities and Shared Living; this is against the wishes of the majority (“1 in 10 wanted to live more independently”CVT) and is being implemented withouit any Best Interest meetings.We have a daughter at CVT Botton Village in Yorkshire. It was hard to find the right placement for her and took several years, in full consultation with her social service care manager, transition manager, college team and family; she was in full control. Not being able to travel independently in town and not wanting to have carers all the time made the search hard. She was refused at several places being deemed to vulnerable. At Botton she felt both independent and safe, and enjoyed and benefited from the work and family living ethos. When CVT suddenly announced an end to volunteer Coworkers and Shared Living, 13.5.15, (having assured us repeatedly that they had no intention of getting rid of the Coworker model), with future care being provided by shift support workers, it left her with a total sense of dis-empowerment.She now feels intimidated and frightened. Whereas before she walked to work,helped prepare lunches, worked in the bakery and the weavery, she is now too frightened to go out at all. The whole community is in a state a paralysis.

  13. My 28yr old son has Learning Difficulties and has lived in Botton Village for the last 7 years. Botton is a wonderful place where the residents and co-workers live and work and play together as equals. However this model does not fit into CVT’s preferred structure and its senior managers have set about getting rid of the co-workers in a ruthless and often brutal way. The Chair and remaining Trustees of CVT have done nothing to defend its communities from this onslaught. They should have resigned some time ago.

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