The campaign to save Botton Village has gained significant backing over the last few weeks successfully galvanising both local and worldwide support.
The Botton Buddy scheme – launched in early March – has really taken off with nearly 350 individuals already “matched” to provide support to specific Co-worker households.
A meeting is being held this Saturday (April 18th) at 9.00am at Danby Village Hall when all buddies will be updated on the campaign before going on to deliver leaflets to encourage further recruits in the Esk Valley. For further details see http://www.bottonbuddies.org/
James Fearnley, the scheme’s founder and organiser, said – “Our target is to reach 500 Buddies and I am very confident we can achieve it as the response so far has been phenomenal. As well as individual Buddies, some 30 businesses and Churches are also supporting us. We have the backing of retail outlets and organisations both from this area and stretching as far as York. The Buddies are just not prepared to sit back and see the unique and world-famous community at Botton destroyed.”
The Buddies connected with the Botton households provide help in a number of different ways including transport and financial help as well as food and moral support, including prayer. The food deliveries are currently important as Camphill Village Trust has now withdrawn the food books from a number of Botton houses, whilst a new food distribution system has yet to be implemented.
Anne Stringer adds, “I am a Botton Buddy because for over 20 years I have been in great admiration for all who live in Botton Village and all that they have created living together. The Villagers, special needs people, are warm hearted and friendly which owes huge credit to the Co-workers who take care of them. I want to do everything I can to keep this exemplary, exceptional, extraordinary way of life, please join us and become a Buddy”.
“As parents of children attending the on-site Steiner school, on a daily basis we see first-hand the amazing way of life that Co-workers have created for Botton residents. We feel very sad that Botton residents may have their unique loving family and very special way of life taken away from them and replaced with institutionalised care. From previous work experience and seeing just how sterile institutionalised care is, we feel it is only right to support Botton residents and help them preserve their chosen care and way of life by becoming Botton Buddies to Botton Co-workers” say local ‘buddies’ Martina and Matt Hinds.
James Fearnley added “The Buddies are building a valuable extension to the Botton community and creating relationships which can provide support way into the future. The scheme shows what can be achieved when a local community feels outraged about something that is happening within its boundaries and is determined to fight back.”
This campaign 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 MP ‘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”.
As well as nationwide support from sitting MPs, the Action for Botton campaign has also attracted support from the Labour and Lib Dem parliamentary candidates at the forthcoming General Election who attended the last Action for Botton public meeting in Danby and spoke up in defence of the Co-worker model for the Villagers.
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 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, last month there was a sudden Trustee resignation citing assorted governance issues including concerns relating to the Articles and Memorandum. Finally a further hearing is scheduled on March 31st in the High Court in a claim brought by campaigners, including parents from one community now devoid of Co-workers, 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.