Charity Commission ‘disappointed’ in actions of Camphill Village Trust Charity

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botton village-care industry newsCampaign 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 22 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 claimant’s 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 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.”

“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.”

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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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 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.

 

18 COMMENTS

  1. Thankyou for continuing to shed light on this situation. It is an important issue.
    There is as such nothing wrong with a conventional care home, but Camphill does something special, something different. there should be room in our society for different lifestyles and for different kinds of care. CVT is deliberately and mercilessly dismantling an excellent system, for no reason and with no regard whatsoever for the wishes of the people they are supposed to take care of.

    • I can only agree to this point of choice. It is devastating to the CVT beneficiaries to have their choice taken away from them, against their wishes.
      The Camphill VIllage Trust grew from Botton Village to 11 communities around England and Scotland. The 2 karge Scotttish communities demerged soon after tge CEO Mr John was appointed. They are thriving communities, based on house sharing and a working intentional community, praised by the Scottish Parliament.
      The other CVT communities offered a diversity of choice, from rural to semi urban and urban, as the Trust in its then wisdom, realised that people had different needs and wishes.
      Soon, if the Action for Botton, http://www.actionforbotton.org ,Villagers and their families do not prevail, the choice of living in a rural intentional working community in England will be lost.So will shared living as CVT say it is no longer possible.
      The situation on the ground today is dire. There ate orders for change, with counter orders days later, cheese is not being made, despite having an expert cheese maker in the community, so 1000´s of litres of organic milk are wasted. This is a slap in the face of the Villagers who milk the cows twice a day. The gardens and bakery are closed, then not closed, as CVT muddle their way through their inexplicable programme of dismantling the community.
      What would be wonderful would be for CVT to keep the larger rural communities, with Co-workers and shared living, and employee based care support in the urban communities. Then the founding Camphill principles could seep out from the main communities, training could take place there, for support workers and young volunteer co-workers elsewhere, so spreading the traditional care, so called SocialTherapy, that made Camphill communities so beneficial all round to the beneficiaries.
      Is CVT brave enough to acknowledge they have made a total mess and go into real mediation in a few weeks with the three main communities, Botton, Delrow and The Grange?

    • How can this happen to such a way of life , that Rudulf steighner
      in his wisdom design something so very special for these adult & children that has never been surpassed, with family values & co worker being a constant surport with continuity of love from a house mother looking after their indevidul needs along side of her own children which is the key to the fundimental life of Bottom Village
      Except for a bunch of “I know better CVT” We have all seen what can happen to care homes residents when thing go badly wrong with employees abusing the very people they are there to protect?

  2. This argument is hugely important and surely does need to be taken to the public! The question is how society deals with its most vulnerable members. How are they adequately supported and empowered whilst upholding their dignity and valuing the contribution they make? To me Botton, with all the flaws that real life brings, is still an outstanding example of integration into the community.

    The tragedy is that CVT got free reign in Botton, Delrow and the Grange to dismantle everything that makes this integration possible and to destroy the lives the residents of these communities had built up.
    It is a sign of hope, that finally the Charity Commission acknowledges that the CVT management and trustees DO have a case to answer.

  3. It is good news that the Charity Commission has given the go-ahead for the second of two sets of proceedings in the High Court. Thank you for your coverage of this situation. It is very disappointing that the CVT trustees and management are still ignoring the wishes of their beneficiaries by dismantling successful life-sharing communities respected in the local area and further afield.

  4. Thank you for reporting on this issue. It is awful to witness the dismantling of the social and cultural fabric this community by the CVT, and so distressing to feel utterly powerless to stop them.

    Please keep reporting and highlighting this special community, they need all the support we can give them to fight against their own trustees who seem to have their ears and eyes firmly closed to the voices within the community.

  5. For those who are not completely aware of all that has been going on and of CVT actions, there is a recent film put together which covers most of the story.

    The tremendous support from Botton Buddies and action for Botton http://www.actionforbotton.org is a huge testimony to Botton’s place, integration and importance within the wider community in North Yorkshire.

    http://www.bottonbuddies.org/linker.php?link=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxgIXQ-Lz0s&feature=youtu.be

  6. Well, it’s about time, though I suppose it takes time to assess these things. Anyway, this is very good news – at last, a powerful and official organisation is weighing in and confronting CVT with its iniquities. One must hope that its officers are now held to account. This should be broadcast far and wide.

  7. It is about time that the Charity Commission finally recognised the refusal of CVT to negotiate fairly with the very people who have made this charity world famous. Let’s hope that they stand up and take notice. Thank you for the excellent reporting.

  8. Thank you CIN for your excellent and well researched article highlighting the plight of the residents and community members at the Camphill centres. There are grave concerns about the manner and implimentation that the CVT management are undertaking and all questions raised need to be answered with urgency.

  9. So even the Charity Commission don’t agree with the course of action CVT is following. When will the Trustees, Senior Management and all those who support these changes such as the Gerald’s and Furner Communications, their PR firm, actually realise they’ve gone too far?

    What is really appalling about this whole situation is the fact that CVT is willing to waste vast amounts of public money on it. Money that could be spent so effectively supporting the people it was intended to support, the Learning Disabled. With the exception of those managers at both national and local level who have fed their ego and gained financially from this situation, there are very few people who want the proposed changes. Everyone recognises changes needed to be made, just not to the extreme that the dictatorial vision of senior management are trying to impose.

    Why couldn’t CVT do what any other real world organisation would do and accept they had made a mistake and find a compromise position? Could it be their breathtaking arrogance in attempting to force the changes through against the wishes of the masses is coming home to roost. It makes you wonder how damaged the public perception and ongoing image of CVT is now. I’ve spoken to many people who are cancelling donations and even changing their wills because of the actions of the management team and trustees.

    On a side note massive thanks to CIN for continuing to publish these articles, people need to know what is happening. Keep up the good work.

  10. Many thanks Jackie, for your articles in Care Industry News re CVT and Botton Villagers.

    My brother Andrew is a villager there, who has for decades, including his schooling with CVT, (then in the 1970’s), was in a safe place for him at that time.

    It seems his place is not so safe anymore under the CEO Huw John and HR Rep Frances Wright an ex CVT Co-Worker?…..So what is her problem?

    Mike

    Mike

  11. Well done for highlighting this issue. After so many scandals from hierarchical employer employee based institutions a new model is badly needed- the world should learn from Botton- if CVT can be prevented from spoiling what makes it special. What is being done here is not just a change in care delivery but the redundancy of the learning disabled and destruction of their community with their status reduced to that of customers.

  12. Thank you for continuing to cover the situation at Botton, and for highlighting the shameful actions of CVT, the charity who are meant to protect the learning disabled residents at this Camphill community and at others in England. There has been much publicity about CVT’s attempt to end shared living and replace live-in co-workers with shifts of care workers, and their reasons for doing this have been proven to be invalid. They have not listened to the wishes of the residents, who have clearly expressed their wish to continue living with their co- worker families, and have not consulted at all with anyone who would be affected by this drastic change, nor have they answered the myriad questions and concerns raised by relatives and friends, wanting to know what the future holds for their vulnerable loved ones. In the light of the government’s current consultation ‘ No voice unheard, no rights ignored’, which is investigating the right of every learning disabled person and those suffering from mental illness to have a proper say in who looks after them, and where and with whom they live, the behaviour of CVT and their actions have wider implications for the care industry nationally. Vulnerable people cannot and should not be treated as second class citizens, and those who do this, like CVT, must be called to account.
    A lot of time and money has been spent on preparing court cases to fight for the human rights of those living at Botton and other Camphill Communities in England, and judicial review has been denied in this case. The other case mentioned here that is being allowed to proceed by the Charity Commission, investigates the conduct of the management and Trustees of the charity, CVT, who are accused of gerrymandering, underhand practices and of going against the charity’s articles and memoranda they are meant to uphold. These are serious allegations, and it should also be noted that the management structure of CVT claim substantial salaries, and are using charitable donations to fund their legal team and PR in the current and pending cases. This money was intended for the continued care of the learning disabled in these wonderful and successful communities, where residents live lives with purpose, value and dignity, and not to fund a campaign to dismantle them and turn them into care homes.
    Politicians have got involved in Action for Botton’s campaign to get the views of Camphill residents listened to by government, and have had much support at Westminster and in the constituency where Botton is situated. Let us hope that Botton will be allowed to continue as the Camphill founders and ethos intended, where residents and co-workers can share their homes and lives in harmony, as they have done for the past 60 years. CVT must recognise their choice to continue with their established way of life and their running of the charity must bear close scrutiny and criticism in court and in the public eye.

  13. I am grateful to CIN, for once again covering this, a situation that affects our relative at Botton most deeply. I am also pleased that the CC has had a close and independent look at this case.
    Please can I make it clear that the CC stated in a criticism of the charity, that it was disappointing that they had not engaged in any ADR, as this is not clear in your otherwise excellent article.

    It is clear that the campaigners, who are fighting for the rights of the learning disabled adults at Botton Village, Delrow and The Grange to be heard, have a way to go yet. One would hope and wish for some real, positive mediation next. We must assume on past actions that CVT will fight on, insisting that they are making these changes in the best interests of their beneficiaries…despite never having held best interest meetings; or was it because they thought the HMRC said they were legally obliged to do so, or then again, the CC legally obliged them do it? These days they are talking about poor quality care, which is interesting, as it implies that after 4 years in the helm, the CEO has created a dangerous situation. To be honest they change their tune so much and make such erratic changes at short notice, it leaves one wondering yet again if they are fit for purpose.

  14. Thank you Jackie and CIN for dedicating more time to write another story about the desperate situation in Botton Village!

    “Disappointing” says the Charities Commission about CVT!

    CVT says to the whole Botton Community, public bodies, public opinion and the judicial system – It’s their way or no way and they don’t care!

    Public opinion has now turned and not only do many question how CVT have got away with treating their beneficiaries in such an abusive way BUT many also now question how and who is allowing and assisting CVT to carry on?

    CVT should be reported for Safeguarding!

    If a resident said that anyone other than CVT had harassed them, took away their rights, tried to gag them etc etc, the person involved would immediately be suspended and a safeguarding alert raised.

    Come on North Yorkshire Council – walk around Botton Village and speak with Botton Village residents. Don’t let Botton be another Saville scandal! Remember the Saville scandal was in your back garden and the public haven’t forgotten that!

    Botton Village residents are being ignored by all who have the power to do something about it.

    Maybe we should contact Disability Rights UK and ask if they could help Botton Village residents have a voice against CVT?

    The sick irony of this is that Ben Furner of Furner Commuications (the PR for CVT being paid some £15k per month out of the charities money i.e. donors) actually lists Disability Rights UK as one of his clients on his website.

    CVT you must go!

    Ben Furner you must go along with your reputation for your part in assisting CVT in dismantling the rights of the learning disabled in Botton Village! Shame on you!

    North Yorkshire Council – you should take note and start taking action in support of the learning disabled in Botton Village rather than cozying up to a corrupt big corp.

  15. Thank you, thank you for keeping this issue to the fore.
    How long before someone of influence asks just why one of the richest charities in the country is so intent on completely ignoring the opinions and welfare of those they are supposed to be supporting?

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