Shared Living community village under threat as benefits far outweigh other choices for learning disabled


CamphillNewly formed campaign group Alliance for Camphill, set up to inform and promote the benefits of Camphill Shared Living communities, last Tuesday presented to MPs, Lords and other disability stakeholders ‘Choice for Intentional Community’, highlighting the many benefits of community in delivering support to learning disabled adults.

There is strong evidence that Shared living and Community living are demonstrably components of the most successful models of support for learning disabled adults, and deliver tremendous value. Many of these models are under threat unnecessarily, to the detriment of both the learning disabled in the community and the public purse. The models employed by organisations such as Shared Lives Plus, L’Arche and Camphill all successfully deliver these components of community and shared living in a variety of ways.

The presentation covered what benefits arise from these models, such as increased health, physical, emotional and psychological well-being for the learning disabled person being supported, and decreased costs to the NHS and Local Authorities, as well as for direct support. The speakers offered explanations of the different systems in use presently from their organisations, as well as a literature round-up, medical overview and personal accounts and perspectives from learning disabled adults and their families. In addition to the speakers, personnel from a wide range of organisations were on hand to answer any questions.

Camphill Alliance 1-care industry newsChairing the presentation, Dr Simon Duffy emphasised the importance of preserving a range of choice. “People need love and relationships in their lives – although on their own terms – and so it’s encouraging to see more attention being paid to the different ways people can come together in community, rather than being treated as objects by a care system that can be cold and isolating.” In addition he presented research from Shared Lives Plus, which shows that average net savings from a long-term Shared Lives arrangement per person per year are £26,000 (for learning disabilities) and £8,000 (for mental health). Dr Simon Duffy’s commentary “Power and Love” can be viewed on the following link:…

In addition, Dr Marcus van Dam GP presented a new study based on figures from his surgery in Danby which covers a Camphill community, indicating considerable health benefits arising from the Camphill Shared Life model: “In our Botton 2010 audit of patients on our learning disability register, we found that only 15% were obese, which is about half the prevalence of the UK, with diabetes being rare (1%). Similarly, mental illness and challenging behaviour have always been less common in Botton (15%, vs 40% UK-wide) and psychotropic medication required less frequently (12%, vs 30% in the UK)”.

He added: “I have seen a degree of contentment, happiness and stability that I believe is unparalleled for people with learning disabilities. I believe that their excellent health and wellbeing is a result of Botton’s way of life, where they live as friends with and without disabilities, enjoy a healthy diet, and have meaningful jobs with regular physical activity.”

Residents give their own opinions on living within a village
Residents give their own opinions on living within a Camphill community.

Steve Briault, Chair of the new Alliance for Camphill said, “The presentation was an excellent start to our campaign and we are pleased that so many Members of both Houses found time to attend. Given all the evidence that community is an essential component of successful support, the benefits of this and other shared lives models, and the significant potential cost savings, we hope that policy makers and commissioners will increasingly recognise intentional communities as a valuable and valid option that should be available for the learning disabled and their families to choose if they so wish.”

Richard Davis of Vanguard consulting covered regulation and said “There are two fundamental problems – the commissioning system is not fit for purpose and actively inhibits organisations from doing what matters. The current regulation regime is also unfit for purpose, it forces organisations to comply with a plausible but unevidenced set of requirements which ensure that they worry about how to meet the regulations rather than the needs of their residents. We need a regulation system that cares about the purpose of the organisation and how well it does what truly matters to people”

“The evidence from research tells us that shared-life communities like Camphill and L’Arche enable individual people with a learning disability to lead fulfilled lives, with a network of mutually-supportive friends, diverse and interesting employment, and a sense of inclusion as an important member of a community” says Stuart Cumella Honorary Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Policy at the University of Birmingham.

Along with many MPs who were unable to attend in person, Alex Salmond sent supporting wishes, saying “The Camphill movement was founded in Scotland and is recognised by many in the Scottish Parliament as a national asset. I hope this presentation goes a long way to communicating to those at Westminster the tremendous value to society as a whole of creating community and supporting shared-living for the learning disabled. I have personal experience of Camphill and have long supported its aims.”

View a presentation from Sally Murray-Jones mother of a resident:


  1. A few years ago when administrative burdens exploded into life sharing communities one could have imagined a silent giving-up and ensuing institutionalisation. Instead a ground-swell of support evolved which has allowed politicians, bureaucrats and managers alike to think again. Let us hope that such a rethink will result in scaled down bureaucracy and encouraging support on the ground.

  2. A great report on a great and, hopefully, ground-breaking event. The range and depth of testimony to the value of intentional communities, from people who really know what they’re talking about, is particularly impressive. Those individuals and organisations in the care sector who, however much they protest, clearly put policies before people, MUST now sit up and listen.

  3. It’s time to turn the tide away from the commercialization/ Business mentality of the care industry.
    Camphill’s shared living and quality work has to be experienced, it is not experienced through charts and shiny brochures.
    It should be celebrated so much more! Well done!!

  4. How refreshing to see that these unfashionable communities are at last receiving some positive attention! Social policy swings back and forth as the years go by, seemingly never really getting things right. Meanwhile, these shared lives models continue to quietly provide secure, meaningful and rich lives to their residents.

    The statistics produced by the Danby Surgery showing the incidence of obesity, diabetes, mental illness and challenging behaviour drastically lower for Botton Village than the national average should give any thoughtful professional or policy maker pause for thought.

    Too often we the professionals allow ourselves to be driven by the dogma of the day, rather than a strict evidence-based approach. It is also humbling to listen the learning disabled themselves speak out with extraordinary confidence and dignity about their choice of a life shared with others.

  5. What a splendid coverage of an excellent presentation of this very valuable form of support for the less able. What more could anyone wish for than to share their lives in fellowship? What we mustn’t loose sight of is the work ethos that is particular to the Camphill Movement, not working for money but for the community, real work, not occupational therapy, that results in real output, be it farming, gardening, cooking, baking, forestry, or creative work and much more.


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