Camphill Community for the Learning Disabled praised by Leading Think-Tank


A-shared-achievement Camphill Newton DeeA report by the influential think-tank the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has singled out the historic community of Camphill Newton Dee for praise saying it provides “many lessons for Care in a communal setting” for those with learning disabilities.


The CSJ’s report entitled ‘The Need for Community’ is a wide-ranging review of care and accommodation for those with a learning disability. Its emphasis on communities, such as Camphill, where people feel safe and yet connected to the wider world will be welcomed by many in the care sector who have long argued that such communities should be seen as a front-line model of care.


Camphill communities across the UK and Ireland today aim to offer a safe, effective and caring environment where individuals receiving support are recognized as full contributing members of their community avoiding possible  social isolation and loneliness that can easily be experienced by people living alone with visiting support.


The CSJ which aims to put “social justice at the centre of British politics”, describes Newton Dee Camphill community near Aberdeen as “flexible and unique”. Their report highlights:

  1. How day-to-day meaningful work gives members of the community a strong sense of identity and purpose.
  2. The Camphill Shared Living arrangements “create an atmosphere in which labels begin to break down.”
  3. That the community’s strength allows it to be outward looking.
  4. How the community had moved away from the conventional dynamic of “carer and cared for”, in a way which is empowering and yet still safe.


The report also emphasises the great benefits created by Camphill Settings such as Newton Dee for the wider community, including:

  1. Their biodynamic farm supplies organic milk and dairy produce to the local community
  2. Their ‘village green’, cafe and shop is a hub for the local community
  3. The shop (run by Community members) is one of the biggest suppliers of dietary specific food in Aberdeenshire.


The CSJ says it wants to see the autonomy, independence and the potential of those with learning disabilities placed at the heart of the care system.  It says that both “supported living” and “residential care” are important models of provision and people should be able to choose which model best suits their needs and allows them to thrive, learn, grow and develop independence. It sets out a road map for this to happen.


Tom Marx of The Alliance for Camphill said: “It’s really great to see such recognition for the benefits of the Camphill Shared Living, Shared-working model”. He continues: “Over the last 60 years Camphill communities have provided stable, caring, supportive and sustainable environments for some of the county’s most vulnerable people, allowing them the opportunity for meaningful work, involvement in real vibrant community and to live as independently as they choose to.”


There are now 120 Camphill Communities worldwide and 50 in the UK and Ireland alone. Based on the ideas of Rudolf Steiner, they were founded in 1939 by Karl König an Austrian refugee fleeing Nazi persecution. Newton Dee is one of the “pioneer” communities.


A recent study shows that Shared Living as part of a community tends to be healthier, with learning disabled people receiving less medication and needing fewer doctors’ visits than the average for the rest of the UK.


Although Camphill communities have enjoyed strong political backing in Scotland this is the first time they have been highlighted by a leading UK-wide social policy group. The CSJ, led by Conservative peer Baroness Stroud, has wide cross-party support including that of Prime Minister David Cameron.


Earlier this year Alex Salmond MP, said: “The Camphill movement was founded in Scotland and is recognised widely as a national asset. I have personal experience of Camphill and have long supported its aims”.


  1. A great article on a great cause. I fully endorse any form of care based on family-style living, not least because of the dignity and empowerment it offers those in need of care.

  2. Thank you for this badly needed voice in support of the Camphill way of life. My brother in law has lived in Camphill communities for nearly 30 years, and the fact that his way of life is now under threat (with the changes being made at Botton Village) is extremely worrying for his entire family. This is a form of care which has served many people extremely well, and given them the opportunity to live their lives to the full, and it should be being made available to more people, not fewer. In the case of our family member, the alternative forms of care would quite simply not suited him as well, and he would not have been as happy as he is living within a Camphi community. Let’s hope the campaign to uphold this way of life is not forgotten about in post Brexit Britain.

  3. Thank you for publishing this article highlighting the success of the Camphill Community, Newton Dee. Our son has benefited from the Camphill way of life for 29 years and has always found fulfilment and happiness in a number of their educational and working communities. It is a shame that the shared-living, co-worker led model has fallen out of favour recently, to be replaced by a type of care that is based on theory rather than experience. Let’s hope that articles such as this will help to turn the tide in favour of the traditional Camphill way of life as a recognised alternative to the current care packages. Surely the learning disabled deserve to have that choice?

  4. A great report about fantastic communities that are much needed in today’s fragmented society. Providing a safe and loving home and the option for people to lead meaningful lives, Camphill Communities should be the standard that other care providers aspire to.

  5. THANK YOU to the Centre for Social Justice for this wide ranging and insightful report on the benefits of community living in Camphill Communities such as Newton Dee in Aberdeenshire. Unfortunately this successful model of living and mutual support has in recent years been viewed with some scepticism by Local Authority “purchasers”. As a consequence, new “management” procedures within communities, have resulted in disarray within similar communities such as Botton Village in North Yorkshire, where the imposition of “care” hours, by “employed” “care providers” appear to have had the effect of disempowering community members and dismembering this very special “sister” of Newton Dee.

    Person Centred Planning has the potential to open doors towards “Choice” and “Self development”. It offers a recognition of the value of “Work”… within communities such as Newton Dee (and hitherto Botton Village). A sense of personal self esteem can be gained through doing a hard days Work. This is evidenced in abundance when encountering community members (whether “carer” or “cared-for”) standing shoulder to shoulder after a hard days “graft” in the production of healthy food for the community.

    Unfortunately rigid (blinkered?) adherence to models of support requiring paid-for “carers” to come and go; administration of the communities by out-of-community “managers”; (purchased) day care “activities” for community members….all this succeeds in pulling the rug from under the noble aspirations of Person Centred Planning.And erodes the the very special sense of “belonging” and mutual respect evident for over 60 years within Camphill communities.

    Newton Dee, offers (maybe? in some peoples minds?), an old fashioned, approach to care in the community. Yet ITS ESSENTIAL RECOGNITION OF THE MUTUALITY OF HUMAN TO HUMAN CARE is something from which we can all learn; and which (in my view) should be valued. Thank you to the Centre for Social Justice for your recognition of such a special community.

    Maretta Fawcett

  6. Thank you for publishing this article. Having a handicapped child brings many challenges for a parent, a future then has to be planned for this child ,a meaningful quality of life. My parents took this challenge and knowing that we all deserve the right to live our best life chose a Camphill Village, Botton in Yorkshire. My sister has lived there for over 30 years and within this wonderful community has thrived in mind body and soul.I am proud of the person she has become over the years, and thank those who have helped her and continue to do so. This special village in Yorkshire where the true meaning of life is lived by many, they need help to continue this calling, I hope they will receive it.

  7. Camphill adult communities have been a beacon for 60 years .
    Newton Dee was one of 11 CVT Camphill Communities .
    The 2 Scottish Communities in their portfolio were de-merged from CVT in 2011 to become independent
    Camphill Charities .
    The Scottish Communities are celebrated by the Scottish Government who fully support them .
    The CEO of CVT who took over in 2011 gave a presentation to The Association of parents relatives and friends of Camphill to elicit his views on Camphill which included the following comments from him –
    I have difficulty representing Camphill to the Learning Disability Sector because Camphill does not have a good reputation there , bring regarded as insular and dinosaur-like .
    The revolutionary changes taking place in the sector , poor reputation especially the reputed lack of accountability and the perceived weaknesses of the co-workers model , Camphills inward focus , inertia and denial .
    Five years later Newton Dee is still thriving as a celebrated model of adult care , run by volunteer co-workers .
    Volunteer co-workers in the other 9 CVT villagers have progressively been replaced by professional employees .

  8. Thank you for writing this inspiring article about the benefits of communities such as Camphill Newton Dee, where adults both with and without learning disabilities work and live together, in shared family houses; adults, children, old and young, all living and working together for the benefit of their community.Typically, management oversight was provided by a volunteer group of volunteers from the wider community,the local management group,so no exorbitant costs for senior management, but close ties with the wider community. This is the original model of Camphill, with the main support being provided by Vocational Volunteer Coworkers. Since it has been admittedly harder in recent years to recruit VVCWs some small independent Camphill Communities have been obliged to go over to being communities run by support workers, who do not share their lives with the less able adults, but are paid to support them; some successful and splendid places, others barely recognizable as Camphill Communities other than in name. The charity, Camphill Village Trust, was set up 60 years ago to hold in Trust the original Camphill Community Botton Village and later on its 11 daughter communities. Due to pressure from its communities’ local authorities and an excessive aversion to risk, the Trust has recently decided to break away from the shared working and living model entirely, using only support workers for care and support, with work becoming more akin to sheltered daytime activities, as they now call work. This is regrettable as their Communities begin to look like concentrations of adults with learning disabilities living together, often removed from the wider community, without the enormous benefits of shared family life or working together as equals with their more able community members, as one sees at Newton Dee. This radical change in the Trust’s care model means that there are now only a few Intentional working Communities with shared family living left in the UK, none being in England. I fervently hope that common sense will prevail, outcomes will be looked at and, seeing how beneficial such places as Newton Dee are, as well as economic to the tax payer long term, Intentional Communities will be recognised as a valid choice of care.

  9. I am in total agreement with Alain; it is great to see a report which highlights the many benefits of living in an intentional community. I have a close relative who has lived in such a community for 36 years, and it has given him dignity, a sense of purpose, great confidence and a sense of belonging to a large and very close family, where he has many friends and feels valued. People who live in the area surrounding his community are proud to have it in their midst and have taken it and its learning-disabled residents into their hearts. These communities truly connect with the world around them. This model of care offers an alternative to the traditional care providers, and has a long and successful record of providing an exceptional environment for the learning-disabled, where their lives are extended and enriched, both physically and mentally. Recognition of the many benefits that Camphill communities offer is overdue and very welcome.

  10. These are indeed wonderful communities- even if deeply unfashionable in the current social care ideology. However, time is always the great corrective. Already many leading thinkers are realising that the aspiration of independence is not a binary choice, as our autonomy as individuals is only ever meaningful within the context of real community. Traditional communities, however, are disintegrating across the world. It is only by actively and creatively reinventing the ties that bind us that any of us- the learning disabled included- will find real meaning in our lives.

  11. Thanks for publishing this. I like to hear more about these communities. A step away from the traditional care model, they seem to fill a much needed family style provision. Or more than that, an all round fulfilling lifestyle learning disabled adults can choose to be part of.

  12. This is a much-needed and well-deserved boost for intentional communities such as Camphill which offer an exceptional environment for those with learning disabilities. Properly managed they offer an ethos which allows a person-centred approach with real meaning and dignity where the underlying sense of being “disabled” is replaced by genuine empowerment. The report vividly illustrates how Camphill communities like Newton Dee- far from being cloistered and disconnected from the world – are a thriving hub of activity and life reaching deep into the community.It brings a long-overdue balance to the debate about our care system which faces profound challenges. Commissioners and the CQC take note.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.