A 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:
- How day-to-day meaningful work gives members of the community a strong sense of identity and purpose.
- The Camphill Shared Living arrangements “create an atmosphere in which labels begin to break down.”
- That the community’s strength allows it to be outward looking.
- 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:
- Their biodynamic farm supplies organic milk and dairy produce to the local community
- Their ‘village green’, cafe and shop is a hub for the local community
- 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”.