All Party Support Gained for the Preservation of the Vocational Volunteer Co-worker Model at Botton Village

“This House notes that until recently, Botton Village, a Camphill Community of 60 years’ standing, offered a shared way of life for learning-disabled adults alongside volunteer co-workers, living as equals, sharing home, work, culture and recreation;…. / and concludes /…. is concerned about reports from families of residents at Botton Village that the loss of the residents’ chosen lifestyle, of their home and family life as they know it, and the removal of very dear friends, is causing distress to learning-disabled residents; and therefore urges CVT to work with the authorities to revert to a volunteer co-worker model at Botton Village‘.

MPs from all political parties across the UK* have now signed the EDM as they recognise the tremendous national value of the Camphill Shared Living Community model.  The established benefits offered by the model include increased wellbeing (physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual) for all community residents (both learning disabled and able-bodied).  It is also extremely cost-effective and affords a range of provable economic benefits to the wider society**.

 Caroline Lucas MP, who initially proposed the same motion at the end of the last session of Parliament said: “The Camphill community model of social care, has offered a shared and sustainable way of life for learning-disabled adults alongside Vocational Co-workers, living as equals, sharing home, work, culture and recreation, for decades.  I am very pleased to support them and it would be such a loss if this exemplary model community were to disappear”.

Whilst Alex Salmond MP, who was one of the signatories to the EDM, added: “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 so am pleased to support this EDM”.

In addition to the above, the motion is also supported by regional MPs Roberta Blackman-Woods and Julian Sturdy as well as Catherine West, Charlotte Leslie, Norman Lamb, Tim Farron, Jonathan Edwards, Mark Durkan, Nigel Dodds, Douglas Carswell, Peter Bottomley, and the UK’s only independent MP Lady Sylvia Hermon amongst many others.

 Dr Simon Duffy, of The Centre for Welfare Reform, commented: “There is significant evidence that shared living is a valuable model of support for some people. As long as people have the right to select the support that works for best them then shared living should not just be an option, it should be a highly valued option.”

 Neil Davidson, the Chair of Action for Botton commented that “It might seem remarkable to many, that politicians from across the political spectrum support this motion. What is truly remarkable however is that for 60 years Botton has quietly practised the Camphill community way of life – the very sort of shared life care that has now been established as being cheaper but also safer than other systems”. 

 Since the original proposal of this EDM, Claimants and the Charity have entered a process of legal mediation. The key part of the progress being made is the exploration of the Shared Lives Plus model as a way to retain shared living within Botton and the engagement by the parties of a specialist social care advisor Caroline Tomlinson to assist with this.

“In view of the synergy between the two models we are really optimistic that CVT have in their hands a proposal that will preserve the proven shared lives model which has been so successful for many years,” added Neil Davidson. “A successful and speedy outcome to the mediation is now well within our grasp which will certainly please the many MPs who supported the EDM.”

The news of universal political support comes hard on the heels of a new study being published by the Centre for Welfare Reform author Maria Lyons and medical evidence by Dr Marcus van Dam, a longstanding GP for the residents of Botton, who has presented data highlighting the health benefits of the community lifestyle at Botton and resulting cost-savings to the NHS.

Dr van Dam commented: “I am not surprised that there is substantial cross-party support for the world renowned Camphill Shared Lives model at Botton from those who really understand the issues. We have been able to show that also from a medical perspective Camphill is a superior model of supporting people with learning disability. We audited our learning disability health check data of 2010 (the last time the community was wholly VVC Shared-living) and found that only 15% were obese, which is about half the prevailing rate of the UK, with diabetes being very rare (1%). Similarly, mental illness and challenging behaviour have always been much 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 am convinced that their excellent health and wellbeing is a result of Botton’s way of life, where people live as friends with and without disabilities, have a stable network of relationships, meaningful jobs and roles, enjoy a healthy diet and plenty of physical activity.”

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