March 27, 2015
As Parliament broke for the election, Green MP Caroline Lucas filed an Early Day Motion in the Commons calling on CVT to revert to one of several optional Co-worker models in order to preserve the community and avoid further distressing residents.
The move follows concerns from parents and families of the learning disabled residents and a petition produced by these residents taken to Downing St last month, asking for the changes to be stopped.
Early Day Motion 924
VOLUNTEER VOCATIONAL CO-WORKERS AT BOTTON VILLAGE COMMUNITY FOR ADULTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
That 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; further notes that Camphill Village Trust (CVT) is now insisting that co-workers become employees, with living quarters segregated from residents, or face eviction; further notes that in 2012 concerns were raised, including on safeguarding, about how the volunteer co-worker model at Botton Village was being run, and in February 2014 the Charity Commission published an operational compliance report that stated ‘key trustees shared our concerns and were committed to addressing them urgently’; further notes that the Commission’s report does not state that the existing co-worker model was intrinsically problematic; also notes that the HM Revenue and Customs technical document BIM22040 sets out how to operate a volunteer co-working model; further notes that this model continues to operate at other Camphill communities in the UK; 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; therefore urges CVT to work with the authorities to revert to a volunteer co-worker model at Botton Village; and calls on the Department of Health to work with the Care Quality Commission, HM Revenue and Customs and the Charity Commission to support those running intentional communities to ensure that the unique and successful volunteer co-worker model can continue.
The motion comes after Caroline received confirmation from the Treasury that the changes at Botton were not due to HMRC requirements but CVT’s own choice.
HM Treasury has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (227495):
To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what representations he has received on the tax treatment of people living as co-workers at intentional communities run by the Camphill Village Trust; and if he will make a statement. (227495)
Tabled on: 12 March 2015
Mr David Gauke:
The Chancellor receives many representations from a wide range of people including recent letters on the tax treatment of co-workers at intentional communities. The employment status of individuals is determined by the terms and conditions under which they work, applying criteria handed down in judgements by the Courts. It is the responsibility of engagers to decide the employment status of individuals they engage.
The answer was submitted on 19 Mar 2015 at 17:41.
This situation is set against the backdrop of national concern about the treatment of the learning disabled, with the launch of the Green Paper by 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 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, two local parliamentary candidates at the forthcoming General Election attended the last Action for Botton public meeting in Danby and spoke up in defence of the Co-worker model for the Villagers.
Labour candidate Ian McInnes commented: “I first visited Botton during the Open Days over 25 years ago. Where there once was peace there is now anxiety. It shouldn’t be like this! I have been communicating with Labour’s Shadow Ministers and they are keen to have an understanding of the issues involved”. He added “Action for Botton, the Co-workers, Villagers of Botton and local community are all working together in a spirit of solidarity and I am delighted to be able to offer my support.”
While Mike Beckett for the Liberal Democrats, said: “Intentional communities are a way of life and any changes to them should be resident-led and not imposed without choice. When you impose something on somebody with learning disabilities without their informed consent, that is classically abuse.” He continued “In addition, the wishes of local people should be taken into account in a consultation which involves a community as important as Botton.”
What’s more, earlier this month the High Court granted injunctive relief to learning disabled residents (now extended to cover Co-workers) represented by Bindmans LLP over breaches of their Human Rights under article 8; the injunction effectively stops support workers coming into their homes and prohibits any interference in their Co-worker family relationships by CVT until either a judicial review or the full case can be heard before the High Court itself.
Human rights issues aside, CVT is 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, last month there was a sudden Trustee resignation citing assorted governance issues including concerns relating to the Articles and Memorandum. Finally a further hearing is scheduled on March 31st in the High Court in a claim brought by campaigners, including parents from one community now devoid of Co-workers, over potential breaches of the charity’s articles and a form of manipulation of membership before last year’s AGM. Interestingly, whilst none of the other nine Local Authorities have done so North Yorkshire County Council recently applied to be joined to this action because of their concerns.
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.