The Camphill Village Trust (CVT) has distributed a new easy read leaflet for the villagers in Botton. The following comments are in response to this leaflet. We are concerned that it distorts the truth and influences the opinions of Botton’s disabled residents. We conclude that CVT is trying to present a perpetrator as a victim and that CVT has a protectionist approach to a member of its team. It appears that North Yorkshire County Council and Scarborough Advocacy Alliance uncritically endorse the leaflet.
Easy read leaflets are increasingly used to relay information to people with learning disabilities. They are powerful communication tools that can aid but also steer the thinking and decision making of their easily influenced readers in a certain direction.
Dave is employed by the CVT as the manager of Botton. The leaflet does not say what things have been said or by whom, the reader is simply told that the author does not “believe them to be true”. We will look at these things, which we do believe to be true.
This statement, after the previous ones and next to a picture of someone looking upset and being consoled generates a feeling. Messages and images are used to create sympathy for Dave, who suddenly appears as a victim who seemingly has been wronged and hurt, irrespective of what he might actually have said and done.
The Mental Capacity Act requires the utmost integrity from a person delivering the information to a disabled person and when necessary making the decision. This integrity is not shown in this easy read leaflet, which distorts the truth and unduly influences the reader through the use of emotional associations.
On 23 January 2015 Huw John, the charity’s chief executive officer (CEO), wrote to parents:
“The same can be said for the allegations currently circulating about David Knowles’ Twitter (social media) account. Those performing a deliberate search through his account online found two pictures of an adult nature. When I say adult nature, I refer to pictures that, until relatively recently, could be seen on the front cover of a top-shelf magazine on sale in a local newsagent.”
Twitter is public, online and open, the information is meant to be seen and shared widely and those using social media can readily see his connections there. He was ‘Following’ people like Ross Noble and Norman Lamb, as well as some seriously pornographic sites and images. Photographic evidence was shared with the CVT in a protected format as part of a formal complaint. It is disturbing to see the CEO of the Camphill Village Trust minimising the seriousness of this content.
“These pictures were never ‘tweeted’ (sent out) by David. He has no knowledge of how they came to be on his Twitter account. We have asked experts in this field for their views, but all have concluded it is impossible to know for sure. What is known is that social media accounts such as Twitter can be ‘hacked’ (taken over) for a variety of reasons. The Twitter account of Le Monde, the national French newspaper, was, for example, hacked on Wednesday.”
This is a feeble excuse, because there is evidence that Dave continued to use his account for many months after the alleged ‘hacking’. Furthermore, it is almost impossible to hack a Twitter account and more impossible still to ignore the regular updates from these sites. Ultimately, the hygiene of his social media activity is solely his responsibility.
The leaflet is unclear about what other things are being said about Dave, but the content of some complaints made to CVT regarding his behaviour include the following:
- He swore and behaved in a threatening way towards co-workers.
- He bullied a member of the public who distributed leaflets after Botton’s open day outside of the village and stole her box of leaflets. Only after repeated complaints was a full apology given.
- He did not let the BBC film and interview any learning disabled people in Botton, repeatedly.
- He prevented the candlelit vigil in support of the community from being held in Botton and tried to interfere with the attending of villagers at the vigil.
- He authorised the proposed eviction of Mark Barber on trumped up safeguarding allegations.
- He admitted breaking the law to young co-workers, stating that he rarely drives below 70mph and regularly uses the phone when driving.
- He stood down all co-workers from their role in managing their community, ending the sixty year old Camphill tradition. His managerial decisions in Botton amount to dismantling the community, undermining the role of the co-worker and imposing an external management.
Many of these issues would have led to a suspension if it had been a co-worker. CVT appears to offer a protectionist approach to their senior staff in the light of serious complaints.
However, what troubles us most, and which is the reason for raising the issue here, is the easy read leaflet that misrepresents the facts to the villagers. Mr. Denny, Operations Director of the CVT, has "given commitment to North Yorkshire County Council" (NYCC) that staff “should only provide information provided by the charity and agreed with NYCC”, i.e. seriously misleading leaflets like the one discussed here. It would therefore appear that this information material is agreed with North Yorkshire County Council and endorsed by Scarborough’s Advocacy Alliance, who distributed the leaflet in advocacy meetings with the villagers. A formal complaint about their perceived lack of independence has been made.