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The legal foundation of Camphill communities in the UK

The following is the first part of the Legal Opinion provided by Peter Trevett QC (1998), which sets out the principles of a Camphill community. Click here for the full document. We have reproduced it here to demonstrate that a Camphill community is based on clear principles and has a legal basis accredited by the state. Apart from that, we feel Mr Trevett's text is very insightful and explains beautifully how a Camphill community works. The Opinion was sought by the Association of Camphill Communities (AoCC) and has formed the basis of an agreement with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which can be accessed here. The treasury has confirmed in 2014 that this agreement is still valid and that it has not changed. On the other hand, it is clear that the Camphill Village Trust (CVT) has changed the way it operates its nine communities (i.e. no longer in line with with the opinon and agreement in certain aspects) and has then informed the HMRC about this. We have written about this issue in some more detail here

What follows is the text of the first part of Mr Trevett's opinion:

"2. In this Opinion, I have summarised the factual position as I understand it in relation to co-workers within Camphill Communities and I have then considered the legal position in order to determine whether there is any substantive basis on which it could be contended that a co-worker holds an office or employment within the scope of Schedule E so as to be subject to income tax on any benefits provided for the coworker and his or her family. For the detailed reasons which follow, I am clearly of the opinion that co-workers do not hold any office or employment within the scope of Schedule E; instead, their status within the Camphill Communities is a matter of informal agreement which is not intended to, and does not, create any legal relations which are enforceable either by a co-worker or by the Community within which the co-worker lives.

3. The Camphill Movement was founded in 1940 by Dr. Karl Konig who formulated the principles underlying the Movement upon the insights of the philosopher, Rudolf Steiner. The fundamental concept is that of Anthroposophy - a knowledge of one’s humanity. Anthroposophy recognises that every human individual embodies a higher spiritual being which existed before and will exist after that individual’s life on earth. Any mental disability which might obscure this undamaged spiritual being is seen as having a de!nite meaning in the continuing destiny of the individual and as being of particular significance to those who come and work with the individual, as well as for society as a whole.

4. There are three guiding principles in the Camphill Movement:

  • A cultural life enabling members of a Community to realize their own potential
  • A shared Community life based on Christianity and a recognition of the special qualities of every individual; and
  • An economic life based on the needs of the Community and the ability of each person, where there is a separation of work from money.

5. Camphill Communities occupy premises owned by various corporate charities connected with the Camphill Movement and the principal activities of these charities are the provision of accommodation and land for caring communities. The main land holding companies are Camphill Village Trust Limited ... , Camphill Estates Limited and Camphill Central Scotland Limited ... and Camphill Communities Trust (NI) ... .

6. Each Camphill Community is founded upon residential life sharing where co-workers and their families share their lives with individuals with varying special needs. Those individuals live with co-workers and their families in a shared daily life within a house. House Communities vary in size from 4 to 20 people made up of children, young persons or adults of all ages depending upon the nature of the Community, together with experienced co-workers, members of the coworker’s own family and younger co-workers. Shared family life assists in mutual understanding and lessens the distinction between a “helper” and the “helped”. True Community life is fostered and re"ected in “non-hierarchical” decision making processes which involve many different people who aim to reach a consensus as to what is to be done in relation to any particular situation.

7. All Camphill Communities recognise the importance of work both in its value to the individual and to the Community. All members of Communities contribute what they can for the benefit of those with whom they are living and in accordance with their own abilities. It is a fundamental principle of the Camphill Movement that nobody within a Camphill Community receives remuneration for work done. Each person’s needs are met by the Community according to individual circumstances.

8. Camphill Communities operate solely on a basis of mutual trust and shared belief, so any individual co-worker is free to leave a Community at any time if he or she wishes to do so. A co-worker who chooses to leave has no rights against the Community that he or she has been a part of and conversely, the Community has no rights against the co-worker who chooses to leave. This lack of enforceable obligation between the co-worker and Community is an essential element in each Community - the shared sense of purpose and belief which is fundamental to the successful working of a Camphill Community cannot be imposed by any form of contractual or other legal obligation. Without mutual trust and shared belief, a Camphill Community cannot function.

9. The lack of any enforceable rights between a Community and a co-worker can work to the significant disadvantage of a Community. Substantial time and trouble will usually have been invested by a Community in formally training a co-worker in specialist skills such as curative education or nursing leading to the award of a recognized Camphill certificate (a one year foundation course for short-stay coworkers, a three to five year formal training course for other co-workers) and yet the co-worker is free to leave a Community at any time giving no notice and with no obligation to compensate the Community for the specialist skills that have been taught. Disadvantages such as these are accepted because all the Communities agree that the fundamental tenets of the Camphill Movement are inconsistent with the imposition of any legal obligation on co-workers. Camphill Communities do, of course, have paid employees to perform specific functions for the Community and these employees are subject to income tax and national insurance contributions in the normal way, but they are not members of the Community and their position is fundamentally different to that of a co-worker. Employees are engaged under a contract of employment providing for agreed remuneration, holiday entitlement and a minimum period of notice of termination of employment, all of which are enforceable rights.

10. In contradistinction to the contractual provision made for its employees, each Community only provides for its members, including co-workers, according to its perception of their needs, so that shelter, food and clothing is given, education may be provided for the children of co-workers, an annual holiday may be provided for a co-worker and his or her family and pocket money is provided according to perceived needs. All such provision is made by the Community on the basis of mutual trust and without the creation of any obligation, or enforceable right so that a co-worker who chooses to leave a Community cannot make any claim for his or her “unpaid” pocket money or for a holiday not provided. Whilst a co-worker is in a Community, the Community will provide for the co-worker according to the Community’s perception of the needs of that individual, but any such provision is made without the creation of any obligation.

11. As Camphill Communities function on the basis of mutual trust and shared belief, a Community can ask (and particular Communities have asked) a co-worker (or coworkers) to leave the Community immediately as his or her (or their) presence is no longer conducive to the satisfactory operation of the Community as a whole. A coworker who is asked to leave has no rights against the Community that he or she was formerly a part of, nor can the Community make any claim against the coworker.

12. In summary, therefore, a co-worker’s “membership” of a Camphill Community is a relationship based on mutual trust and shared beliefs and not on the existence of any rights enforceable by a co-worker or by the “Community” of which the co-worker is a part. Bene!ts are not provided to a co-worker and members of his or her family under any agreement that the co-worker makes with a Community on becoming a member of it, but are provided informally by the Community based on its perception of the needs of that individual whilst living within the Community."

To continue reading click here for the full document.