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Charity Commission grants permission for legal battle over Botton, Delrow and Grange communities to go the the High Court

28 April 2015

Charity Commission grants permission for the legal case supported by Action for Botton and your generous donations to proceed to the High Court as intended. This is good news for the 23 claimants - Co-workers and relatives from Botton, Delrow and the Grange communities - and the many supporters of their cause from within the communities and from far away. The claimants are critical of the charity Camphill Village Trust (CVT) for abandoning the characteristic principles of Camphill community life by implementing its controversial restructuring programme and they allege that the trustees are in breach the charity’s founding document. The Charity Commission has now confirmed that this claim is appropriate and made in good faith and has given the go ahead for the second of two sets of proceedings in the High Court against Camphill Village Trust (CVT) to commence.

Permission Granted for Legal Battle Over Charity's Care Arrangements To Go To High Court

The claim brought by a group of 23 vocational Co-workers and residents’ family members drawn from three CVT communities – Delrow (near Watford), the Grange (Newnham-on-Severn) and Botton (in North Yorkshire) - is based on their assertion that the trustees are acting ultra vires i.e. ‘outside their powers’ in making the changes to the previously self-determining communities where people with and without disabilities share their homes and work and cultural activities. It is claimed the changes are seriously impacting on the lives of the trust’s beneficiaries, effectively enforcing the segregation of people with learning disabilities from their Co-worker families. 

Amongst other comments Bethan Wilkins-Jones in her letter to claimant’s solicitors granting permission from the Charity Commission stated: 

"We consider that the proposed action raised issues of substance which should be addressed through the court."

"For the reasons explained on 18 March we conclude that proceedings have been brought in good faith."

“It is disappointing to read that the other party is not prepared to engage in ADR (alternative dispute resolution) unless and until the Commission authorises proceedings.” 

“The matter relates not to assets but to the manner in which the charity operates and its ethos which is of great importance to those interested in the charity.”

Camphill Village Trust (CVT), a charity originally set up to support the formation and maintenance of intentional communities that fully integrate the learning disabled into every aspect of community life, has been facing a storm of criticism over its attempts to dismantle the key elements of its communities.

A legal opinion from the UK’s leading charity QC maintains that there are serious concerns with the activities of CVT which is dismantling the core element of the very communities that the charity was formed to protect and that replacing a "shared life community ideology" with a "care worker culture" represents a fundamentally different charitable purpose .

What’s more, legal advice indicates that CVT’s board has behaved improperly in manipulating control of the charity by:

(1) More than doubling the voting membership whilst refusing applications from those deeply involved in the actual communities. Many of the “new members” appear to have had no knowledge of community ethos, operations or founding principles and it is thought that the only reason for their being solicited to become members was to provide votes to support the current Trustees and prevent attempts to wrest back control by those actually involved in the communities.

(2) The number of members likely to vote against the policies being forced through has also been reduced by management insistence that Co-workers leaving give up membership as a condition of receiving any compensation package and / or other payments. 

(3) In at least one case the management unilaterally removed voting membership without even informing the member concerned or following their own required procedure for removal.

You can find further information on this controversial practice by the new CVT Officials - the gerrymandering of the voting membership list - in a previous article.