Action 4 Botton

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CVT's misinformation corrected

9 April 2015

On this page we offer clear and simple evidence that corrects the statements made by the Camphill Village Trust (CVT) and their new PR firm in relation to their reasons for enforcing the controversioal changes onto its communities. The thrust of CVT's argument is that various authorities have forced them to abandon the tried and tested and most popular life-sharing model where vocational co-workers live together with disabled people in freedom. CVT wants to replace this with a business model that only engages employed shift-working staff instead. The additional evidence presented here supports our interpretation of the situation and completes the picture described in our articles 'The tax issue', 'We have been misled by CVT', and 'FAQs and our perspective'.

 

The 'heart of the story'

We start with a recent statement that sums up CVT's misleading narrative. Their recently appointed PR person wrote that “the heart of this story is about two things – poor quality care for people with learning disabilities and excessive expenses for long term volunteers, or co-workers.” 

There are three mistakes in this single sentence alone. Here are the corrections.

1. The heart of this story is about CVT betraying its founding principles (the first High Court case) and breaching the human rights of disabled people (second High Court case).

2. Co-workers provide high quality of care to people with learning disabilities, which is evident from several Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections.

3. CVT’s accusation of excessive co-worker expenses has been found to have no evidence by the Charity Commission and discredited again by independent investigators more recently.

At the heart of this story are the (1) breach of trust and (2) breach of human rights of disabled people by the new officials now in charge of this national disability charity, which are awaiting examination in two separate cases in the High Court. The breach of trust claim is supported by leading charity barrister Mr Picarda QC who argues that replacing a "shared life community ideology" with a "care worker culture" represents a fundamentally different charitable purpose and that this is unlawful. The breach of human rights claim has been made by some of the disabled residents themselves who argue that their human rights to a private and family life is unlawfully being taken away by the charity’s new business model.

In the following we will present proof that no authority supports CVT’s claim that they were forced to make the changes they are making. For example, the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the Treasury and the Director General for HMRC both confirm they do not require Co-workers to become employees. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) are entirely happy with the quality of care provided by co-workers and have found that they meet all their standards, and the Local Authority as well as the Charity Commission have both confirmed in writing that they do not require the changes of the model imposed by the charity.

It is important to understand that there are over thirty Camphill communities in the UK, most of which operate the normal Co-worker model and which are entirely compliant with regulation including HMRC. They also receive excellent reviews for the care they provide.  In Scotland they received recognition for their excellence, and globally the Camphill model is recognised as the very best possible in terms of quality of life as well as care.  We can provide further witnesses and detailed information about these. See here a link to the motion supported by the Scottish Parliament and here the details of the parliamentary debate about this.

 

The phantom Ban

CVT said they could not admit new residents to Botton because the local authority, North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) had imposed a ban to new referrals. However, we now know this is not the case. There has been a voluntary stop of admissions decided by CVT itself. This ban arose in 2011 based as they said on a critical report from NYCC, however, by October 2013 NYCC had confirmed they were entirely happy with the performance of Botton so that CVT reported itself that there was no longer a ‘ban’.

 

(1) CVTs own declarations

As you know annual accounts are legally declared as true in fact by the signatories (in this case Huw John himself). In CVTs own annual accounts you can view on page 32 the following statements:

“The trustees are delighted to report that these improvement plans have been effectively been signed off and the admission restrictions have been lifted in all but the Grange community, which is imminent. This has led to a much improved relationship with local commissioners and we are now developing progressive plans for each of these communities with several new referrals already”, and

“The trustees were delighted after significant hard work, to receive a letter from the Charity Commission’s case officer, dated 25 October 2013 effectively closing the file on their serious regulatory concerns.”

Here is a link to their accounts & reports where you can view both the CEOs signature and page 32.

 

(2) CVT informed parents and families that admissions had been lifted

Below is part of a summary from 90 people who represent almost all the families (bearing in mind many learning disabled have no families) of Botton residents. 30 of them were told directly and in person by CVT Managers that the ban had been lifted.

“We are a group of 90 representing 36 families comprising the vast majority of the family members of Villagers at Botton Village. … We would also like to confirm that in April 2014 about a month before the letter of the 13th May 2014 a Family Group meeting was held at Botton.  Families present were told by the Management at Botton that all the compliance issues had been effectively addressed, that new Villagers would be coming to Botton in the course of the year and that the future looked very positive. Families left encouraged and happy that a difficult period of adjustment was over.  In the light of this it was devastating to us to be informed by CVT that not only was the above not the case but that the very foundation of Botton, as far as we were concerned, namely the fact that the Co-workers shared their lives with the Villagers was to be unilaterally terminated by CVT.  It was this action taken without consultation with us or the Villagers, without any assessment of the impact being made before the decision, together with the total failure of CVT to ever address the issues of the interests of our relatives that has led to such a high level of concern.” (For the press: Please contact our press officer for further witnesses and information.)

 

(3) NYCCs senior press officer confirms voluntary ban by CVT

From: Andrew Darling

Sent: 25 March 2015 14:18

To: 'kay@tru-pr.co.uk'

Subject: RE: Voluntary ban etc.

Hi Kay

“To confirm, the voluntary ban on placements is by CVT, not by NYCC.”

Here is a link.

   

The ‘regulatory requirement’ myth

NYCC are also content with the service provided by Botton AND confirm in writing that they do not require the changes being made by the charity. Their only concern is the quality and appropriateness of care (the CQC are satisfied with the care at Botton which has provided excellent care for sixty years, except in the 2011 repeort, but the 2012 and 2013 reports achieved full marks again).

 

(4) North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) do not require these specific changes

Andrew Darling, senior press officer for NYCC, confirmed:

“North Yorkshire County Council has made no requirement of Camphill Village Trust in relation to the current staffing proposals for Botton Village.  The Council’s sole concern has been, and remains, to ensure that the standard of care offered to residents of the village is of the highest quality and standard.”

Here is a link. 

 

(5) The Care Quality Commission (CQC) does not ‘require’ these changes and is happy with the Co-worker provision

The last three years of CQC reports have been excellent. they are perfectly happy with the way things are at Botton and do not require any further changes. Their report was dated Aug 2013 so all is fine with them since this day.

http://www.cqc.org.uk/location/1-143914359/reports

“The community worked together as a cooperative and valued the contributions by everyone in the community. People who required support and lived at Botton were known as tenants.

"We spoke with twenty people who lived in Botton Village. They all told us that they liked living at Botton; they particularly enjoyed living in a village where they could be independent. They told us they could move safely around the village with minimal support. Many of the tenants have lived at Botton for over twenty years."

“Throughout the day we observed people interacting with the house co-ordinators and people who used the service were always treated with dignity and respect.”

 

(6) The Charity Commission (CC) does not require these changes and have been satisfied since October 2013

a. Please see attached a letters/emails from the Charity Commission where they expressly state they do not require these specific changes to employment and away from Co-working but that it is CVTs choice they have no preference.

b. In the annual accounts on page 32, alongside the statement about the ban lifting,  CVT themselves acknowledge that the matter has been closed and the CC satisfied with the situation: “The trustees were delighted after significant hard work, to receive a letter from the Charity Commission’s case officer, dated 25 October 2013 effectively closing the file on their serious regulatory concerns.”

c. Please see Caroline Lucas’s EDM motion (checked by the commons’ clerks and lawyers), which expressly states that they Charity Commission does not see a problem with the Co-worker model: 

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; notes that Camphill Village Trust (CVT) is now insisting co-workers become employees, with living quarters segregated from residents, or face eviction; 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 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 did not suggest that the existing co-worker model was intrinsically problematic; also notes the HMRC document BIM22040 (Ref 2) sets out how to operate a volunteer co-working model; notes this model continues to operate at other Camphill communities in the UK; is concerned about reports from families of residents at Botton 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 CQC, HMRC and the Charities Commission to support those running intentional communities to ensure that the unique and successful volunteer co-worker model can continue." 

 

The HMRC / Tax situation construct pretext

We have written about CVT's manufactured tax scenario before. We can now show further evidence which confirms that the charity's new officials have neglectfully allowed a situation to develop which they now claim leaves them no option other than making all vocational workers employed staff. We can furthermore demonstrate that the Director General of the HMRC and Chancellor of the Exchequer for the Treasury BOTH confirm that they DO NOT require the changes to be made by CVT and that these changes are entirely CVTs CHOICE.

 

(7) Advice from HM Treasury (on public record at parliament)

Camphill Village Trust: Written question - 227495

Question by Caroline Lucas, 12 March 2015: "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)

Answer from David Gauke, Financial Secretary HM Treasury, 19 March 2015: "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."

 

(8) 3 Nov 2014 - Letter from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury 

When specifically asked by Geoffrey Cox QC regarding the validity of the agreement regarding the tax treatment of Camphill co-workers (BIM22040), which was made between the Association of Camphill (AoCC) and the HM Revenue and Customs in 2002, David Gauke, the Financial Secretary to HM Treasury wrote:

"I would like to make it clear that that there has been no recent change in legislation, nor change in rules by HMRC, which affect the tax status of volunteer workers. It appears that changes being introduced by the CVT are as a result of independent advice received by the Trust, and not as a result of any direct or indirect action by HMRC.

You have asked me to clarify what the current tax situation is regarding the live-in volunteer carers known as co-workers. Several years ago, HMRC agreed the tax treatment of co-workers with the Association of Camphill Communities, based on the working terms and conditions as they were presented at that time.

With the agreement of the CVT, the agreed treatment is published in HMRC guidance, which you may find helpful, and which you can find at: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/bimmanual/bim22040.htm "

 

(9) 8 December 2014 – Letter from HMRC (to Bindmans lawyers)

"HMRC have done no more than give a view on the employment status of this particular group of workers - it is a matter for CVT and those workers to decide whether or not they agree with that opinion and how, if at all, that opinion should alter the relationship between them."

"I should make clear that HMRC’s status review is only relevant to the co-workers in CVT and their relationship with the charity. HMRC has not considered as part of this exercise the status of co-workers in communities in the wider Camphill Association and the CVT Status Opinion has no impact on the wider Association."

 

(10) 23 February 15 - Letter from HMRC Director General

"I can confirm that there have been no recent legislative changes to the way that employment status is determined. A worker's employment status is still determined by their terms and conditions, and the way they work, based on criteria from court judgments.

Employers decide the employment status of their workers, but they can ask our opinion about a worker's employment status. A status opinion is our view as to the employment status of a particular group of workers, but the employer then decides how to act on that view. They decide the terms and conditions on which they engage their workers."

 

(11) Link to auditors Mazars on whose advice CVT base their the tax decisions 

 

CVT’s misleading Claims re HMRC and Tax in a nutshell

CVT has on its own accord converted Co-workers into employees and made false claims to back this up, initially claiming that this was necessary because of changes in tax law, which they now agree was untrue (having realised that their false claim would harm all other Camphill communities outside CVT). Importantly, CVT always had and still has the option of continuing the popular Co-worker tax model if it chose to, something that HMRC has made very clear in their correspondence.

(1) Guidance by HMRC that describes the benefits and expenses of vocational co-worker and how they are to be treated for tax purposes, which can be viewed on the HMRC website (BIM22040). This effectively is the tax legal framework for the Co-worker model and, importantly, it is still valid as confirmed by the Treasury as well as HMRC in writing in the recent months. 

(2) Many other Camphill communities in the UK, outside CVT, operate the normal vocational Co-worker model, where the community clearly is allowed to continue to exist, perfectly satisfactorily in line with this taxation document. 

(3) CVT, however, has enforced a series of changes that eroded the existence of communities and turned the charity into a centrally managed corporate structure. CVT has ceased to recognise the communities as autonomous entities and Co-workers as living and working as members of the community, has deliberately imposed layers of top down management thereby changing the facts on the ground. Only much later did they inform HMRC about this new situation and HMRC advised that this constellation suggests that Co-workers are now in fact more like CVT's employees. All this has been CVT’s initiative and it could be remedied any time if CVT chose to.

(4) The vocational co-worker should not, according to the charoty's constitution, have a contractual relationship with the charity or indeed the community in which they live and work.   HMRC's website states that "Co-workers assist the vulnerable members within each community, living together in houses, sharing money and making joint decisions. Co-workers do not receive wages or salaries but receive their accommodation, food, clothes and other living expenses from the community."

Co-workers are categorically not engaged in tax avoidance as insinuated by CVT. Fact is that co-workers have always completed their tax statement and paid tax and national insurance in accordance with HMRC guidance.