Action 4 Botton

"We have been misled by CVT!"

HMRC and Treasury confirm that the vocational co-worker status is still legal. CVT caused all this pain and damage based on a false premise. Who will be held to account?

This is about Botton Village, Delrow and The Grange: three Camphill communities in England in dispute with a charity, Camphill Village Trust (CVT), that should be supporting instead of dismantling them. It is not about the many non-CVT communities or the Camphill movement in general.

This is about people’s homes, not just houses but the people that create their home together, live together, the co-workers, their presence and input ensuring the warmth, cohesion, depth and continuity, their understanding and support for those needing support, creating value and wellbeing.

Botton has many homes and is a community co-created by people with learning disabilities and co-workers and their children and older people.

The CVT is a charity that encompasses nine Camphill communities across England. The trust was set up by Karl König and other co-workers in 1954, who initiated the first Camphill community in Botton in 1955. Inspired by Rudolf Steiner and social reformers, everyone contributes and creates as they can and receives as they need. The idea is that the wellbeing of the community is the greater the less people claim the proceeds of their work for themselves; work and money are separated. Co-workers are vocational community members, not paid and contracted staff of an abstract organization. People join, contribute and are able to leave this intentional community out of their free will.

Over the years more than a hundred such communities have sprung up worldwide and the CVT has grown into a wealthy and revered charity. As Camphill communities Botton, Delrow and the Grange are also members of the Camphill Association (AoCC) representing the 61 English and Irish communities. The AoCC has ensured that the vocational working of co-workers is legal and recognized by the state in an agreement made with HM Revenue and Customs in 2002.

In the recent years, some adaptation was needed: being also a provider of social care, communities had to incorporate the modern standards and practices of social care. The board of trustees employed Frances Wright as human resources director in 2011, who had already been working with them as legal advisor for years; her views on vocational co-workers, a crucial human resource of this charity, made her a controversial appointment. Huw John was brought in as chief executive director. He employed a hierarchy of managers reporting to him, and stood down co-worker trustees, co-worker managers as well as local management committees. All co-worker trustees except one were replaced by independent trustees in 2012.

At this point, external reviewers expressed concern over tensions between this new management team and the longstanding live-in co-workers, so the international Camphill movement group was asked to mediate. In a spirit of openness and to bridge the divide, co-workers worked with managers during 2013 to modernize the community and secure its future, and are now meeting the standards of their regulators and commissioners - only to be shocked by chair of trustees Felicity Chadwick-Histed’ letter of 13 May 2014 issuing an ultimatum to all co-workers to either become an employee reporting to the management team, or leave the community by March 2015.

There has been no consultation of or dialogue with any stakeholders regarding this draconian plan. Instead, CVT stated repeatedly that they were forced to carry out these severe actions because of the law, which had the effect that most felt they needed to accept the unfortunate ‘fact’ that changes in legislation required the changes to their communities. CVT deferred to the Charity Commission, local authorities and in particular to the HMRC as the authorities forcing the charity’s hand.

Adding insult to injury, CVT launched a co-worker defamation campaign portraying them as living in the past, as caring more about an allegedly luxurious lifestyle than about the villagers they live with, and so on. CVT has vastly exaggerated and misrepresented the costs of co-workers to the charity, has evicted co-workers on fabricated and exaggerated safeguarding allegations, has got co-workers to sign gagging orders when they left, and has systematically manipulated the list of voting members to suit their own ambitions.

 

“It is now obvious that the CVT approached HMRC to establish if their co-workers were employed or self-employed, totally ignoring the fact that co-workers are vocational workers and that the existing Agreement between HMRC and the Camphill Association establishes that fact.”

Chair of Association of Camphill Communities, 21 November 2014

 

CVT's justification for its restructuring plan, ‘the law’, their assertion that co-workers are no longer legal and must become employees, has now turned out to be untrue.

Last week we were able to report that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury as well as a legal opinion obtained by the AoCC have both independently confirmed the position held by the AoCC, co-workers and Action for Botton, that Camphill co-workers do not need to become employees and that the legal agreement made in 2002 is valid today as it was then.

The latest letter by the Camphill Association summarises the factual position regarding CVT's misleading claims regarding the legal status of Camphill co-workers and points out that it was CVT who has approached HMRC and that HMRC has not ruled anything but only given an opinion based on the information provided to them by CVT.

As a consequence co-workers of the Botton Village Camphill Community have written to CVT chief executive Huw John.

Whilst many have suspected that CVT has created a scenario that now would make it appear that all co-workers have to become employed by the charity - that this should be exactly what has happened will come as a shock to many. We have heard it so many times over the recent months: "If CVT's claim that vocational co-workers have to become employees because of the tax law turns out to be untrue, those responsible in the charity must resign!"

We are now at this point that we can say that all this pain and damage has indeed been caused by interventions that were based on a false premise.