Disabled take petition to the Prime Minister pleading against their forced segregation
24 February 2015
A party of learning disabled Villagers, supported by their Co-workers, from the Botton community near Whitby (North Yorkshire) are taking their grievances directly to the Prime Minister. Today Tuesday February 24th at 3.15pm they will present a petition - which has been organised and signed by the Villagers themselves – at No 10 Downing Street.
The signatories, who represent the overwhelming majority of the 96 Villagers, state in the petition: “We, the undersigned, want to keep shared living with Co-workers in Botton, where we can choose to share our homes with volunteer Co-workers and their children.”
The Villagers organised the petition in response to growing fears that managers working for the charity Camphill Village Trust are moving to evict their Co-worker families from their homes, specifically in order to separate them and force the learning disabled into segregation.
One of the Villagers presenting the petition, Clare Burge - who is also spearheading a fund-raising campaign on the website www.actionforbotton.org said : “I’ve lived in Botton for 30 years and all that time I’ve been in Castle House, longer than anyone else. Most of us have been together a long time and we get on well and we run our household together. I do all the ironing. I’ve lived with Jonathan and Christine for 28 years and I’ve seen their children grow up and I don’t want them to leave and have somebody else coming in instead who doesn’t live here..”
“I just wish that CVT would listen to us instead of just ignoring us all the time. Cos they are, I don’t think they’re really bothered about what happens to Botton. I think its time now they just left us alone & let us get on with our lives. They should go somewhere else and ruin someone else’s life.” added Allan Hobson another learning disabled resident at Botton, “I think CVT’s now either got to listen or we’ll just keep on demonstrating ‘til we get them to listen to us. The same is for Huw John. I think it’s time now that Huw John stopped bullying people like myself”
Since Botton was founded over 60 years ago, the learning disabled Villagers and vocational Co-workers – who are unwaged – have lived and work alongside each other. They live in shared family-like households so that each Villager can be supported and helped to participate in all aspects of community life including fulfilling and meaningful work. Everyone shares in running the sustainable community, according to their abilities and wishes and for the benefit of all and everyone’s needs are met. Until the recent events it has been a peaceful, pastoral, genuine, living, real and, above all, loving community.
5,000 supporters belonging to the campaign group Action for Botton and are helping Co-workers and Villagers resist CVT’s planned changes, one of which is to force the Co-workers to become paid employees, and thus live separately from the learning disabled or – together with their own families - face eviction from their homes.
Neil Davidson, chair of Action for Botton, said: “I fully applaud this party who made the long trip to London to present the petition which clearly demonstrates their courage and the strength of feeling that exists at Botton. We believe these controversial changes will completely destroy this unique community by forcing the Co-workers to become shift working employees living separately from the learning disabled Villagers.”
CVT is already under scrutiny with campaigners highlighting serious questions including a worrying lack of transparency in their accounts and, this month, a sudden Trustee resignation citing governance issues including concerns relating to the Articles and Memorandum. In addition, there are claims of harassment being made to local Police, pending actions for compensation by ex-community members who claim to have been bullied out of their roles and a lawsuit pending over human rights abuses. Finally a letter before action from campaigners, including parents from one community now devoid of Co-workers, has been issued over potential breaches of the charity’s articles and a form of manipulation of membership before last year’s AGM.
York Press, 25.2.2015, "York parents speak out over community changes as petition handed in to 10 Downing Street" Link
Gazette & Herald, 25.2.2015, "We won’t be beaten" Link
BBC News, 24.2.2015, "Botton village residents petition PM over changes" Link
Darlington & Stockton Times, 24.2.2015, "Botton residents take petition to 10 Downing Street" Link
The Northern Echo, 24.2.2015, "Botton residents take petition to 10 Downing Street" Link
Whitby Gazette, 24.2.2015, "Botton campaigners pay Prime Minister a visit" Link