Action 4 Botton

Charity representative fails to show up after Councillors’ invite them to public debate

25 March 2015

A requested representative of charity Camphill Village Trust (CVT) failed to appear this morning before North Yorkshire County Council’s ‘Yorkshire Coast and Moors Area Committee’ for a debate on the crisis at an intentional community, Botton Village.

Representatives of the Botton Village Camphill Community and Action for Botton attended along with interested members of the public and Assistant Directors for Adult Social Care Operations Anne-Marie Lubanski and Mike Webster, who were invited from Council headquarters to answer the questions from concerned community members.

Pam Reeves, Chair of Danby Parish Council and Herbert Tindall, Councillor for Scarborough Borough who lives in Danby, along with a dozen County Councillors heard the concerns of the group, their statements, questions and the answers from the officials.  It was recommended that the matter be referred to the Care Committee for hearing at its next meeting on the 24 April.

Campaigners would like to thank the Council officers for their time and attention today and their continuing efforts on behalf of the vulnerable learning disabled members of the community.

On 17 March the council received a petition signed by over 1200 local residents from within one Ward calling for a report into the health and well-being of the residents in relation to the impending eviction of the vocational volunteer Co-worker (VVC) carers from their communities.

This petition represents more than 1% of the population of the Yorkshire Coast and Moors Ward and was produced in under six days – a record time to gain the required signatory threshold - in order to meet the deadline for participation in the committee proceedings today.

The petition stated:

We call upon the Area Committee to seek a report in preparation for debate into the welfare and care arrangements of the residents of Botton Village in relation to proposed changes to their care provisions, and to determine what the committee considers is their responsibility to the residents of Botton.

Eddie Thornton said:

“We have brought this petition on behalf of the learning disabled residents of Botton Village who had presented their own petition which could not be considered on clerical grounds. We are calling on North Yorkshire Country Council to commission a full report into the health and wellbeing of the residents of Botton Village in relation to the dismantling of their family homes. We are grateful that it’s now on record that the Council is fully aware of the potential impact of these devastating changes, in particular to the relationships and lives of the vulnerable adults it helps to fund.”

Posing questions to the committee were:

Eddie Thornton (Botton Camphill Co-worker)

“Botton Village is seen as an internationally renowned example of progressive social care where real relationships are built in family homes, and residents are empowered by the integral part they play in the community. What value do the members of the committee place in this model, and what can they do to protect it?”

Kathryn von Stein (Botton Camphill Co-worker)

“The learning disabled residents of Botton Village have enjoyed the greatest possible degree of Health and Wellbeing as a consequence of stable homes, loving relationships, meaningful contribution, and generally a healthy lifestyle. How will the committee ensure the health and wellbeing of the vulnerable adults as these social determinants of their health and wellbeing are being dismantled, without proper risk or impact assessments being carried out by CVT, and what measures will be taken to prevent the emotional trauma and bereavement caused by the loss of longstanding relationships?”

Lydia Gill-Waring (Botton Camphill Co-worker)

“The minister of state for Health and Social Care has recently launched his "No voice unheard, no right ignored" programme to strengthen the rights of people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health conditions and to ensure that they get the best care possible. Direct payments allow those in receipt of social care funding to choose and buy the services they need for themselves, instead of getting them from their council. To what extent do the members of this committee recommend that those people with learning disabilities at Botton Village should be able to use direct payments to choose who provides their own care, and in light of the recent High Court injunction awarded to residents of Botton Village, how can the members of this committee ensure that their voices are heard in relation to who provides their care and support and how they wish to live?”

Fionn Reid (Botton Camphill Co-worker)

“A group of 35 co-workers at Botton Village envisage forming a registered care provider as part of their plan to achieve operational autonomy from CVT. What does the committee see as the benefits of separating social care provision from the landlord in a supported living situation and what can be done to assure the members of the council that the care provision is robust and compliant.”

The situation is set against the backdrop of national concern about the treatment of the learning disabled. In a recent BBC interview Mr Lamb relayed that he felt the learning disabled are being ”treated like second-class citizens with decisions being made about them without them being involved and without their families being involved”

Political support for the community’s struggle is growing with concern for the situation expressed by Baroness Hollins in the House of Lords last at the start of the month, over 30 MPs of all political colours writing to ministers to express their concern and the minister for disabled people Mark Harper holding an enquiry at another CVT site in his constituency, The Grange. 

As well as nationwide support from sitting MPs two local parliamentary candidates at the forthcoming General Election attended the recent Action for Botton public meeting in Danby and spoke up in defence of the Co-workers. 

What’s more, earlier this month the High Court granted an injunction in favour of learning disabled residents in their case represented by Bindmans LLP over breaches of their Human Rights under Article 8. The injunction protects the current and preferred living arrangements, ensures that people's homes are not taken over by external employed staff and prohibits any interference in the family relationships by CVT until either a judicial review or the full case can be heard before the High Court itself.

Human rights issues aside, CVT is already under scrutiny in multiple areas with campaigners highlighting serious questions about the way the charity is run including a worrying lack of transparency in its accounts which, in spite of requests, has yet to be clarified; a potential conflict of interest with a charity director whose own company supplies services to CVT for unidentified remuneration; claims of harassment being made to local Police and pending actions by ex-community members who claim to have been bullied out of their roles and communities.

In addition, last month there was a sudden Trustee resignation citing assorted governance issues including concerns relating to the Articles and Memorandum. Finally, a further hearing is scheduled for 31 March 2015 in the High Court in a further claim brought by campaigners, including parents from one CVT community now devoid of Co-workers, over breaches of the charity’s articles and the manipulation of the voting membership list before last year’s AGM.

One can only wonder how CVT’s Chair of Trustees Felicity Chadwick-Histed, who is also a Partner at Publitas Consulting LLP, can continue to ignore the plight of the learning disabled for whom the Trustees are ultimately responsible.