The transmutation of a village into a ghetto: a view from inside

Oxford English Dictionary:
Village:- A self-contained group of houses usually in a country area.
Community: A sense of belonging, of being part of a community, common identity, life in association with others.

If we put these two words together, ie ‘village community,’ we come close to the vision of Dr Karl König when he created villages with people with special needs in the 1950s.

Ghetto;- A populated area occupied by a minority group, usually as a result of social or economic pressures. An isolated or segregated social group or area.

Camphill villages were created by Dr König and his contemporaries as a natural development of the Camphill Rudolf Steiner Schools which he and his companions founded in 1939/40, to care for and educate children with special needs. This small group of people consisted of Dr König, who had a large children’s practice in Vienna, and young people who had studied with him there.

When Hitler invaded Austria in 1938 these people had to flee from one day to the next. Some of them were from Jewish backgrounds, Dr König had cared for handicapped children, and all of them were interested in the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. On all these counts they were seen as enemies of Hitler and, had they not fled, their lives would probably very soon have ended in concentration camps.

Instead they scattered throughout the continental countries that were still free. Dr König managed to come to Britain and eventually to gain a joint visa so at least some of his young students could join him.

They were lent an old manse way up in the north of Scotland and there they stayed and started to take in children with learning disabilities. By 1940 this house was too small and with the help of the McMillan family they were able to buy Camphill House on the outskirts of Aberdeen. From this house the Camphill movement took its name.

At that time many handicapped children and adults were locked away in dreadful conditions in large institutions known as ‘sub-normality hospitals’. It was a new concept that such children had a potential that could be fulfilled with the right help. The very idea that these children could be educated was not even considered. It was not until the 1970’s that the government decreed that all children had a right to education. By then Camphill had been educating their pupils for thirty years.

The parents of these first children and many other people saw how they thrived and flourished, but were in despair about what would happen to them when the time came for them to leave school.

Out of this need, and again with the generous help of the McMillan family, an estate with houses, farms and gardens was acquired on the North Yorkshire Moors. And so the first ‘village community’ came into being. In our days, when it is fashionable to castigate and deride Camphill, very few people remember that it was Camphill that led the way in this and many other countries, to enable a person with special needs to lead a dignified and worthwhile life.

Dr König’s vision was to create villages together with rather than for people with disabilities. To achieve this ideal all aspects of a person’s life had to be taken into consideration – physical, social, cultural and spiritual. This was taken on with great enthusiasm by the pioneers of what became known as ‘The Camphill Village Trust.’

Festivals
For many people with learning disabilities it is difficult to become orientated in time and space. The celebration of the festivals happening regularly year after year are signposts that help people to find their way through life and the year with increasing confidence.

To quote Dr König: “If mankind were to give up celebrating the festivals (whether Christian or non-Christian) the life of the Earth would gradually fall into decay and die. It is no exaggeration to say this. It is the truth. The festivals are seeds for the future, germs of the spirit. They are as necessary as any other form of rejuvenation in the dying Earth existence. ”

Over the years one gradually makes the festivals ones own. There is little benefit if we only ‘do it for them’, ie children or villagers. Perhaps that is how it begins, but one has to be prepared to change oneself if celebration of the festivals is going to be anything but a superficial entertainment. Hanging a picture of Michael on the wall at Michaelmas means nothing unless there is some commitment behind it.

So what has changed? I can only speak personally of Oaklands Park though I fear that several other communities are on the same slippery slope if not quite so near the bottom.

I confess again that we made mistakes, but given a little more time and a great deal more understanding and humility these could have been rectified without destroying a whole wonderful way of life.

VS Naipaul speaks of, ‘the decaying cities and villages where the sense of community, of human belongingness has been destroyed ’. We are well on the way to knowing exactly what he means.

Choice
As we all know ‘client choice’ is one of the fashionable ‘buzz phrases’ of the moment. My contention is that choice has been trivialised.

One far from trivial choice that used to be available to people who were looking to the possibility of joining a Camphill Community was if they wanted a conventional way of life or something rather different – ie Camphill. This was a lifestyle choice taken with all seriousness but now there is so little difference between Oaklands Park and any other care home or supported living unit that it is hardly a choice at all.

Living with and knowing one another
There are different ways of knowing a person. One way is when a member of staff comes on duty and looks at the care plan. Then throughout the shift he or she ticks all the right boxes for what someone on high has decreed that person needs. Another way is to live with people, to work together, have fun together, to go out and about together and importantly also let them know me and thus have a mutual respect for one another – warts and all. Above all it means to share meals which we have prepared together. It is so often at meal times that, in a subtle way, one can tune in to peoples joys and sorrows, wishes and hopes, aches, pains and anxieties. One can truly know one another. I know which way of knowing I would prefer. How about you?

Nowadays one hears people referring to staff as ‘my carer’ rather than using their name. The trouble is of course that there are so may different people in and out of the house that some folk haven’t a chance to learn everyone’s name. Therefore, they have all become ‘my carer’. How institutional is that? Time was when everyone knew every one else’s name. And not their name only but the person inside the name.

Children
We are told that there is no policy to eliminate children from our lives. However, it is strange that over the space of eighteen months all the families with children have left. The management claims that it is not their fault if new families no longer apply to join. No, not directly but such a situation has never existed before. No doubt the Camphill grapevine has been busy about how life is now in Oaklands. Some time ago there was a minor, trivial incident which was observed, misinterpreted and reported. The manager and POVA person were told right away. The mother of the child concerned was only told about it the next day when she was called to a formal meeting to be warned that she had to take better care of her child! This to the mother of an only and much loved little girl who knew her daughter and those with whom she lived better than anyone else. She had no anxiety about the aforementioned incident or the way of life she and her child had embraced. Her great anxiety came thereafter with the fear that her beloved daughter could be taken into care.

The family who lived next door to her with their three daughters shared her anxiety. They left! Not because they had any fear about their children mixing with people with special needs. On the contrary, they knew full well that it was a life enhancing experience for all of them. Their fear stemmed from the new anxiety that was suddenly hanging over them.

Thinking of all the hundreds, perhaps thousands of co-worker children who have lived in Camphill places over the past 70 years, who have since gone out into the world with no fear or trepidation about meeting people who are ‘different’, I can only conclude that this is a gift not only for them but for the wider society. They were brought up knowing, without being told, that there are many different ways of being a human being, each as valid and precious as any other.

It was a sad day when our last fulltime child left. It was bad for Oaklands but good for her and her mother. Their star led them to a Camphill community in Scotland which is a much happier, warmer, more wholesome place, where children are valued for all that they can bring and where the Camphill Ethos still thrives and flourishes. For we who have lost them – especially the Oaklanders – its is sad, sad, sad.

Do you know the story of the ‘Selfish Giant’ by Oscar Wilde? Children used to play in the giant’s garden. It was a large beautiful garden with birds and flowers and peach trees. The giant was away for seven years visiting the Cornish giant. When he returned and found the children he shouted at them in a gruff voice and they all ran away. The giant built a high wall around his garden and said no one was allowed to go in except himself. It took him a while to realise that Spring Summer and Autumn came to all the land – but not to his garden. It was always winter there. ‘And winter was dressed in grey and his breath was like ice.’

After several, long, cold, lonely years he awoke one morning to the sound of a bird singing. When he looked out of the window the sun was shining and the peach trees were blossoming. The children had crept through a small hole in the wall and the spring had come with them. He took pity on one small child who was too tiny to climb a tree. He lifted the child gently and sat him on a blossom-bedecked branch. This act of kindness melted his frozen heart.

Of course, in the story the giant is transformed. He began to love the children and they loved him in return and never was there a more beautiful garden. Perhaps one day there will be a hole in the wall that has been built around Oaklands Park big enough for a few small children to creep through.

The giant in the story realised that he not only gave the children joy but they brought joy with them to share with everyone there.

Young co-workers
Camphill has always had an abundance of young co-workers now known as guest volunteers. It has been for them during the time they were here, a complete way of life which they entered into with the gusto and enthusiasm of the young. They really learned to live with people with all that entails. They were given help and guidance from the more experienced co-workers, and gradually took on more and more responsibility as they matured into the work.

No, they don’t come with an NVQ but the very fact of them being here, so far away from home for their gap year, demonstrates that they are mostly intelligent young people full of initiative, interest and good will. With the right guidance they learned quickly on the job. I was sometimes astounded at the maturity common sense motivation and commitment of some of these young people and of course they took away with them the values and perhaps more enlightened attitude towards people with special needs than perhaps they find in the own countries – particularly those coming from the Eastern European countries. What a gift to the world.

Now a shift system is in operation, and so it has become a job rather than way of life: a very different experience. There is even talk of us having fewer and fewer such people. How can we put him or her in a house where everyone else is employed and with very little idea or (in some cases) interest in the Camphill way of life? It hasn’t actually been said, at least not to me, that guest volunteers will be phased out but give us a couple of years and we shall see. Watch this space.

It is much safer to employ someone from the neighbouring town with the appropriate NVQ and an expectation to tick all the boxes. Sadly, with the best will in the world, they won’t be able to bring the diversity which has enriched our lives for so many years.

Education of co-workers has become training. We can tick more and more boxes in the drive towards compliance with the deluge of rules and regulations in which we are desperately trying to swim, but what of the spaces in between?

Employed care workers are given no education about the Camphill way of life and, therefore, have no idea where the people they care for are coming from, so some of the houses feel very much like very ordinary care homes. They have lost their uniqueness. They have lost heir heart and soul. In many cases we can tick the box but have lost the point.

Work
At one time there was a very strong work ethos in Oaklands. No doubt it was at times too rigorous and demanding, not allowing some people the time and the energy to participate in leisure, social and cultural activities and it needed to be modified. Now, however, it seems to have gone too far to the other extreme. Taking a pride in ones work certainly contributed to the dignity and self-esteem of people. What is the consequence if I decide that during working hours I will go to have my hair cut, or go shopping or watch daytime TV? If it doesn’t matter to anyone, surely I will feel that my contribution to the wellbeing of the community is under-valued and of little importance. Another current buzzword is normalisation. Is it really normal to phone my place of work – or not even bother to do that – and say I don’t feel like coming to work today or to give some very feeble excuse? In the normal world with such an attitude I would be given short shrift and soon be shown the door. Work is not really about receiving wages. “Work is that which I do for other people. ”

It used to be that the delivery of post and collection of compost from all the houses was regular and reliable. It was real work for the people concerned and appreciated by all. Now it has become very dilettante – it happens if the person whose job it was has nothing else to do. No longer reliable, therefore, no longer valued. One can’t blame the erstwhile post-person or compost man – it is a question of expectation. What was once a valuable contribution to the community has been down-graded to child’s play. What does this say to people? If we can no longer value their work, neither can they, which leads to lack of confidence and low self-esteem.

We all know the tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes in this and many other countries where fewer and fewer young people can find employment or training. What a gift we give our people when we offer and encourage meaningful and respected work. And what a disservice we render when work is negated and trivialised. Let us not go to too for down that road.

Ritual
It is universally accepted and recorded that the observance of ritual has been of paramount importance in our lives right back to ancient times. Since the advent of Christianity in the Western world, until more recent times, these rituals were largely based around the Church.

From the beginning of Camphill Dr and Mrs König stressed the importance of rituals in our lives – especially for people with special needs. As I said before they are sign posts that guide us through life. But they are much more than that. They give a richness and meaning to life without which the earth can become a ‘bleak and barren desert’ .

Without them, life can become shallow and meaningless. The early Camphillers taught us to celebrate with fervour not only the major festivals but also birthdays, anniversaries and achievements. This rhythm can permeate the year, the week and the day.

Throughout the year we celebrate the festivals. Throughout the week each day has its own particular flavour. A working day is very different from a Saturday – different clothes, different activities and different mood. Sunday is again different. Perhaps a festive breakfast together, the possibility to participate in a religious service either within the community or in a local church. This used to be followed by a special Sunday lunch and perhaps an outing.

It brings to mind again my experience of working in sub-normality hospitals in both England and Germany when every day was the same shade of grey with no differentiation between Wednesday or Sunday, nothing to mark the passing of the days and the weeks and the years, nothing to lift ones eyes to the hills and thereby grow.

On the contrary here in Oaklands there are (or were) day to day rituals. Perhaps saying a morning verse together, saying Grace and lighting a candle at the beginning of each meal and when the meal is over extinguishing it with dignity and reverence and to sit quietly together for a few moments watching the smoke arise, taking with it our hopes and thoughts and feelings before saying good morning, afternoon evening as the case may be and then going our separate ways. So simple and yet so full of significance.

Independence
In the drive to make people independent some of our older people are getting lost in the system. They are being stripped of their heritage and a new belief system is being imposed upon them without their consent or understanding.

Several failed asylum seekers have been granted permission to stay in Britain if they have a family living here because the human right to have a family life is seen as sacrosanct. And yet, in Oaklands, the home of many of our people is being down graded to hostel accommodation.

There used to live in Oaklands as in other Camphill places, something we called social therapy. That has long since been abandoned – I doubt if most support workers have even heard its name let alone been educated about how to put it into practice.

Anthroposophical social therapy
This is a holistic way of looking at a person with his/her physical social spiritual needs. This would include how we live with one another, the work ethic, nutrition, religious/spiritual life, to address a person’s pathology through guidance, warmth understanding and empathy rather than by the over use of medication.

This stemmed from the inspiration of Rudolf Steiner and Karl König to uphold the dignity of each individual in all aspects of his or her being.

Is it really such a great step forward that people become dependent on prescribed drugs rather than on the warmth and friendship given them in a ‘family’ home in which they feel at ease and happy?

It seems that in the house where there is no house coordinator there is no one with an overall view of the people who live there with their multiplicity of needs, hopes, fears and frailties for which they need help.

We are becoming more and more adept at obeying the letter of the law, but what about the spirit?

In Dr König’s lecture, ‘The three Essentials of Camphill ,’ he says:

Man is a social being! We might almost say: a human being can only be human when he is with other human beings. An isolated individual is unable to develop his humanity. Each is dependent on the other, each must communicate with the other and be recognised by the other. Every ‘I’ needs his ‘you’, every ‘me’ needs his ‘him’ or ‘her’. And this is true of every human being … A community, whichever form it takes, is the essential womb of mankind. Just as no embryo can live outside the womb and its sheaths, so no person born can live outside the womb of human community.

Independence is a phase that most us to through in our late teens, early twenties when we first leave home, leave school, have our own flat etc. The majority of us, sooner or later, look for interdependence in whichever form that takes which is a much more mature stage of life. To be stuck in this adolescent phase of independence is encouraging people to be unhealthy, over weight, lazy, self indulgent, egocentric and lonely. The culture of ‘I’ve got mine’ begins to prevail and where will that lead? Not to freedom but to constraint, not to understanding but to selfishness, It appears that every whim or fancy must be indulged. The deplorable slogan, ‘take the waiting out of wanting’ is fostered to the detriment of all.

What’s in a name?
Names are important. When a child is born, and even before, the parents search for the right name to give to this child who is either on the way or has just arrived on Earth. Usually we carry that name with us throughout our life and by that name we like to be known. So it is amongst a group of people living together – we all like to be know by our personal, individual name.

At times however, it is appropriate to use a collective name. Some years ago we had a discussion about this in a neighbourhood meeting and the consensus of opinion was that the preferred collective name would be ‘Oaklander’. This of course can be seen as a generic ‘title’ which may be used by anyone who lives in Oaklands irrespective of intellectual ability or financial status. It is a name to carry with pride. This has been adhered to ever since – until now.

Just as people who work here have been relegated to being ‘my carer’ so our community has now been infiltrated with the name of ‘resident’ or even worse ‘client’ and one reaches the depths of degradation with ‘service user’ which one frequently hears bandied about now.

It is all very well to be known as a service user if ones goes into hospital for a week or two, or uses a gym or swimming pool but to have that as a permanent title in ones own home is so derisory and institutional that it almost beggars belief that it would be countenanced. And yet here in Oaklands it almost seems to be encouraged. So much for ‘individualisation’ and yet again ‘choice’.

Surely, when a new person comes to work here from a different culture and background it would be elementary to instruct him or her in the use of such terminology.

A far cry indeed from Dr König’s vision of creating a community with rather than for people with special needs.

Camphill
It seems to me that to call Oaklands Park ‘Camphill’ is now a misnomer and should be discontinued. From a name which was respected and of deep significance it has become a trade mark. The name is still respected by many outwith our borders, including some placing authorities. If, however, we bring people here under false pretences pretending to be something we can no longer claim to be, then we do a disservice to ourselves and those who come towards us.

Perhaps Oaklands can become a good care home or supporting people accommodation but it is not Camphill.

The media recently reported that 48% of residential care homes for people with learning disabilities are failing to provide their clients with an ‘acceptable degree of care’. I am not a bit surprised if the culture of depersonalisation prevails. So why do we follow them slavishly into the abyss rather than resurrecting what was an excellent model and a particular way of life?

There were once three stars and three pillars of Camphill. Now the stars are dim and the pillars crumbling. We are reminded of Samson who was tied to the pillars of the temple but with renewed strength wrought asunder his chains and the pillars, and of course the whole corrupt edifice of the temple came tumbling down and was destroyed. Perhaps we need to find the strength to pull down that which is no longer true to our ideals and build anew.

Where do we go from here?
I don’t know. We are still clutching at straws and trying to be optimistic by desperately pulling the mantle of dignity around our impoverished and dying community.

I can find no better way of ending this diatribe than with the poem by the Orcadian poet Edwin Muir.

The Way

Friend, I have lost the way.
The way leads on,
Is there another way?
The way is one.
I must retrace the track.
It’s lost and gone
Back, I must travel back!
None goes there, none.
Then I’ll make here my place.
The road runs on.
Stay here, for ever stay.
None stays here, none.
I cannot find the way.
The way leads on.
Oh places I have passed!
That journey’s done.
And what will come at last?
The road leads on.
_________

I have been a silent (almost) observer of what is happening at Oaklands Park during the last three years. Now the time has come to speak out. If I do not do so I am condoning what I see as the destruction of a valued and beloved way of life.

Ann Hoyland, Oaklands Park, August 2012

My complaint about management at Oaklands Park to the social services on the 2.8.12 and subsequently to the CQC has been ignored. Presumably they do not see it as a valid complaint and find it quite acceptable that people with learning difficulties should be forced into the mould of “policy” (in this case “individualisation”) rather than policy being moulded to the needs of the individual.

The harm of this at this point of change is seen at Oaklands Park. Old staff (co workers) are dispensed with – being the ones who upheld the philosophy, culture and spiritual life of the community – and are systematically replaced by staff (on minimum wages) who are not required to know anything about the culture, philosophy or the spirituality which has informed the way of life in the Camphill Village Trust for many years, giving stability, structure, boundaries, meaning and purpose to the many people with learning difficulties who have lived this life for decades.

When difficult behaviour is caused by these changes the people concerned are likely to be drugged. The mind set of the old subnormality hospitals is only too evident.
The management of the C.V.T. are intent on removing the CVT heritage and replacing it by a PC standardised, lowest common denominator, one size fits all nationalised care industry institution.

The management has contrive to change the CVT constitution via a hastily arranged meeting on the 22nd Dec, at very short notice, having recruited the Charity commission in some way to help force through what looks like a corporate takeover. This is an undemocratic and cynical manoeuvre and I ask you to use your influence to get the meeting postponed for 3 months so that wider issues can be considered and the otherwise disenfranchised given the opportunity to present their case.

Sincerely

Eric Hoyland.

PS. You have a copy of my written complaint to the social services. They passed it on to the CQC.

In caring for people with learning difficulties, we have been handed down from on high ( the Government) various policy directives, one of these is known as “individualisation” Other requirements have been indicated by word or phrases like “normalisation” ,”choice”, “informed choice”, “independence” “integration” These great ideals have been conceived at government level and handed down through a vast hierarchy , starting with the political/academic one and then through the social services, on to the various agencies, local government or voluntary organisations and end up being put into practise by basic grade support workers on a minimum wage. Such workers are not trusted with discretion and understanding to apply these ideals to the individuals they deal with every day. These ideals have to be codified , documented ,reduced, standardised ,processed and interpreted before they can be entrusted to those who do the “hands on “ work. Not surprisingly, (need it be said?) ,the person dealing directly with the “service user” feels disempowered and insecure and with no discretion. Any initiative or discretion made by the carer has to be done “under the radar” or “whilst looking over my shoulder” These are the more able and confident carers, the less confident have little choice but to be robotic or mechanistic in their “caring”.

These high ideals filtered through this vast hierarchy only too often, and I would say almost invariably, end up at the bottom as little more than lifeless cliches. INDIVIDUALISATION leads to isolation and loneliness ,NORMALISATION leads to stereotyping , CHOICE becomes trivialised , INDEPENDENCE leads to dependence on the impersonal and INTEGRATION for many leads to a new form of segregation.(Take a walk in a city centre in the middle of a working day where you are likely to find a large proportion of people appear to be disabled , with nothing to do).

INDIVIDUALISATION as a policy pays no regard to the importance of the community which is relevant to that individual. Without the context of his community the individual rapidly becomes disorientated .When Winston Churchill escaped from military imprisonment in the Boer War he was on his own and isolated from his community. Even he , in a matter of days became disorientated and desperate and arbitrarily declared himself to a complete stranger ,who fortunately for him was sympathetic to Winston’s cause and helped him to get out of South Africa.

In the 70 years of the life of Camphill with almost a hundred centers throughout the world the relationship and interaction between the individual and the community has been the subject of ceaseless consideration and debate with millions of words written and spoken on the topic. Under the new style management of Oaklands Park it is precisely this relationship which is discounted. We have not yet been handed down a cliche which might be styled “communitisation” and so the community context of the individual is therefore irrelevant. Perhaps this reflects Mrs Thatcher’s declaration that “there is no such thing as society”, which has at last reached implementation, being now 40 years out of date .

The disempowerment and insecurity of the minimum waged care worker (mentioned above) seems to me to apply in equal ,if not greater measure, to the highly paid managers of care provision. They are forever fearful, watching their backs ,walking amongst the ever changing quicksands of political correctness and willing to do anything to retain their highly paid jobs, even if this means in effect worshiping at the altar of political correctness and denying their own common sense,or more, and being unable and/or unwilling to challenge anything which comes as authority from above.

The iniquities of the subnormality hospitals; which were closed down some 30 years ago; were clear for everyone to see .The same hierarchical, bureaucratic and careerist conceit is still running the care services with the same inadequacies partly concealed under a duvet of cliches.However some people with learning difficulties have benefited in recent years. This reflects the astronomic funding poured into this work, where the benefits achieved by some have happened in spite of the system.

We are told at Oaklands Park that “there is no going back “ ( to the former Camphill ways of doing things ).But it seems to me that we are going back , back to the subnormality hospital mind set . Without community , which means families .visitors ,children and coworkers and the cultural and spiritual life which goes with this (all these things are deliberately being expunged), then Oaklands Park has nothing to do with the spirit of Camphill , it becomes a ghetto for the learning disabled and should go the way of the subnormality hospitals.

In the space of 18 months all the children left O.P., including 15 under the age of 16. Why did all the children leave? There were multiple reasons.

The manager spoke of “child protection issues” and made it known that Social Services were to inspect our provision in this respect. I know from the parents of some of these children why they left. If the management (and Social Services) consider there to be “child protection issues” at O.P. then unless the statement is elaborated upon in detail to the parents of these children; which to the best of my knowledge it was not; then the statement strongly implies that the management at O.P. and the Social Services believe that people with learning difficulties are a danger to children. Some parents, believing this to be the position of the management and the authorities, were fearful that the authorities might remove their children from them for allowing their children to live so closely to people with learning difficulties.They left without delay. In an attempt to manage the children, parents were told that they had to supervise their children at all times.This is not possible and added to the pressure on parents. Other families left because they could see no acceptable future for them as a family at O.P. One mother told me that it was no longer an option for her children to stay at O.P. knowing that on the basis of even a trivial complaint the whole family could be suspended which means instant removed from O.P., their only home, not knowing when or if they would be allowed to return.

How should children have been managed?
First of all, children in this setting can only be managed by their parents. The parents should have been taken into confidence and presented with the facts of anything which might have been considered an issue The responsibility would then be the parents to manage their children as they saw fit, as has been the case in Camphill for 70 years. If this this was seen to be in breach of confidentiality then this should have been taken to the highest authorities and a case made for the above course of action. This would have needed a little courage and imagination.

In the summer of 2010 and 2011 a ten day children’s camp was hosted at O.P. Here some 30/40 children from the age of 8 to 14 yrs.camped at O.P. and did many activities using the O.P. fields , woods, lake and large barn which is not used in the summer. It is an ideal venue. These camps were well run by people thoroughly experienced and trained in this activity and presented a golden opportunity for a measured interaction between children and Oaklanders. The children could learn that people with learning difficulties are not to be feared and Oaklanders could experience an authentic interaction with children (if they wished). The request to hold a camp in the summer of 2012 was refused with no reasons given. The management expressed acute anxiety concerning this activity.

In short an environment which is hostile to children has been cultivated at O.P.. Children are not welcome is the clear message. It is not plausible to suggest that this exodus of children was an unintended consequence.
Visitors.

A tradition of Camphill, including O.P., was that of hospitality. Visitors were welcome and they came, including many from abroad visiting the young co-workers who came from all over the world There was guest accommodation where people could lodge Now visitors are strongly discouraged; there is no guest accommodation . Recently a family from Israel with three young children, visiting house coordinators who are also from Israel ,were not allowed to stay, even to camp in our spacious grounds for three nights. One of the oaklanders at O.P. whose elderly father has recently died was visited by his mother , also elderly, She had to come from the other side of London and was dependant on a lift from friends. She wished to stay in the same house as her son for two weeks but was told that only one week would be permitted When a protest was made to the new manager she was welcomed for two weeks.

These strong moves by O.P. management to eliminate children and reduce visitors to a minimum takes away the diversity and vitality which has always been the hallmark of Camphill life and represents a huge loss of added value to the life experience of Oaklanders. The policies pursued produce a socially and culturally depleted environment for Oaklanders and is I believe motivated, not by considerations of the best interest of everyone at O.P, but by a fearful and risk averse management.

What are some of the consequences at Oaklands Park (OP) for the people with learning disabilities (Oaklanders) of the era of unimaginative rolling out of the standardised policies of the nationalised care industry?

All families with children left very quickly. Oaklanders do not now witness or have the option to be related to children or family life .That children are seen as liabilities means that Oaklanders are in effect segregated from children and can have no meaningful contact with them. Co-workers are being systematically replaced by non-residential paid staff with no background or interest in Camphill.The cultural,spiritual and “household as family” aspects of Camphill are seen as irrelevant at best and in conflict with the individualist agenda being rolled out.

So what has O.P. become in the last three years? We have a concentration of people with learning difficulties living in a socially limited and geographically isolated situation. The only visitors are those trained and paid to deliver the standardised care requirements of the “one size fits all” individualist care agenda. The large majority of the workforce are on low ,near to minimum wages This is a ghetto by any definition. How long will it be before the houses are locked , everyone has to wear conspicuous identity labels and CCTV is in place? (all in the name of keeping people safe) .Subtle changes in behaviour of some Oaklanders towards the stereotypical patterns seen in the subnormality hospitals have can be observed.

Insofar as O.P. becomes a sort of latter day subnormality hospital it should be closed down or have a radically altered style of management which positively cultivates the virtues of “community” on a basis of knowledge and understanding of what this means and is able to contribute to the quality of life for everyone at O.P. , particularly Oaklanders .It takes some modest courage and imagination to achieve this whilst maintaining “compliance” with government regulations.

It is true that this could be described as a negative view of the last three years at O.P. Some of the changes that have been made however had been long overdue and have been an unquestionable benefit to Oaklanders , particularly older ones. Other changes , ostensibly for the better, have an un-thought- through shallowness based more on box ticking and political correctness than any penetrating understanding of the proper dignity of the individual human being.

These views and expressions are my own, but I would not have written them if they were mine alone. E.H.
P.S.August 2012. The developing situation seems to particularly difficult for the older Oaklanders to adapt to the changes required of them, see the commentary “A concern”.

I wish to express serious concerns about the process which led to AB’s present bad situation. He was placed in self-contained independent accommodation against his wishes.This action left him lonely and isolated. He sought company in the farmhouse which adjoined his accommodation. He has known the Oaklanders in the farmhouse as companions/colleagues/friends for many years. In visiting the farmhouse often he was described as a nuisance and refused access, the door was locked against him. He became increasingly depressed and agitated for which he was treated with drugs. He was locked out of the farmhouse until this was brought to the attention of the new manager when the practice was stopped .The deterioration of his condition led him to be hospitalised.

AB has been used to a particular way of life for several decades. This included living in or near to a household which acted as “family”, where 24-7 there was someone he could relate to as needed, where there was a co-worker(s) with a 24-7 responsibility for the whole house and everyone in it. To place AB in independent accommodation with intermittent support represents a radical change in the lifestyle to which he was accustomed and I believe was a major factor in accelerating his deteriorating condition.

There was an alternative for AB which was compatible with the lifestyle he has made his own over the last 40 years. The alternative was dis counted I believe for reasons of policy. It would appear to be the policy at O.P. to eliminate the traditional “household as family” along with the co-workers who carry this heritage.

To sysematically remove this heritage which the older people in particular have made their own is to disinherit them, is disrespectful and insensitive and I believe contributed significantly to AB’s deterioration.It appears to put policy above individual considerations.

I observe that the way O.P has been managed is distressing to others as well as AB, older people in particular. The purpose of this heavy hearted commentary is to try and ensure that people like Anthony will have a clearly available option to choose to live in a “household as family”, that such options will continue to be supported and not discounted and that the assumption will not be made that independent living is the best for everyone. If policies are not changed as suggested then I fear that the distress already observable in some of the older people will reach crisis point.

I will take “added value” here to mean those factors of a non materialistic nature which add to the quality of life not only in the moment but over a lifetime.This is written in the context of Oaklands Park over this last three years and refers to Oaklanders i.e.people with learning disability and everyone else living at Oaklands Park.

CHILDREN. I take it as self evident that an environment in which children grow and thrive adds great value to the quality of life. Even where children can be “nuisances” they offer indisputably authentic relationships to everyone present. The “mood” and “feeling” of a Camphill place is radically better when children can be seen and heard .In managing and coping with any difficulties which the presence of children brings assists everyone to inwardly grow and mature. The complete exodus of children from Oaklands Park represents an unmeasurable but great loss. Their vitality , authenticity, and the love they gave and elicit ,cannot be replaced by anything else*

WORK. Work can be described in many different ways,from Gibran who says “You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth”, “work is love made visible”; to Marx and his descendents who say that work is what you do for wages.

There was always a strong work ethic at Oaklands Park (probably too strong). An environment was created where everyone was expected to contribute in one way or another and the workplaces were moulded in such away that everyone could contribute. In this the Oaklander was able to find an esteem in their own eyes and in the eyes of everyone else.Life had structure , meaning and stability within the matrix of the Oaklands community of about a hundred people where everyone knew everyone else. Now however ,Oaklanders are told that they need not work at all , that they can take it or leave it as they feel inclined from moment to moment .

One small example to illustrate this. It was always difficult to find work which PR could do, Eventually he learned how to collect the waste food containers from the ten households and the coffee bar and take this waste for composting in the garden. This was a service which was relied upon and appreciated. Now however other activities arranged for him take no account of his composting work so his collecting routine is disrupted and the service sporadic. .His work is no longer valued or relevant because it is unreliable. The added value of respect gained by PR in his own eyes and those of others is lost. An implicit message is that you , a person with learning disabilities ,are a “consumer “and not a “producer” and cannot be expected to be of use or service to others . Is there anyone who would dare to say that PR on some vital level is unaware of this. This sort of story could be replicated in respect of many Oaklanders.

MM used to do ironing in different houses but was told that now she had to charge £5 per basket. She said to me “This is what I can do as my contribution for the (good of ) the (whole) community. I cannot work in the garden or on the farm but I can do this” In spite of her protest she now only works when paid to do so. The tacit message is “ideals are not for you , you have learning difficulties” and/or “work is only of value when it is paid for”. When work is reduced to a contractual/ economic relationship added value is discounted and disappears rapidly.

CHOICE. This is an extremely complicated idea and “informed choice “even more so. Formerly Oaklanders were intimately involved in the “lifestyle choice” which was implicit in living at Oaklands Park. Now that this lifestyle is all but dismantled the choices offered by the newly imposed policies do not offer this option and by contrast the choices now on offer seem to be trivialised with corresponding loss of value. Oaklanders are not encouraged to contribute to the common good but encouraged to please themselves from moment to moment. They are free to live a life of self indulgence and idleness ,which is not a choice for “normal “people. Some , but not all Oaklanders ,seem diminished by this.

CULTURAL/PHILOSOPHICAL/SPIRITUAL ,(CPS) The CPS landscape in which we live gives us boundaries ,signposts, limits, security , meaning and purpose to life. All these qualities are enriched (added value) in proportion to the richness of the CPS landscape in which we live, both individually and collectively, whether we are aware of this or not. The CPS landscape of Camphill was always .outstandingly rich Now the culture at Oaklands Park is that of the TV, the philosophy that of the nationalised industry (the care industry), and the spiritual life all but irrelevant. Camphill used to attract people who were educated ,intelligent, articulate and motivated (which had its problems). Now many of the employed staff seem to have limited horizons and to be motivated to do anything to keep their poorly paid jobs. This of course makes for easier management.

AUTHENTIC RELATIONSHIPS are impossible to define but recognisable in practice. They are in contrast to the formal relationships such as we might have with our G.P. It is our authentic relationships which are the bedrock of our lives. These relationships are not static and often not easy, as characterised by the ever changing relationships in a family, with friends and sometimes colleagues. When living in a Camphill household it is imperative that we work hard on making authentic relationships with everyone in that household .Without this commitment such a life would be intolerable. A person who is looking for a job would never contemplate for themselves the sort of 24/7 lifestyle needed to live in a traditional Camphill household. Conventionally the carers relationship with the cared for is formalised, the cared for impersonalised as “client “ or “service user”; it not being a relationship to be placed on par with one’s authentic relationships.

This task of making authentic relationships is not trusted or understood by the management and is rapidly being eliminated . This is another loss of added value to the lives of Oaklanders . To most, the relationship with their carer(s ) is a major factor in their lives (like it or not). The more authentic the better ,I would say. Formerly there was a conscious effort to generate attitudes and activities which minimized the difference between the carer and the cared for , so much so that it was a frequent remark of visitors that they could not see who was who. Now the emphasis is reversed with differences clearly marked out. This segregation diminishes both parties”.With a good professional manner these problems can be overcome” seems to be the best on offer.

VISITORS. It used to be that visitors were particularly welcome and they came , many visiting the young co-workers who came from all over the world, bringing vitality and interest for everyone.Now management priorities are on police checks where visitors are seen as a threat and are in effect banned ,and Oaklands Park begins to look and feel increasingly like a ghetto and an institution. This loss of added value speaks for itself.

This depressing catalogue of lost value is far from complete. To ask about the spirit of a place is perhaps easy rhetoric, but if I were to try to answer the question then as I reach the end of this commentary I realise that “added value“ was the spirit of the place .

This big, beautiful room was once vibrant with colour, light and life. A few rather splendid big items of furniture as befits such a room.The oval dining table where twelve people could sit comfortably together, the shape conducive to conversation .A freshly laundered tablecloth in the middle not big enough to hide too much of the beautiful wood that shone with polish and elbow grease, but big enough to create a centrepiece with a candle for lighting at mealtimes and a snuffer nearby, perhaps a crystal or a seasonal postcard, some ornament that anyone could have placed there,perhaps a few conkers and an autumn leaf or the firsts snowdrop in a tiny pot. At Easter there would be beautifully painted eggs suspended from a budding branch and at Christmas evergreens with paper and straw stars.And flowers, always fresh flowers to gladden the heart.If the unexpected guest arrived with his news to share and tales to tell he was made welcome. we shared what we had, shuffled up , made space, got closer and when he went we felt enriched and I believe so did he .

In other parts of the room there were comfortable armchairs and sofas, a coffee table giving more space for flowers and magazines, occasional tables for cup of tea.

On the wall were pictures which nourished the soul- not just t o fill an empty space. I also remember a large wall hanging, rich in colour and texture.

The piano was usually open with music and songbooks waiting to be used. Bookshelves with books, lots of books- art books, story books, poetry books, books for reading together and others to read quietly to one’s self. Games and jigsaws were there too for convivial times together. In front of the wood burning stove a big colourful hearth rug. A cat curled up on it. On the mantelpiece some interesting and cherished ornaments. Not always pristine, sometimes untidy but lived in. A child’s shoe discarded in the corner, a doll sitting on the sofa, its sightless eyes contented, placidly waiting to be needed again. Abook half read left open at the page, someones knitting on a nearby table. Perhaps two cups of tea waiting for an imminent conversation.

Imagine also the plants. Big ones , small ones, green plants , flowering plants and all of them loved and cared for,bringing yet more life into the room. Even when the room was empty one had the feeling that someone had just left or would soon be coming in. It was home.

Now imagine this room a year later. Gone are the pictures- not one on the walls. Where the wall hanging hung there are now five holes in the wall. Gone are the ornaments and beautiful furniture. Gone are most of the books and all the games.A dusty bookshelf with a few even dustier rather dull books ,including a 1959 edition of Chambers Encyclopedia in tiny print-all 15 volumes of it.An unpenetrated, un loved space can easily become a dumping ground for other peoples detritus. Or perhaps someone thought that it least it was better than yet another empty shelf.

Why would anyone want to read, or listen to a poem or develop one’s skills by doing a jigsaw or playing a board game or sing a song when the room is now dominated by a massive plasma screen television and everyone can just sit and watch it? It is the only focal point. In front of it is a cup marked coffee table which hasn’t seen a bit of polish in goodness knows how long. One small, discouraged dried out plant that nobody loves and not a flower in sight. Two settees are still there, but the comfortable armchairs are long gone. Just three wooden chairs sit forlornly round the dining table which is now rarely used, people preferring, understandably, to eat in the kitchen. On the table is a grubby, un ironed apology for a tablecloth .No candle,no flowers, no beauty.There is a broken chair in the corner and over the fireplace hangs an enormous mirror which only serves to reflect and emphasise the emptiness, the loneliness.

Even the cat has gone . But then why shouldn’t she when the cosy warm hearth rug has been replaced by a nondescript strip of faun that has seen better days? No doubt discarded by some other place as not good enough. And anyway, no one has been” supported” to feed the cat regularly so what is there to stay for? I can only suppose she has been adopted by someone else or gone to join the compost cats

It reminds me of a waiting room except that these days the average waiting room is better furnished. I wonder for what the room itself is waiting?

This is not to blame the support workers that work there. They are given barely enough time to help prepare a meal let alone pay attention to those more subtle needs . It is not their job ,(a cry we hear quite often these days) nor can they be expected to in the time they have available. I know that some of them can see the deterioration of standards as well as I do.

What to do about it? Whose job is it to buy some decent furniture and help Sue ,Tim and David choose pictures, a rug and some armchairs?Out of themselves these three people cannot create that subtle and elusive quality that turns a house into a home, though they desperately need it and would certainly appreciate it if they were helped to make it happen. It is not that they are unaware of the bleakness that surrounds them- they just don’t know what to do about it. This room which was once vibrant with light and life has become bleak and dismal.

When did “home” become merely a house? Perhaps when the government decided that it was best for the majority of people with learning disabilities to live independently, without the support and companionship of family life .

Look at the wider society both historically and in our own time.Surely it is so that when we have gone through the phase of breaking free to a lesser or greater extent from our birth families, then we start to seek ways of creating a family of our own.

Also in literature the great longing of the lonely and dispossessed (read Jane Eyre), is to find unity with another person or group of people. Why should it be different with people with learning difficulties? Surely their need to be an accepted and respected member of a “family “ group is even greater than that of most people. In the name of independence there are many lonely people out there. For many people with learning difficulties their principal human contact is with those who are paid to care for them on a shift system.What sort of life is that?Perhaps it is the right and the preferred way of life for some , but certainly not for everyone. We can offer something different for the many who want and need to live a more integrated cooperative way of life. Let us not mindlessly follow the trend but rather once more allow our houses to become home and give to at least some of our people the possibility of living in a warm supportive household.Stable, well functioning families lead to a stable, well functioning society.

Ann Hoyland. August 2012.

Dear Madam Chair,

Thank you for reading my letter of the 30th Dec 2013 and your reply of the 15th Jan 2014.

You refer to the appointment of a manager, Mark Denny, in 2009 after a breakdown of competence of the existing co-worker group. This indeed I saw as necessary and it was part of Mr Denny’s commitment on his appointment to help to restore the community to self government over two years. He started his job with efforts to work with the co-workers but this went into reverse at the appointment of Hugh John, so much so that within 18 months of Hugh John’s arrival all the children had left, (all 18 of them)

You quite rightly refer to “regulatory compliance”. In this the voluntary sector has a particular responsibility, which is decidedly not to be the handmaiden of the politically correct interpretation of politicians intentions as apparently demanded by the social services, but to explore more flexible,imaginative and effective ways of meeting a fuller range of needs, including subtle ones, and finding and using the many resources already existing in the good will of ordinary people and in the wider community. This approach needs imagination and conviction.

Voluntary Organisations should not meekly accept the handed down view of “best practice”, but actively challenge it. If a Voluntary Organisation is seen as a craven part of the nationalised care industry, who would want to support it with a legacy or a donation? This apparent stance taken by the CVT undermines the whole raison d’etre of the Voluntary Organisation.

You refer to “–our commitment to community “. When O.P. was struggling with itself there was still a clear sense of community. This has now gone. It seems to me that the policy of “individualisation”is interpreted by the management as incompatible with action designed to foster the good of the community as a whole and so the integrity of the community disappeared.

It is often enough heard that the new management brings “choices”, you refer to “real choices” To refer to choices in general is not good enough and the supposedly new choices introduced by the new management need to be described in detail or the word becomes empty rhetoric. And by the same token the choices which have been taken from Oaklanders need to be enumerated. The management would be reluctant or unable to do this, so if you are interested to become aware of some of the choices which have been taken away from Oaklanders by the new management, I will list a few of many.
1 Oaklanders used to be able to relate to children of all ages on a daily basis in a manner which was of the Oaklanders choosing. Some Oaklanders made warm and loving relationships with individual children, others chose to ignore them.There existed these two conditions and every gradation in between. These relationships had the stamp of authenticity. These choices no longer exist for Oaklanders,
2 Even when O.P. was struggling there was a rich cultural life and many festivals were celebrated throughout the year. Oaklanders could choose to be as involved or as uninvolved as they wished. Festivals are no longer celebrated, there is no one with time to prepare them ,no one knows what to do or why. These choices are no longer available to Oaklanders.
3 O.P. used to be an international community with a constant flow of intelligent, educated , and motivated young people of initiative from all over the world who brought a constantly refreshed vitality and interest (as well as many welcome visitors) to the life of Oaklands. Oaklanders could choose their nature and degree of involvement in this vital stream of life. None of this now exists, visitors are actively discouraged and Oaklands has become by any definition an isolated ghetto for people with learning difficulties with increasingly stereotypical relationships and behaviours.

My claim that Oaklanders have been disinherited is in part well illustrated by the many choices which have been eliminated from their lives.I notice that you do not challenge this claim, one which I regard as abusive and systematic.

You made particular reference to my remark about my impression of the increased use of drugs and say that “ we find no substance in your allegation” I do not know the methodology employed by your management in coming to this conclusion but the only authoritative answer to my observation which I would accept would be a definitive statement from the medical practitioners involved.

I am grateful for this opportunity to express to you some of my thoughts about Oaklands Park, it being the only time my views have had any acknowledgement. I do not imagine for a moment that this will lead to any change, but as long as it is claimed that CVT is fulfilling the principles described in it current constitution and clearly falling short , I reserve the freedom to comment.

Yours sincerely, Eric Hoyland January 2014.

How a” model of care” concerning people with learning disability when imposed inappropriately can be seriously abusive to the supposed “beneficiaries” by the model’s own definition of abuse, and what lessons might be learned.
OR,
How a politically correct “model of care” for people with learning disabilities when imposed on an international intentional community is inappropriate; seriously abusive to the supposed “service users” by the model’s own definition of abuse ; a disaster for the original workers and drives the trustees and management into a fortress mentality. What is to be learned?

The international intentional community in question is part of the Camphill Movement. Camphill has a unique culture and set of beliefs and practices developed over more than 70 years. This is a holistic lifestyle and includes some 100 or so centres in 24 countries worldwide. These centres do not follow a “blueprint” or “model” but try to develop the fundamental philosophy in a locally relevant manner.It began in Scotland in the late 1930’s with a group of young people who fled for their lives from totalitarian Nazi tyranny and the holocaust They were resolved to work together to demonstrate and establish a way of living,working and relating to the world and eachother which was sustainable and which emphasised the value of each individual ,irrespective of their background ,ability or disability, giving due recognition to the body ,soul ,spirit and destiny of each individual. They developed into a community which included many children with often serious disabilities. This initial community could scarcely have been in greater contrast to the philosophy and actions to what they had witnessed in central Europe. In trying to understand what they had experienced and to make sense of the present they took inspiration from the work of Rudolf Steiner.

This was no utopian project, there were many material and human difficulties which had to be dealt with and several principles came to be recognised as fundamental to the wellbeing of that body of people. Sharing scant resources was seen as best done according to need and led to the realisation that hierarchy and wages were an impediment to the development of healthy and caring relationships.When a problem arose, be it financial, personal or wider issues,everyone concerned would sit together in a circle and work out what seemed to be the best way forward.Thus all interested parties were involved in contributing to the solutions. Even if it was not the the prefered solution of a particular individual, their willingness to support a consensus view would be greater because of the shared attempt to find a solution.

It was also seen that different aspects of human life need to be approached differently. Liberty , equality and fraternity, the great ideals of the French Revolution can become millstones and hindrances if they are applied out of their proper place. Liberty was seen to be the guiding principle of spiritual life, namely that in spiritual things i.e. religion, education, philosophy ,artistic work, each individual is responsible for their own commitments. Equality should be the paramount principle in the realm of law and fraternity (brotherliness) should be the first principle of economic life, with transparency playing an important part. If these great principles are emphasised in the wrong sphere of life then misery is likely. For example “brotherliness” in legal matters can lead to injustice. Equality in economic affairs can lead to disruption and poverty. Liberty in financial matters easily becomes theft.(is this what we have seen with the bankers?).

In addition two ideals expressed by Steiner became part of the tool kit of the developing Camphill communities viz,
“The healthy social life is found when in the mirror of each human soul the whole community finds its reflection and when in the community the virtue of each one is living” and
“ The wellbeing of a community is the better when the productive work of the individual is freely given to the community and the needs of the individual are met by the work of others” NB THIS NOT A CORRECT QUOTE BUT WILL DO FOR NOW

It could be said that the governance in these communities was organic in the sense that the whole reflected each constituent member (in a living organism each cell and the whole organism are intimately related).

It can be seen that these ideas challenge current orthodoxy of how governments provide care.In the middle of the last century, for people with developmental ,perception ,physical or intellectual impediments , finding a place in the expanding Camphill communities could not have been a greater contrast to the alternative which was often what came to be known as the subnormality hospitals; highly beaurocratic, intensely heirarchical and mechanistic , turning that beautiful word “asylum” into a description of the last place on Earth where you would want to live.

Thus the intentional communities of Camphill had and have an essentially organic approach to regulating life; strenuous to sustain, time consuming and imperfect but they were seen to produce a quality of life which was demanding, fulfilling, supportive of a lifelong growth in maturity ,nurturing authentic and evolving relationships for all involved , this was recognised by families who would” walk barefoot over broken glass” to secure a place for their family member.This approach does not provide a perfect resolution of all problems for all time; most people experienced pain through the process at some points and sometimes life was excruciating,and sometimes we got things wrong, but is that not what real life is supposed to be about?

Let me give examples of how things could and usually did work in Camphill, and contrast this with some of the consequences arising from the imposed model of care with its narrow and bureaucratic view of what “compliance” means.

Example 1 Children.
Many women feel they have to choose between having children or having a stimulating working life .In the Camphill Communities children were seen as assets. A woman could maintain an essential role in the community and have her children. It was hard work and demanding and needed to be accommodated by everyone else , but in the process everyone had the chance to mature, had something to give and benefited from the qualities and challenges which children and nuclear families bring;laughter, tears, nurturing, concerns, hopes and fears and in the process grew and matured themselves. Some people with disabilities made loving and lasting relationships with these children and were capable and eager to help with childcare, to the benefit of both parties.Others chose to ignore children altogether. Relating to numerous children in the community in a manner of their preference was a choice which could be exercised daily by everyone , not just those with a learning disability. These were authentic relationships beyond any doubt and of course included joys, tears ,rejections, reconciliations, achievements,hopes and fears and separations; in other words the real stuff of real life and the perfect nutrition for a maturing adult personality.

In contrast the model of care imposed from above through government agencies, social services, trustees and career managers has no place for children in close proximity to people with learning difficulties. We were told of “child protection issues” but not told what these issues were supposed to be and “All children must be supervised at all times”. When a person with learning difficulties is admitted to the community who might bring an element of risk to children the parents would not be told of this risk or its nature because the model decrees that this information is confidential and therefore parents would be unable to judge the nature or degree of risk to their children or how to manage it.Formerly all such risks were generally known to those who needed to know so that the whole community was involved in managing such things.There existed 70 years of experience in managing these matters ,the children and people with learning difficulty thrived in eachothers company.

Within a year and a half of the appointment of highly paid career managers all the families with children left, taking some eighteen children with them. This means that the mature view of children developed by the people with learning difficulties is now no longer an option, they can no longer and for the foreseeable have any possibility of relating in meaningful way to children. This priceless asset has been removed permanently from their lives without their consent, all in the interests of “safeguarding”.No one has given any examples of how children were previously hurt in any significant way, they were watched over not only by their parents but by the whole community, everyone knew everyone and all were involved in looking after each other.

Example two: Individualisation.
“Individualisation” for people with learning difficulties, conceived at a political and academic level seems to me to be an inspired ideal ,totally in harmony with the ideals of Camphill. No single idea however can be put into effect without numerous assumptions and appendages being included.

The Camphill approach assumes that the individual is best seen and served in the context of their community, be that family and or friends,peer group colleagues associates neighbours aquaintances and their existing network of people ,supporting activities and traditions.Another appendage to individualisation in Camphill would be that it is better to assume that everyone is better for actively contributing something to the whole community through their work of one sort or another.To mould the environment and expectations so that a person of very limited ability can make a valid contribution to the whole is not seen to be in conflict with individualisation but an expression of it since such a contribution would be uniquely individual and still have relevance to the whole.

The model of care seems to assume that” individualisation “means that each person should be encouraged and supported at every juncture to decide for themselves what they wish to do irrespective of their understanding of the effects of their action on the whole or themselves and how this decision may affect their relation to the whole. The only restraint being available payments for staff who could help them carry out their wishes.

One example of how this has worked in practice is illustrative of many comparable situations. It was always difficult t to find an activity which Paddy could do which would be valued by the whole community. A small group of people who were concerned with this situation ,considered together and came up with a suggestion. After a few days help and supervision he learned to collect the compost buckets from some ten households, take it to the garden and begin the composting process. His work was appreciated, relied upon and reliable. Individualisation within the model of care was put into action with Paddy free to decide at any point what he wanted to do, maybe shopping or maybe nothing. His collection became sporadic and unreliable and thus his work became irrelevant , Paddy was transformed from a producer to a consumer. I cannot suppose that these matters do not register with Paddy at some level. Formerly he knew the names of everyone around him, now he can be heard referring to “my carer” or “a staff”and instead of getting on with his work is often seen drifting apparently aimlessly around.

Example three. Social, cultural , spiritual life and volunteers.
Camphill has always been known as an international community with 70 years experience and tradition of attracting young people from all over the world who came to live in the community and work voluntarily for a year. These young people were almost invariably well educated, well motivated, capable and cultured people bringing a rich diversity of social and cultural life which was available for the enjoyment and enrichment of all. They were usually skilled and versatile people and supported the cultural, philosophical and productive life of the community. They also attracted many visitors; their family and friends whose visits further enriched the whole.An additional contribution to the already rich cultural life came in their support for the preparation and celebration of the many festivals throught the year, which was one of the main resposibilities of the permanent workers (called co- workers).Just one aspect of this was singing,mainly but not only around the festivals. This was a prominent feature of Camphill life.Everyone was encouraged to participate and the people with learning difficulties when their voices were supported by those of the able bodied young volunteers could in fact sing at a much enhanced level than if they sang alone. How did the new model of care impinge on all this?

A days seminar to find out what the people with learning difficulties wanted to do came up with several priorities, one of these was “singing”. A singing teacher was duly hired to give singing lessons. Little headway was made because this was not what the people concerned wanted,They wanted to sing with the able bodied as was their tradition,thus singing disappears from their life.

The young volunteers were viewed as cheap labour and treated as such.”Safeguarding” issues were raised since criminal record checks from abroad might be suspect even if available.The modest cost of maintaining these young volunteers was seen as unjustified as the money had to be spent directly on the “service user”,this at a time when some managers took large salaries, further managers and administrative workers were appointed, with administrative costs escalating.Young volunteers from abroad no longer come and their huge contribution to the vitality and diversity of the community is lost. Visitors are not welcome and the place is no longer an international or an intentional community,but an isolated ghetto in the countryside for people with learning difficulties and their shift working poorly paid carers.The place has more aspects in common with a later day subnormality hospital than a traditional international , intentional Camphill community.

Festivals are not celebrated anymore except occasionally in a perfunctory way. The residents inquiry and hope for these celebrations is expressed less frequently as it becomes clear that such thing will not be forthcoming. None of the new staff have ever been given any education or guidance concerning the traditions and heritage of the people they are supposed to care for, so as the original carriers of that heritage left( the permanent co- workers ) the traditions and heritage went with them. The mainstay of cultural life is now the massive and ubiquitous television screens which dominate every sitting room. Social life , communication and cultural life becomes convergent ,i.e.it becomes less in scope and increasingly steriotyped, and the spiritual life of the community has dissappeared altogether.A recent management publication proudly advertised that each individual would now be given a “person centred plan”.Place this against the removal without consent of the tradition and inheritance of a lifetime and a heartless insincerity at the centre of the mechanistic , beurocratic way of trying to provide “care”is only too apparent.

Abuse. This favoured word of the social care industry is itself abused. Formerly when conduct was thought to be unsatisfactory the procedure would be for someone of standing or natural authority within the community to speak to the person concerned and taken further if necessary when a number of people would take up the issue and in this context seek a resolution. Now staff are required to report in confidence to the management anything they think might be inappropriate with suspension or dismissal following, all conducted in secrecy.

The most trivial action can be interpreted as abuse and reported as such. The resulting suspension is supposed to be a neutral act, but is generally far from it, and often looks like a power tool in the hands of management. In short the management use an extremely wide definition of abuse.

It is clear to me that when this model of care is applied to the Camphill centre with which I am intimately familiar and where I live, the sweeping away of all the fabulous options, traditions and cultural heritage of the people with learning difficulties (for most it is a heritage of 20 , 30 ,40 or 50 years or more) ,is abusive ; not merely well within the models own definition but by the judgement of any reasonable person. No one it seems to have asked the question , “is this model suitable for this situation?” or “is this interpretation or application of the model appropriate in this particular situation”.One size has to fits all apparently . Initiative is stifled, and everything dumbed down to the lowest common denominator, voluntary initiative and local goodwill is repelled. Everything becomes bureaucracy centred and risk averse and all in the interest of “safeguarding”, “keeping people safe”. I often think that the primary safety element in all this is the safety of the management jobs at the expense of the wider interest of the so called “beneficiaries”.I have been trying to establish significant engagement with management and trustees on these issues for over two years but have been ignored .Neither do the social services or the local M.P. respond to the questions raised.The brief contact I have had with the trustees has been dismissive and defensive with implied threats of legal action for defamation from the management.

In short ,this model in this situation is abusive to the people it is supposed to serve, has been abusive of the original co-workers who left,and produces a stressed and embattled management and trustees unwilling and probably unable to answer basic questions.There seems to be no notion that “compliance” with regulations is something which can be open to interpretation and therefore negotiation .

The initial reason for the appointment of careerist managers was because the original self management of the communities was breaking down not least because of longstanding and relentless pressure of legislative requirements.These were accumulating to the point of critical incompatibility with the “organic”form of self government. The attempt to accommodate the mechanistic/bureaucratic model within the organic approach to governance over many years led to an unsatisfactory situation. It precipitated a choice of which way to go, the mechanistic/bureaucratic way or to support the the original way of governance and stand up to the bureaucratic machine, confident in the innate quality of life being offered and the ideals enshrined in the charity’s constitution. The trustees chose the nationalised industry care model as the easiest and safest way to go and appointed managers from the nationalised care industry sector.This led to the evisceration of the traditional organic way of doing things. In this process what was once seen as a dynamic and living international, intentional community providing a superb way of life people with disabilities has been reduced to the corpse of its former self , indistinguishable from any other provision of the nationalised care industry.

I would like to finish this article with an alternative way forward to the top down model of care; one which is organic, in the sense of growing in the place where it is needed, using local goodwill, local human interest and concern. Such an organisms would need to be nurtured like any growing,living thing. There is plenty of experience out there which could contribute to the creation of diverse ways of caring. Real care has to be local, and real care must come from the heart and hands of the people giving it, and this person is the one who needs to be empowered. The further this power is removed from the carer the poorer the quality care is likely to be. It would be contradictory to propose yet another model which by definition is likely to be too rigid and tend to a one size fits all nature. We need a new vocabulary and new ideas and there are many out there.Perhaps it could be the governments role to empower local groups to care for their own. These are after all the ones who know what is needed and where local good will and experience might be found.

[From http://www.actionforbotton.org/hijacking-a-charity with permission and thanks]

Each charity has a membership. Members have the right to vote on new proposals at annual general meetings (AGMs) or to put their own motions forward. They are ultimately responsible for holding the Board of Trustees to account. It follows that if trustees exert undue or unreasonable control onto their membership, they have effectively disabled a system of democratic accountability

In the light of this, it is worth examining the case of the Camphill Village Trust where members according to the Charity Commission should represent a wide and balanced pool of stakeholders including parents, families, co-workers, and the disabled residents themselves.

The ‘take over’ of the governing board

In November 2012 members were asked to vote on proposed changes to the charity’s constitution (or Articles); the question was whether a majority of independent trustees should be on the board, where so far most have always been co-workers. This followed a direction from the Charity Commission which had concerns about potential conflicts of interests on the board at the time. It wanted fewer co-workers. What it ended up with was no co-workers.

The majority of members voted against the motion. However, members who had voted against the proposed changes were informed by trustees that their membership would be revoked unless they changed their mind. This is what CVT wrote to them on the 5th of December 2012: “You voted against the one, or both, of the special resolutions at the last General Meeting. This letter is therefore formal notice that your removal from Membership will be considered at the Trustees meeting unless you have returned a properly completed proxy form within the required time period supporting or abstaining from both the special resolutions.” What should have happened is frank discussion of the best way to meet the charity commission’s requirements, rather than using coercion. In one letter the new chief executive described the frantic attempts of forcing through these changes before the end of the year. The threats were effective. At the next vote a majority voted in favour of changing the charity’s constitution. Today, a few years down the line, instead of achieving an appropriate balance reflecting the stakeholders in its communities there isn’t a single Camphill co-worker on the board where all nine are now independent. One might reasonably ask whether the intentions and methods used to achieve this speaks to a different agenda.

Gerrymandering of the voting list

At different times in the last two years, CVT has closed the membership to new applicants, justifying this by stating that it was working on a new membership policy. When the two Scottish communities demerged in 2012, each member related to those communities had to give up their membership of CVT. The trust never explained the necessity of this, and from this point trustees began looking unfavourably on applications from people most connected to the charity and who stood by its traditions, and favourably on those with least connection.

A new application form was created that required applicants to explain their connection with the charity and their views on the current board’s direction. Trustees have used their ‘discretion’ to pick and choose whom they wish to admit. Very often, it seems people with connections to Camphill communities, at times stretching over decades, have been rejected, while others with no apparent connection have been readily accepted, stretching the discretion they have beyond reason.

The Charity Commission (page 32 following this link) writes:

“No one has an automatic right to membership of a charity but restrictions on membership must normally be avoided and eligibility for membership should be as open as possible.”

“Trustees also have the power not to admit members to the charity … if they believe their motivation is against the aims of the charity.”

However, the Charity Commission guideline also states:

“Trustees cannot use these legal rules to adopt an arbitrary membership policy so as to ensure (for example) that membership does not contain people that might oppose their views …”

The new application form for Trust membership is, we believe, effectively a screening tool and informs applicants that they are unlikely to be admitted if they are an employee, co-worker, former co-worker or living with, related to or supported by a co-worker, former co-worker or employee. This excludes all those people (including the beneficiaries themselves) whom the charity is charged with serving. The Trust requires potential applicants to summarise their views on its hugely controversial reforms (of replacing co-workers with employees) being imposed on the communities and implies that membership will most likely be declined if the applicant is not in full agreement. Furthermore, there does not appear to be an easily accessible application form to encourage the learning disabled residents to become members.

Action for Botton is concerned that requesting endorsement of these reforms puts the applicant in direct contravention with the trust’s own constitution. Furthermore, the trust asserts that it is under no obligation to provide a reason for declining membership and that membership may be withdrawn without providing an explanation. In addition to this, existing members were removed from the membership list without notice (we have witnesses to this). The Charity Commission guidance states:

“A power to expel a member must be exercised in good faith and not capriciously and the basic requirements of a right to be told the nature and details of the offence and reasons for the expulsion or suspension, a right to notice of the hearing and a right for the members to put his case are well accepted”

Please find here the application form that was updated in May 2014 together with an addendum – the date CVT announced the ultimatum of requiring long-term co-workers to leave unless they applied for employment. Completed application forms are decided upon by the Trustees at one of their infrequent meetings, which introduces a delay of months, and experience has shown this is then followed by more intrusive questions about the applicant’s “feelings” regarding the restructuring or the precise personal relationship with any existing or previous co-workers.

Action for Botton has been approached by individuals who have been through this process, which can take a year and more, and one who found they were suddenly admitted with the help of a solicitor’s letter making reference to case law on the matter (we have witnesses willing to be interviewed about their experiences of applying).

Action for Botton believes that CVT is filtering, delaying and frustrating applications and ultimately rejecting those who appear supportive of the traditional Camphill values and co-workers, and selecting only applicants who show their support for the reforms, which will allow CVT to move communities away from the Camphill model, as they are currently doing, whilst assuming they are unlikely to be challenged by a membership vote.

Gagging clauses for those who leave

CVT has presented co-workers with agreements that they will be required to sign when leaving the community. Those agreements not only include confidentiality (“gagging”) clauses and a surrender of all further claims against CVT, but also a requirement that the co-worker members relinquish their voting membership. We are aware that former co-workers could only receive a transitional payment to assist them in starting a new life, which has always been normal practice after years of service although strictly speaking discretionary, when signing such an agreement.

As mentioned, CVT’s behaviour towards long-term co-workers notably changed since the controversial appointment of new managers in 2010 and 2011, culminating in the recent imposition of their controversial strategy of turning all of CVT’s co-workers into employees.

It is our impression that those now in charge of CVT are building a high wall, letting through only those that have declared their allegiance with their controversial course whilst decimating the traditional vocational co-worker body, as they seem to feel threatened by all those who could uphold the values and objects of this great charity.

Summary

What has happened here could be taken as an object lesson of how to hijack a charity. First, frighten the members with threats of membership revocation unless they vote for your proposal. Second, devise an application policy that only lets in those who support your views. Third, ensure that you require those critical of your plans to resign membership by threatening to withhold financial support. Fourth, also get those who have broken away from your Charity because they don’t like what you are doing to resign membership. Fifth, offer membership to people who you know will vote your way, such as relations of managers and trustees. Finally, get people who leave communities to sign a gagging clause threatening them with legal action should they ever speak publicly about their unpleasant experience with the CVT. Job done, a whole charity is under your control.

All this is consistent with an impression many have had for a while that the ‘new CVT’ has become a controlling organisation acting in a manner inconsistent with its status and reputation as a charity and its own founding principles; a board of trustees with little or no sympathy for the charity’s founding philosophy, pushing through reforms that appear to be in direct contravention of it. The safeguard built into the charity’s Articles is that the membership should be able to hold the board to account, but by following the six steps set out above trustees might now feel confident no such challenge will be able to come from the members.

[From http://www.actionforbotton.org/The-tax-issue with permission and thanks.]

 CVTs reason for controversial changes not inevitable

On 13th May CVT trustees wrote a letter to Co-workers and families stating that community members will have to become employees of the trust, or leave the community. They referred to an opinion from a tax expert received a few weeks earlier that appeared to leave them no other option. Camphill Co-workers are vocational (long-term) volunteers who have been creating and living in communities with learning disabled people as intended by their respected founder Karl König and described in the charity’s founding document (LINK), and in line with the legal opinion of Peter Trevett QC (LINK) and a more recent agreement with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC, LINK). It therefore came as a great surprise to communities that the way they have been living for many years is now being presented as potentially illegal by their own charity. On the other hand, we feel that if there has been a departure from the traditional Camphill way of life in certain aspects, there is no doubt that this could be corrected.

Camphill communities are usually self-managing communities with a local management committee (LMC). However, the trust’s chief executive has stood down all LMCs and imposed his own managers to take charge of communities around 2011. Instead of self-managing they are now being managed and centrally controlled, which could potentially imply that Co-workers are more like employees. The irony is that this already unwelcome situation created by CVT itself should now be the reason for the unwelcome next step of making all co-workers employees – a circular argument. We would have thought it more logical and in line with the charity’s principles to work with Co-workers and stakeholders to correct any variance and ensure communities remain in line with the agreement.

CVT claims on its website: “A review of the legal advice made it clear we had no choice if we want to stay within the law and follow the Charity Commission instructions but to move co-workers to employees.” We believe, however, CVT did have a choice, and it chose to continue its course of making all co-workers employees. The Charity Commission had asked CVT to address the level of co-worker benefits. Their letter to CVT dated 25 October 2013 clarified that “the commission is not saying that the benefits would necessarily equate to a paid person. This is because the co-workers are volunteers whose needs are met, rather than a range of benefits equivalent to an employee. Financial support for co-workers is entirely the prerogative of the Trustees.” Their letter dated 13 November 2013 confirmed that trustees have a wide powers and discretion to meet co-workers needs.

More recently, CVT requested a legal Opinion from a tax lawyer, which they received on 26 April 2014. Already by 13 May 2014, two and a half weeks later, CVT had made the historic decision to end the traditional co-worker culture that built this glorious charity, and sent out letters to all co-workers and families including a pack of background information and FAQs. From the start, CVT has declined to share the contents of this tax Opinion with others and thereby prevented an informed debate. They did offer one Co-worker to read it once under strict conditions which he declined as he lacked the expertise in tax legislation to make a reliable judgement and become responsible for the outcome of this dispute. Nonetheless, and quite unfairly in our view, CVT has since told the public that they have offered to share their opinion.

Mr Picarda QC, a leading charity lawyer (LINK), comments on CVT’s continued resistance to sharing their Opinion: “Arguments about non-disclosure of Opinion are varying and bear a regrettable appearance of speciousness. Why cannot the Trustees in the interest of their beneficiaries (in the eleemosynary sense) at least say what are their fears in relation to tax and quote at least any authorities said to subvert the previous conclusions of the Trevett Opinion?”

We may never know the exact contents of their Opinion are, but we know that other Camphill communities such as the Mount in England and others in Scotland are succesfully self-managing with Co-workers just like Botton and they are compliant with legislation and the HMRC (Scottish communities are also under the same HMRC jurisdiction). Furthermore, the Chairman of the Association of Camphill Communities (AoCC, LINK), the umbrella organisation for all UK Camphill communities, confirmed on 2 October 2014:

“At this juncture, we can confirm that we have obtained independent professional advice on behalf of the Association that supports the continued implementation of the existing HMRC Agreement with regard to the taxation of co-workers.”

It is painful to realise that the Camphill Village Trust, the charity that created the first Camphill community in Botton, is no longer advocating for the non-contractual Co-worker model in Botton, Delrow, Oaklands Park or the Grange, the model so popular with its beneficiaries and their families alike and clearly described in the charity memorandum by which trustees must abide. That rather than protecting the co-worker model CVT itself has become the driving force of eliminating it. Had CVT supported Co-workers in obtaining their own opinion for Botton, as they requested, or involved them in a fair debate to find a solution of mutual benefit, the last few months would have been a very different experience. They could have been a productive phase that brought honour to the charity rather than unhappiness to the people living in its communities; a phase of intense work and discussion with all Co-workers, parents and villagers, with the aim of describing a set of rules that allow shared Camphill households and communities to thrive and adhere to agreements with HMRC.

Trustees could have shown wise and inclusive leadership and opened this historic decision-making process with a statement like: “After a period of intense work focused on implementing the requirements of regulators and commissioners since 2011, and establishing a platform of partnership working between trustees and Co-workers, we are now facing another serious challenge as we must address a risk we have identified with a tax report we have just obtained. This suggests that Co-workers could technically be seen as employees, which might make us liable to tax payments. We have two options. Option 1 would be to turn all Co-workers into employees and notify HMRC of our intention. Option 2 would be to remind us of the existing tax-agreement and make sure that all Co-workers live and act in line with the practices outlined in it, for example with regards decision-making in our communities. We could ask the Association of Camphill Communities to assess Botton and advise us whether any corrections may be needed. We need to ask ourselves which option best serves our beneficiaries and objects as specified in the memorandum and how we can best continue creating the Camphill impulse and fulfill our mission into the future. Options 1 and 2 take us into different directions; this is a historic juncture and we ask all stakeholders to work hard with us and act responsibly, so that we can arrive at a shared decision that we will stand by when celebrating our 60th Birthday in a few months’ time. This is also a question of what kind of organisation we want to be: do we want centralised control with directions given to employed staff by managers, or inclusive and democratic decision-making by community members who are responsible and accountable?”

We would assume the latter, Option 2, as Camphill is known for a practice of consensus and community-based decision making, and the Memorandum states that

“Rigidity in the matter of control should be avoided and the closest liaison should be maintained between all those responsible for the administration of the Charity and its community or communities in their everyday life.”

Co-workers feel that CVT trustees have betrayed the trust and partnership that they tried to build with them; CVT then stripped them of their local management roles; CVT still avoids fair and open debate of this key question and possible alternatives; CVT has disempowered communities and taken full control. This crisis, so painful and disturbing for all those in and connected with this great charity could have been avoided, and could still be resolved if CVT trustees shared their ‘secret opinion’, or allowed Botton to get its own, or began a genuine process of shared decision-making looking at the options openly, options more in line with Camphill values. However, trustees have not responded to the pleas by Co-workers and families to that effect and are rigidly sticking to their course regardless.

[From http://www.actionforbotton.org/Botton-Village/faqs with permission and thanks]

What are the likely consequences of a movement to employment on CVT’s terms?

CVT will choose which co-workers it will offer employment. Others will be expected to leave the community. Many of these will be individuals who have given decades of service to create Botton Village. Many continue to maintain the fabric of the community in manifold ways (often unseen or unvalued by the charity).

CVT is making very clear that it regards Residential Employment as very problematic. Consequently, they are not committing to the continuation of the live-in / ‘life-sharing’ model. Residents are likely to find themselves living alone in houses, with care staff coming in to provide strictly limited contractual hours of support.

CVT has made clear that offers of employment will be made strictly on the basis of its contractual social care obligations. This goes far beyond the tax issue given as a pretext for the changes, suggesting a more wide ranging agenda for Botton. The result will be that the other social / cultural aspects of village life are likely to wither and die. The Christian Community, Botton School, and the Eurythmy School  are unlikely to survive, and with them will go all the richness they bring.

The net effect of these changes is likely to be the exodus of the majority of co-workers: both those directly made redundant, and the others who feel the loss of Botton’s social and cultural vitality unbearable. At this point 80% of the Botton co-workers are indicating they will not accept employment in CVT. A vibrant and living village will be reduced to a sterile social care institution (however excellent the care provision).

This scenario may sound far-fetched, but a close study of the post co-worker CVT communities suggests a predictable trajectory. Furthermore, a  purely social care institution at the back of Danby Dale would be of doubtful viability. What is the logistical plan for transporting in the requisite number of care workers to such a remote location? What are the bad weather contingencies? Is it financially viable? Does a conventional care provider in such a location not begin to look like the ‘Victorian Institution’ the world is moving away from? Has CVT thought through and planned for any of this?

If employment exists in other Camphill centres, why not Botton?

It is true that employment has been introduced in other Camphill centre, with varying degrees of success, in terms of preserving ‘the essentials’. Many would feel that some of these centres have lost the Camphill element in the process. However, there are some more encouraging precedents. In the Norwegian Camphill centres, for instance, people are technically employed, but all the incomes are pooled to be used as a community resource.

We feel that the current proposal differs in important ways from the more positive employment models across the international movement:

  • Employment has worked well in communities that are self-managing, and where the Board is sympathetic to ‘the ‘Camphill ethos’. In our case, we see employment coming as an imposition from a Trust that appears to have lost its connection to its own founding philosophy, and that appears intent on top-down management of its communities.
  • CVT will offer employment to only those members of the co-working body that it sees fit. Many members who have given their lives to create Botton, and are integral to its functioning in the wider sense, can hope for no such offer.
  • Employment will mark the end of the equality that has always formed the basis of community life. Positions will be differentiated and remunerated accordingly. Recruitment will be fully controlled by the charity, and conducted on their terms.
  • CVT will take full charge of the management of a community that has been largely self-managing for 60 years (albeit in conjunction with a local manager since 2011).
  • Consequently, all important aspects of the running of the community will be under the firm control of the Charity hierarchy.
  • Crucially, the charity has made it clear that with employment, the life-sharing model can no longer be guaranteed.

We feel that this context differs entirely from other parts of the movement where employment has been made to work successfully by communities in control of their own destiny.

Are Botton co-workers fighting for a lost past?

No. For the last three years, Botton has been working very hard to overhaul systems to meet current social care requirements. Recent feedback from North Yorkshire and the CQC has been very positive. Despite the imposition of three successive General Managers by CVT, the co-workers have chosen to engage constructively with the latest appointee, to create a robust Three year plan.

For several years, the co-workers have been requesting that the charity explore alternative legal models for the future. Community Interest Companies and Co-operative enterprises have been mentioned as possible models that may allow the community to avoid the growing constraints of charity law, to evolve and flourish in new and exciting ways.

To date, the Board of CVT has refused to contemplate any future except the ‘one charity’ model they are publically committed to. The current impasse is a direct consequence of this failure of vision on the part of the Trustees.

From its inception, Camphill has been radical and innovative. Indeed, the ambition of its founders stretched far beyond the ‘over-compliant social care provider’ envisaged by CVT. Instead, it was an image of vibrant, many-faceted communities, in which the residents both thrive and contribute. The breadth of this vision is still evident in the charity’s own Memorandum & Articles of Association. [LINK]

We reject change imposed from above by a Board with vanishingly little grasp or sympathy for the ideals that inspire us. We embrace empowering, community-led change for a vibrant future!

Are the Botton Co-workers united?

While a number of Botton co-workers are considering employment, should there be no alternative, about three quarters of co-workers are saying categorically that they will not accept employment with CVT under any circumstances.

As a community of free-thinking individuals, we expect to have a spectrum of opinion on any question. On a question with such profound implications for each individual and their family, particularly strong and diverse reactions are to be expected.

The community is making considerable efforts to embrace all shades of opinion on this question with sensitivity and understanding. In this way, we hope to be able to maintain the social fabric of the community through this most difficult time.

What about Botton’s villagers?

Current social care legislation is driven by the principle of personalisation. Whilst this principle is rooted in a genuine idealism about empowering people with learning disabilities, it has a basic flaw. It views those it seeks to serve primarily as consumers, whose empowerment lies in being able to purchase what they need. We have always regarded Botton’s villagers as contributing citizens whose empowerment lies in living with and working alongside others whom they can truly call friends and colleagues. Were Botton co-workers to become employees, these relationships would become contractual – friendship, companionship and colleagueship will be purchased rather than developed in freedom. This is not to say that employees cannot provide high quality social care – they can and do – but for Botton’s villagers, co-worker employment will mean a corruption of existing freely-formed relationships, and the impossibility of forming new ones.