The tried-and-tested care model of the Camphill Village Trust (CVT) for disabled people at Botton, north Yorkshire is under threat from ‘commercialisation’, Unite, the country’s largest union, has warned.
The ethos of the CVT, of which there are a number of communities across the country, is that disabled residents live side-by-side with their vocational volunteer co-workers (VVCs) and carers in a family setting near Whitby.
Unite said that this is now under threat and the fear is that they will be replaced with lower-paid support workers living outside the village.
To combat this slide to ‘commercialisation’, Unite Community, which exists for those not in conventional or regular employment, has formed a branch at Botton which has already attracted 70 co-workers and residents as members.
Botton is the home of more than 230 people, including 100 with learning disabilities – it is the largest Camphill community, having existed for 60 years.
Unite community coordinator for Yorkshire John Coan said: “The residents have looked to Unite to help them protect their way of life from commercialisation.
“One of the most distressing elements of this forced segregation is the threat of closure to residents’ workplaces as highly skilled co-workers, who founded and built the community, have been ‘instructed’ that they will no longer be allowed to run the communal village workshops.
“It seems that the CVT management intends to replace them with low-paid support workers who will not live with, but rather ‘service’ the residents’ needs on a strict shift based system, while residing elsewhere.
“Notably, these low-paid support workers will require significant in-work benefits to supplement their income diverting unnecessary public monies into CVT’s coffers. These benefits are not claimed or required by the VVCs.”
Eighty per cent of the Botton residents have signed a petition calling on CVT to reverse its controversial plans and revert to the founding principles.
Despite delivering their petition to the CVT trustees and also to prime minister David Cameron, the residents believe that their voices are still being ignored.
The forced segregation situation is set against the backdrop of national concern about the ‘second class’ treatment of the learning disabled, with the launch of the Green Paper No Voice Unheard, No Right Ignored.
John Coan added: “Unite Community is proud that we have constituted a union branch in Botton. Their ethos of cooperation and community fits exactly with what we are about, and we are offering the residents and their co-worker friends solidarity in their struggle.”
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite regional community co-ordinator for Yorkshire John Coan on 07711 375536 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble in the Unite press office on 020 3371 2061 or 07768 693940.
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.