Learning disabled villagers from Botton Village have visited Downing Street to petition the Prime Minister.
Residents from the 60-year-old community made the trip to air their grievances amidst growing fears that Camphill Village Trust (CVT), the charity that manages the village, are moving to evict co-workers from their homes.
Since Botton Village was established in 1955, disabled residents have lived alongside unpaid carers in a shared community environment, but CVT are seeking to implement changes that would see the co-workers become paid employees and be forced to accept adaptations to their current living arrangements.
One of the villagers who presented the petition, Allan Hobson, told the Whitby Gazette: “I just wish that CVT would listen to us instead of just ignoring us all the time.
“I don’t think they’re really bothered about what happens to Botton. I think it’s time now they just left us alone and let us get on with our lives.
“They should go somewhere else and ruin someone else’s life.”
The signatories, who represent the overwhelming majority of the 96 Villagers, state in the petition:“We, the undersigned, want to keep shared living with co-workers in Botton, where choose to share our homes with volunteer co-workers and their children.”
The decision to take the long trip to Downing Street on Tuesday was made after petitions were handed over to both CVT and North Yorkshire County Council earlier this month, yet in spite of this, evicition notices were served on co-workers last week.
Neil Davidson, chairman of campaign group Action for Botton, said: “I fully applaud this party who made the long trip to London to present the petition which clearly demonstrates their courage and the strength of feeling that exists at Botton.
“We believe these controversial changes will completely destroy this unique community by forcing the co-workers to become shift working employees living separately from the learning disabled Villagers.”
A spokesman for CVT said: “It is clear from this petition that misinformation continues to be spread by those opposed to the changes required to co-workers’ employment status at Botton.
“It is extremely sad and worrying to see the people with learning disabilities we support becoming anxious and upset unnecessarily as a result of this.
“The need for co-workers to be registered as employees does not mean shared living cannot continue.
“Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have been clear that the co-worker arrangements at Botton can no longer continue. To do so risks co-workers being seen to be avoiding tax, and the charity as a result incurring penalties.
“CVT has no choice as to whether we implement these changes, but the co-workers do have a choice to become employees, or real volunteers and continue the life they and the people we support currently live.”