Fears ‘unique’ community spirit of Botton Village to be destroyed

Campaigners James Fearnley and Neil Davidson at Botton village'w142705b'Picture by Scott Wicking
Campaigners James Fearnley and Neil Davidson at Botton village'w142705b'Picture by Scott Wicking

A 60-year-old community that has revolutionised the way care is given to people with disabilities is set to be “destroyed” forever, say campaigners.

Since Botton Village was established in 1955, disabled residents have lived alongside unpaid carers in a shared community that has been heralded as the future of social care.

The village is home to around 280 people, 130 of whom are disabled, but campaigners say vital changes introduced by the charity which operates the site are threatening Botton’s future.

In May, all of the volunteer carers at Botton, some of whom have lived there for over 20 years, were told they would have to accept paid employment or be forced to leave the community.

They were also told they would have to move into separate accommodation, away from the people they had cared for and shared their lives with.

Campaigner Neil Davidson fears the change will destroy the village’s unique way of life and has established Action for Botton, a pressure group that calls for the Camphill Village Trust to rethink its decision.

Mr Davidson said: “Just imagine if someone is operating on the level of a seven-year-old child and you take mum and dad away and put in shift workers to replace them. That’s the appalling thing that they are talking about doing.”

Nestling in Danby Dale, Botton is the oldest and largest of the Camphill Village Trust’s communities.

The unique way it is operated has created a community of equality, where disabled residents live with a “respect and dignity” that can not be found elsewhere, and it is this environment the campaigners are fear will be lost.

Huw John is the chief executive of the Camphill Village Trust and he explained the requirement to offer employment contracts to co-workers has been a result of “tax advice”.

He added: “The people we support are - and always must be - at the heart of every decision we take.”

The Trust explained how changes in legislation have forced it to update working practices, while also claiming that many residents no longer want to share their homes with the carers, preferring independent living.

The Gazette contacted one resident who initially agreed to speak anonymously about the changes, but withdrew from the article after fearing he would be thrown out of the community if his identity was discovered.

In 2005 the village and its five farms received special recognition in the Deputy Prime Minister’s Awards for Sustainable Communities.

However, Mr Davidson said he believes the changes are set to transform Botton from an exceptional home, to “just another” care home. He added: “For 60 years it has worked on the basis of volunteers not being care shift employees but actually living alongside disabled people. If you take people out of shared living, you totally change the wonderful place that Botton is.

“It is the only place I know where you can meet disabled people who are fulfilled, confident and happy.”