As the blog has become more popular I find I’ve started to get emails from people who would like to use it as a platform – a lot of the time these are just press releases churned into a bit mailing list but there are also a few academics, people with stories to tell, and just recently the occasional haunting tale.
One of my readers emailed me about a disability related story appeared in Private Eye recently. The story itself was a fairly damning indictment of the Camphill Village Trust (CVT), a charity that runs residential communities for disabled people all over the UK.
I wanted to look into this in a little more detail and today I’m going to give you the first part of the information I have. I contacted CVT for their side of the story and got it. Normally I would link to the original article at this point, but because it’s print only I’m having to run a screenshot, sorry everyone.
Private Eye’s Article
The CVT response (with Joe’s occasional remarks)
Statement from Huw John, Chief Executive of Camphill Village Trust:
Why the change?
“Employment status is not a matter of choice for CVT, it is to ensure the charity is compliant with the law.
CVT sought new legal and tax advice on the employment status of co-workers following repeated formal concerns from our auditors that a historic tax agreement with HMRC was out of date, coupled with Charity Commission concerns about co-worker remuneration. Following expert legal opinion, it was clear that the current co-worker model needed to change.
Whilst we are now required to have employment contracts with our co-workers, our commitment to the care and support we offer to our beneficiaries will remain unaffected; none of our communities – including Botton – are under any threat of closure and we are actively investing in their futures with a range of exciting new projects. Our ethos will remain strong. The people we support are – and always must be – at the heart of every decision we take.
We understand some of the concerns that have been raised in relation to this decision, but the changes do not mean the end of CVT, or our unique communities. Botton has always been a very special place and we confident it will continue to be so.”
The problem with this sort of thing is that it mildly conflates several issues. While researching this post I took the opportunity to speak to family members of Camphill residents (not ones provided by campaigners I should say, I have my own contacts and I don’t think that I’ve forgotten how to do research) and a couple of people who knew how the systems worked. It’s clear that there the model definitely has to change. The Camphill model isn’t really one that sits well in the atmosphere of the 90s let alone 2014 – and that’s just at the level of things like paperwork; risk assessments; and safeguarding. Not to mention big problems in funding following the last few years of change.
However that’s only one of the issues. Let’s be clear, the two things are:
- That change is happening
- That you are being an arse about how change is happening. (The words were ‘bullying and dirty tricks’)
The campaigners are furious about both, many observers accept (1), depending on how much the trust the process and think that (2) is the thing that stops them trusting one. The text above is just saying that (1) needs to happen. Sigh.
“With the changes being made by CVT, shared living will still be available for those individuals and communities it is appropriate for.
For those that shared living is appropriate for, there will be self-contained accommodation for co-workers within the household, enabling there to be greater clarity on working hours for each employee as instructed by the Charity Commissions requirements.”
I’d like some numbers on this. CVT will have an estimate somewhere and it would be helpful if they had written “For those that shared living is appropriate for (we estimate 40% of the current residents), there will be“. That’s largely me being picky though…
“Safeguarding policies have not been ‘misused’ by CVT in any way. We report matters that may be safeguarding to local authorities in accordance with the local multi-agency safeguarding policy.
We may suspend a member of staff in that context and for co-workers that may involve asking them to move to alternative accommodation for a period to protect both the co-worker from further complaints and to protect those adults with learning disabilities living in the same household.
Once the local authority has given us permission to proceed we investigate and, if appropriate, follow our disciplinary procedures.
We are unable to discuss any situation relating to an individual, save to confirm Mr Barber was suspended following a complaint that was raised with the local authority as a safeguarding alert and the charity will now be investigating. The nature of the complaint is such that there is no reason to be concerned about his teaching or parenting activities.
As a separate matter, the charity is having to recognise that co-workers need to become employed. We can confirm Mr Barber works as a class teacher for a separate charity. CVT cannot offer him employment to work elsewhere and attempts to reach an amicable solution with him about a future role and accommodation in the charity have to date been unsuccessful and he has been given two months’ notice to leave.
Other co-workers have not been asked to leave. If co-workers decide they do not want an employed role, or to work under a more conventional volunteer arrangement with a more subsistence level of benefit, then charity ultimately will not be able to continue to provide them with indefinite free accommodation and financial support. To do so would be an irresponsible use of charitable funds.
It remains our hope that co-workers will choose to engage with the necessary change process and any issues of concern can be worked through with each co-worker family, ultimately resulting in them staying in Botton.”
Or “we cannot discuss this case except to put our case across.” The problem that CVT has that if you are going to do a response, you really do need to refute the *nasty* accusations against you, not just the easy ones. So, I for one, want to know what happened with the £65,000 costs claimed (to be fair, the counter figure of £15,000 sounds low to me as well – I invite either side to show me the paperwork. Numbers are pretty easy things to look at.
“No-one has been told they will be ‘evicted’ from Botton if they do not accept new contracts and no-one has faced a ‘fast-track’ eviction. We have made it clear since the start of this process that continuing as co-workers is no longer an option at CVT. If co-workers decide that they do not want an employed role, or to work under a more conventional volunteer arrangement, the charity cannot continue to provide them with indefinite free accommodation and financial support. To do so would be an irresponsible use of charitable funds.
It remains our hope that co-workers will choose to engage with the necessary change process and any issues of concern can be worked through with each co-worker family, ultimately resulting in them staying in Botton.
This sort of thing really annoys me because it’s just playing with words. “We didn’t tell anyone that they word be evicted using that word, we just told them that they wouldn’t be able to live there.” in a similar vein to “I didn’t kill him, I just stabbed him until his heart stopped beating”.
Release of Documents
CVT sent me these documents, which was very nice of them. They are the letters they received from HMRC about TAX and business practices.
HMRC Letter 1
HRMC Letter 2
I like this – I like that the are refuting Private Eye’s suggestion by just releasing documents in a transparent way. And those documents are a fairly solid endorsement of the need for change. But the problem is that it’s not that many of us watching think that change is bad. It’s that if you keep screwing it up we’ll presume that you are probably going in the wrong direction.
(This got cut from the top of the blog, but I think it’s worth putting in as a general apology for the fact that this post is pretty unreadable for people using screen readers.)
Unfortunately I couldn’t think of a better way of doing it without breaking copyright in a fairly serious way… Because Private Eye lacks an online edition it’s quite difficult to feed their text into a screenreader for example or convert it to audio.
Or so I thought…
It turns out that the guys at the RNiB offer a service that provides Private Eye as one of their talking newspapers. How very excellent, I’m pretty impressed.