County council discusses Botton issue

The Botton Village debate comes to Scarborough. James Fearnley, centre, outside a North Yorkshire County County meeting at Falsgrave Community Centre with Action for Botton campaigners
The Botton Village debate comes to Scarborough. James Fearnley, centre, outside a North Yorkshire County County meeting at Falsgrave Community Centre with Action for Botton campaigners

The ongoing issues at Botton Village were on the agenda as North Yorkshire County Council’s Yorkshire Coast and Moors Area Committee met in Scarborough this week.

The matter of Botton, where residents are objecting to proposed changes by Camphill Village Trust (CVT) to accomodation and employment arrangements, were discussed after NYCC received a petition signed by over 1200 local residents from campaign group Action for Botton.

The petition called for a report into the health and well-being of the residents in relation to the impending eviction of the vocational volunteer co-worker carers from their communities by CVT, the charity which operates Botton.

Representatives from Action for Botton and co-workers from the village attended the meeting at Falsgrave Community Centre along with interested members of the public.

NYCC’s assistant directors for Adult Social Care Operations Anne Marie Lubanski and Mike Webster were also invited from council headquarters to answer the questions from concerned community members.

Pam Reeves, chair of Danby Parish Council and borough councillor Herbert Tindall, who lives in Danby, along with a dozen county councillors heard the concerns of the group and the answers from the officials.

It was recommended that the matter be referred to NYCC’s Care Committee for hearing at its next meeting on April 24.

The county council re-emphasised that it takes a neutral stance in the dispute concerning the status of co-workers and staff at Botton.

A spokesman for NYCC said: “The council, which spends some £1.2m a year funding the placement of 70 people at Botton, believes that the continuing dispute involving CVT, some co-workers, and Action for Botton, is inevitably having an adverse impact upon the Botton community, and upon the wellbeing of the residents.

“The dispute is currently the subject of legal proceedings in the High Court. Last week, in a move designed to allow the county council to retain access to evidence and documents associated with parts of those proceedings, the council was obliged to adopt the legal status of ‘defendant’.

“We urge all parties in the dispute to work together to resolve their differences and to ensure that the wellbeing of the residents of Botton is their paramount consideration.”

CVT were not in attendace at the meeting. The charity’s chief executive, Huw John, said that they had not received sufficient notice to allow them to send a representative.

He added: “It was unfortunate that the arrangements by which we could contribute were only confirmed by email to our office the night before the meeting.”

The trust instead submitted a written statement to the committee summarising their position.

Mr John told the Whitby Gazette that CVT firmly believe that the individuals they support should have a say about who provides their care and where they live.

“They must be able to do this without undue influence from either side in this debate,” he continued.

“The correct process to achieve this is through independent reviews conducted by North Yorkshire County Council and we will continue to work with them to establish this process.”

Responding to Mr John’s comments, Neil Davidson, chairman of Action for Botton said that for the last nine months, the group has been calling for comprehensive and proper risk assessments to be conducted for each and every learning disabled resident of Botton to help ascertain their needs, choices and wishes before any changes are made.

“We are very concerned that decisions have been made without first assessing what the impact will be,” Mr Davidson added.

“So far as we can ascertain, and, as the families confirm, the effects of CVTs actions has been very negative.

“The residents themselves have made their feelings known by producing their own petition which expressly stated that they wanted to stay with their co-worker families. Their wishes are clear.

“We once again ask that proper assessments are started as soon as possible to make quite sure that what is being done is really in the interests of the learning disabled and not for the convenience of the charity or to meet the preferences of the management and trustees.”