LAWYERS stepped in after residents of a community for people with learning disabilities were told they would not be permitted to take part in a peaceful protest over proposed changes to their way of life.
Camphill Village Trust, which runs Botton Village community, based in Danby Dale on the North York Moors, says a Charity Commission report this year advised the organisation to make changes to the way the volunteer co-workers have been financially supported and managed for 60 years.
It also said it had received tax advice which led to it proposing to make co-workers employees.
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Campaigners fear the trust is ending the core principle of “life-sharing” in which workers and residents live together in family-like settings.
Campaign group, Action for Botton, held a candlelit vigil in protest to the plans on Sunday evening – but it almost did not go ahead because Camphill Village Trust (CVT) told residents and their co-workers they did not have permission because residents had not undergone a ‘capacity assessment.’
The service at Danby Church began after North Yorkshire County Council lawyers confirmed that the trust had no right to prevent it taking place.
Kay Clark, press officer for Action for Botton, said co-workers had felt threatened by a letter sent out by CVT Botton general manger David Knowles.
She said: “CVT is saying residents can’t continue with their safe and happy way of life because of tax reasons.”
The letter from Mr Knowles read: “I understand from Action for Botton that some of you are organising a candlelit vigil - permission is not being given for the vigil to take place within Botton Village.
“We are required as the provider to ensure that participation in such future events and activities does not take place without a suitable capacity assessment.
“All those working in Botton should not take any steps to promote such events like this proposed vigil.
“Should anyone we support nonetheless express an interest in the vigil or any other similar events in the future then I should be informed immediately and appropriate arrangements will be made for capacity to be assessed.”
Law firm, Bindmans Solicitors, confirmed to Action for Botton that any resident wanting to attend the vigil should not be prevented from doing so.
A spokesman from North Yorkshire County Council said: “The county council is aware that the management changes proposed by the Camphill Village Trust have aroused some controversy.
“The council takes an impartial view of the matter. Our position is wholly determined by the performance of our statutory duty to ensure that the residents of Botton receive care which is both appropriate, and of a high standard.”
The Northern Echo contacted CVT, but was told it would not be able to make a comment at this time.