A WOMAN with Down’s syndrome who has lived within a family-style community since she was a child has made an impassioned plea to the charity that runs it to scrap proposed changes to its ethos.

Isabel Bennett-Henman, 27, has lived in Camphill communities – similar to Botton Village in Danby Dale – since she was nine, and said she has had some of the best years of her life living within a family unit with volunteer carers known as co-workers.

But what she loved most about the way of life is under threat due to proposals by Camphill Village Trust (CVT) to makes changes to the shared living, working and supporting ethos and to bring in paid shift workers instead.

Campaign group Action for Botton is fighting to save the North Yorkshire village from the proposed changes – and has pledged to do so with or without CVT.

The group is looking towards CVT villages in Scotland which have become independent and are successfully operating in the way Botton has been.

James Fearnley, a campaigner from Action for Botton, said the group is contacting people with understanding of Camphill principles to attend a conference to discuss Botton’s future.

He said: “It will bring together a body of informed and professional people who understand the values of Camphill – which Botton has been practising successfully for 60 years.

“We will try to work with the trust and talk about ways in which we can restore the principles of the trust.”

A CVT co-worker, who asked not to be named, said: “People become co-workers for the way of life – it is not a job.

“The way of life is forward-thinking, in terms of working and living together with learning disabled people."

Miss Bennett-Henman, who is not currently living in a CVT village, said: “I loved living with my co-workers.

“They make Camphill villages alive and safe – they have a lot of experience and keep us busy which is what makes it so good."

Huw John, CVT chief executive, said: “Some co-workers in Botton have wanted autonomy from the charity for some years and this has been considered by the trustees before and will now be considered again.

“However, to date the decision has always been that separation would not be in the best interests of the people supported in Botton.

“Two years ago, trustees agreed that it was in the best interests of the charity for two Scottish communities to leave CVT, given the operational difficulties for the charity of spanning the different regulatory and commissioning frameworks in England and Scotland.

“Despite the very public declaration of non-cooperation from some Botton co-workers, we are still endeavouring to engage with co-workers individually about the options available to them."

“There are co-workers and families working in partnership with the charity towards a positive future for Botton.”