VOLUNTEER carers living alongside learning disabled residents of a care village have been told they must either accept employment or leave the village.

Botton village, in Danby Dale, North Yorkshire, is a Camphill Village Trust-run community where residents and volunteer carers, known as co-workers, have lived and worked alongside each other for the last 60 years.

The trust has said due to HM Revenue and Customs rules, co-workers must either accept employment or move out of the village.

Last week, a group of residents and carers took part in a peaceful protest outside the offices of the trust, in Malton, and North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), in Northallerton, where they handed over petitions asking for the right to retain the status quo.

Volunteer cheese-maker at Botton, Eddie Thornton, 31, said despite the petition, around 40 co-workers had received notices to quit.

He said: “I resigned as an employee in November last year as I didn’t like the trust's plans to change the community – but I remained as a volunteer cheese-maker.

“Many of the co-workers don’t have a problem with the idea of becoming employees, if that’s what HM Revenue and Customs wants, but we do have a problem with working for Camphill Village Trust because it does not care about the ethos of the village.

“We intend to keep fighting the eviction notices – they came as a shock, but our resolve has been strengthened.”

A trust spokesman said the current co-worker arrangements would end on March 31 and other proposed options included a Shared Lives scheme, which matches carers to people who need support.

Carers with Shared Lives are vetted and recruited by the scheme and are registered with the government regulator.

He added: “In conjunction with NYCC, we will be undertaking reviews with all those with learning disabilities to ensure they are safe and supported - taking into account where people are living and who they want to live with.”

He said some co-workers in Botton had elected to become employees under the regulations laid out by HM Revenue and Customs and the Charity Commission, but others had rejected the offer.

He added: “Co-workers currently living with people with learning disabilities, and those with children, will continue to be allowed to live in Botton for the time being - but will no longer work for the charity.”