Camphill Under Scrutiny

Jim alerted me to a story in the Guardian today about the Camphill Community at Botton in Yorkshire where trouble is brewing as a result of changes being made to how the Communities are run.

These Communites, providing care for people with learning disabilities, present themselves as “Christian” in ethos but they are in fact anthroposophical, based entirely on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, and specifically the view that those with learning difficulties are not properly incarnated as a result of karma. One of the co-workers says; “It’s based in Christianity…There is a massive philosophy behind it”.

They have traditionally operated using unpaid co-workers who in return for their work are provided with board and lodging and other benefits funded by the charity. This system has its problems as a commenter mentioned here, with a lack of transparency in decisions about who should have free holidays and clothing.

According to the Guardian, following “a series of reports that raised concerns about the quality of care the communities provide for learning disabled residents” The Camphill Village trust (CVT) now requires it’s co-workers become paid members of staff with contracts.

Significant numbers of longstanding co-workers have left as they object to the changes, and one is quoted as saying Camphill was a social experiment, not just a place for looking after people with special needs.

One of the criticisms in a report on Botton was that “residents were given insufficient opportunity to exercise personal choice”. Personal choice does not feature much in anthroposophical organisations, as we have seen. People are expected to fall in with the particular requirements of Steiner doctrine; clothing, food, medicine, past-times –these are all viewed as ways to follow the creed, and life can be uncomfortable for those who do not comply.

There is a split between those who wish to stick to the traditional methods and those who wish to make changes in order to survive.

The “Action for Botton” leader is quoted as saying the battle is critical, and those fighting the changes believe they will lead to the dissolution of the community. Perhaps this particular “social experiment” has had its day.

MarkH posted a link to a tv documentary about Botton in comments here. It is worth watching, as it gives an idea of daily life at the isolated community.

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4 comments

  1. Helen

    Another criticism in the report on Camphill was “inadequacy of record keeping” – sounds familiar after all I have found out about Steiner institutions.

  2. Helen

    The report on the matter by the NNA (News Network Anthroposophy) is interesting.
    http://www.nna-news.org/news/article/care-quality-commission-identifies-failings-at-botton-camphill-community-820/
    It says Huw John Chief Exec of the CVT is not best pleased by the campaign to make Botton exempt from normal regulations. The report says
    “The Campaign for Real Care has accused the CQC of putting Botton under threat “from a regulatory system that does not properly understand its ethos, values or purpose”. (It is collecting signatures for a petition).
    Mr John says the campaign is misguided and could be deeply damaging. He wants to make Botton “fully compliant”
    He’s in a tight spot isn’t he? The reason the CQC is described by the campaigners as “a regulatory system that does not properly understand its [Camphill] ethos, values or purpose” is because nobody has explained anthroposophy to them.
    It is rather difficult to explain away the karmic beliefs – that’s probably why no-one has tried.
    The people who run Botton don’t want to be fully compliant as this would mean ditching the anthroposophy – precisely what the teachers at Aberdeen Waldorf (Steiner) school refused to do before it closed.

  3. Rain17

    Hmph.

    But areas in which the CQC expressed its concerns included consent to care and treatment, where the Commission judged that “People who use the service are not enabled to make decisions about their own care and support and are not confident that their human rights are respected and taken in to account.”

    Another area where there was found to be a lack of understanding was the issue of safeguarding from abuse and respect of human rights, where the Commission found that “Staff are not sufficiently aware of potential abuse issues or protection processes to provide the necessary support to ensure people’s safety.”

    A report that yet more Steinerites don’t afford basic human rights and personal autonomy to others..imagine my shock.

  4. Helen

    “Botton was founded with the best intentions, but it became corrupt – run by volunteers in their own interests regardless of the impact on the people who should benefit most from it. The “atmosphere of fear and distrust” is being created by people protecting their own very substantial privileges.” – from one of the comments on a Whitby Gazette article
    http://www.whitbygazette.co.uk/news/local/fears-unique-community-spirit-of-botton-village-to-be-destroyed-1-6718478

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