Shake-up at Camphill

The interesting debate over the Camphill Community at Botton in Yorkshire is continuing in the Whitby gazette, with two articles. One is an expose of the expenses paid to co-workers and their families, and another looks at the issue from the point of view of the campaigners who object to the changes insisted upon by the Camphill Village Trust in order to comply with legislation.

The simple facts are that the Camphill Communities will have to change the arrangements for co-workers in order to continue to provide care for residents. Co-workers will become employees with contracts rather than volunteers with expenses, and as such will be more accountable. The campaigners claim the “unique community spirit”of Botton will be destroyed by the new arrangements, and that the residents currently live with “respect and equality” and that this cannot be found elsewhere.

This month’s Whitby Gazette article however, reveals some figures on the running of the charity;

“…the average cost to the charity for a co-worker at Botton, of which there are 34, stands at £32,000. The least amount is £15,000, while the highest paid co-worker receives over £60,000 each year.”

As several commenters on the article point out this is a considerable sum for a so-called volunteer, and many employees would be very happy to be on this kind of salary.

The majority of this money comes from the tax-payer, and according to the article, without donations and legacies the Community would run at a loss.

The way Camphill Communities operate has been largely under wraps and until very recently when a commenter here and the blogger at ineedmoretea spoke out about expenses, I was under the impression co-workers were unpaid with only occasional monies paid out for necessary expenses.

The documentary about Botton “The strangest village in Britain” – no longer available on youtube, showed the high standard of accommodation provided for houseparents and residents, and it did raise questions for me about the funding for these facilities.

The “equality” mentioned by the campaigners who wish to keep the status quo at Botton does not seem to extend to financial matters; the residents do unpaid work.

A couple of commenters on the article are curious about the fact that the charity pays for private education for the children of co-workers – why would this be when education is free, they ask? Well of course the families are anthroposophical and wish their children to be educated accordingly, at a Steiner school.

One commenter here told us that if the children are not achieving sufficiently at a Steiner school, the charity may pay for a few years at a private school to make up for the deficiencies.

The outcome of the shake-up at Camphill will be a loss of certain privileges for anthroposophical families, and no wonder they are angry. Their claims that residents will lose out do not seem to be born out in that good care is provided elsewhere by non-Steiner organisations, without the need for the controversial co-worker system.






  1. Linde Stillhope

    I can not understand who is saying this. Somebody who used to live in a Camphill place? Somebody who cares about money?! I do agree that things have to change in Camphill places, but I think care is a hard subject these days. Do you provide care because you need the money? Can you get paid for care? Is it alright to provide care out of money reasons? I do not believe so. What the people do in Camphill, is living together, living together as equals. You can not get paid for that. The main reason for camphill is give people a meaning full life, not as main reason care. Of course they do care for each other. They give personal care and help each other. On another level maybe, but they do help each other.
    There is a lot of money in Camphill, but there are lots of co-workers who want to live with less. It has been good working, and you have always the odd people in the village, who do get greedy of money and spend to much. We should focus on those cases, and not destroy a beautiful way of life. A meaningful way of life, a way of life which is stable and which needs to survive, especially these days. We are destroying the world as human beings, and just by going back to nature, going back to small communities I see a way of surviving. Not by being jealous of money, or living an individual fast life.

    • Helen

      Thanks for the comment, Linde and your points in favour of Camphill would be convincing if it were not for the fact that the underlying “philosophy” of the organisation, which is anthroposophy, is anything but beautiful.
      Steiner businesses always look beautiful on the outside, that is a large part of their appeal, and at first glance communities like Botton seem worthwhile and to have a beneficial effect. But on closer inspection there is so much to detest. If anthroposophy itself is not enough to repel you (and I guess it is not, since you seem to be in favour of preserving what you call a meaningful way of life) then what about the lack of freedom for the residents? You say they live as equals, but that is not true. It was clear from the Botton documentary, (which I am sure tried to present the best possible side of Camphill) that there is no equality there.
      The community is isolated, the residents work on a biodynamic farm for people who think Steiner’s take on agriculture has some mystical significance. Free labour of this kind is what keeps biodynamics going, but are the residents and their families informed of the practices of biodynamics before they move in? The residents are not anthroposophists and yet they are working to those aims.
      Camphill is a resource for ex-Steiner students and others drawn to anthroposophy who need somewhere to live out their spiritual fantasies in company with others of a similar persuasion.
      There are examples of businesses offering a similar environment without the background of anthroposophy as their foundation. These have no secret motive, no occult underpinnings, and function well.
      You hint that a few rotten apples are spoiling the barrel by being greedy, but don’t forget places in these communities are usually paid for with public money, and all these years there has been no transparency with how the money is spent. The reforms the chairman is trying to steer through the CVT are essential if the activities at Botton are to be accepted under the legislation, which is designed to protect residents.
      Your remarks about “destroying the world as human beings” is standard from Steiner supporters, who attempt to elevate the status of their own values by throwing scorn on everyone else. Yes, we need to consider the environment when we make our choices, but even Botton is not self-sufficient (judging by the amount of “white goods” on display in the houses) and a return to small communities is not going to solve the world’s problems, much as you would like it to.

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