- This story was corrected on 22 April: see final paragraph
Three residents of Botton Village, a community for disabled people run by the charity the Camphill Village Trust, have again been refused permission for a judicial review of changes affecting their living and care arrangements.
Co-workers, the non-disabled carers who live alongside beneficiaries in some CVT communities in what are called "families", had previously been treated as unsalaried volunteers, but the charity has begun to treat them as employees.
A fact sheet on the CVT website says that employed co-workers "will be given a choice about where they live" and that many would be likely to choose to live within the same households as the people they care for. However, it says that co-workers’ accommodation would have to be "self-contained, with its own front door, kitchen, bathroom and living space". The website of the campaign group Action for Botton says the charity is seeking to remove beneficiaries from their families.
One of the documents submitted to the High Court said the three learning-disabled residents seeking judicial review "fear that their alternative family lives will be seriously disrupted, and that the decision-making by the defendant has taken no proper consideration of how their lives will be affected".
The application to the High Court by the three claimed that the actions of the charity breached their right to a private and family life under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act.
Their initial application was dismissed on consideration of the papers on 27 March, after which the three residents asked for reconsideration. After a High Court hearing on 15 April, this was rejected.
A spokeswoman for the three residents said the claimants were disappointed, but were applying for legal aid to bring an appeal against the decision at the Court of Appeal.
She said: "It is a great pity that our community has had to endure months of stress and uncertainty as we have fought to preserve the ideal of a non-segregational way of living that, we feel, Camphill Village Trust is determined to discard. We believe they have the right to a family life like any other citizen, and we will continue to campaign and appeal this decision and fight the apartheid being artificially imposed upon us".
Helen Tucker, a partner at Anthony Collins Solicitors, which represented the charity, said: "The charity is relieved that the court has recognised the long, careful process it has worked through to present various options to co-workers before seeking to introduce the current changes. The judge emphasised his hope that previous tensions would not stop the practical progression of the matter going forward. The charity shares that hope."
There are also two separate court cases involving CVT co-workers: the first is proceedings brought against the charity in the Chancery Division of the High Court by a group of 23 co-workers and parents of residents, who argue that CVT’s governing documents stipulate that some care workers must be co-workers in non-contractual relationships; the second is an employment tribunal in which a former co-worker is claiming unfair dismissal, saying that he had been treated as an employee. Both have been stayed.
In February 2014, the Charity Commission concluded an operational compliance case on the CVT, which found that benefits for co-workers included payments for schools fees, holidays and mobile phones. The commission told the trustees to introduce a clear policy on co-worker remuneration and ensure that at least half the board of trustees – who determine co-worker benefits – were not co-workers. The commission's report said the charity's trustees had made the necessary changes.
In February this year, a trustee who was a co-worker at the charity resigned, claiming that he was being excluded from the decision-making process.
- This story originally said that the application for a judicial review was being brought against the charity's decision that co-workers should become employees. It also gave an incorrect reason for the staying of the two other court cases, and did not add that the Charity Commission's February 2014 report said that the CVT had made the necessary changes.