Residents of a volunteer community where able and disabled people work side by side have complained to police about alleged harassment, bullying and mismanagement from the charity which supports them.
North Yorkshire Police has confirmed it has received complaints about the management of Botton Village, a community of 280 people in Danby Dale including around 150 residents with learning disabilities.
The allegations follow months of conflict within the UK’s nine “Camphill communities” managed by the Camphill Village Trust. They are designed to allow unpaid volunteers, known as co-workers, to support residents in a family setting. The community members live in shared houses and all living costs are covered by the charity.
But following allegations of irregular bookkeeping and investigations into the safety of vulnerable adults at some sites, the Camphill Village Trust – one of the UK’s largest charities by donor income – has now axed the traditional co-worker model.
It is introducing paid shift staff who are no longer allowed to share accommodation with residents. Villagers and relatives of residents say their unique ethos has been lost and the charity has used force and aggression to impose its will on lifelong volunteers.
Allegations against the charity include harassment, misuse of safeguarding legislation and the Mental Capacity Act, and breach of charity law.
One co-worker, who has been involved in the movement since the 1970s, wrote to police reporting an “endemic culture of threats and harassment emanating from the senior management team”.
He reported “misleading and patronising” letters sent out to disabled residents at Botton, which he argued breached regulations set out in the Mental Capacity Act.
Co-workers who spoke to residents about changes to their care were warned “they will be disciplined and could lose their family homes”, he said, reporting “aggressive and threatening behaviour” from managers.
A resident also told police: “It feels like we are being spied [on]… I am so worried I just don’t know what to do. Please help me or find someone else that can help me stop the bullying.”
The charity insists that all changes are required by modern social-care standards to ensure that residents are properly supported. It denies allegations of harassment and said it had not been informed of a police investigation.
“We have faced a barrage of such allegations and accusations in recent months, which we believe are an orchestrated attempt to resist the changes that are necessary to ensure we are legally compliant from a regulatory tax and employment-law basis,” a spokesperson said.