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British Government "Facing Both Ways" On 'Village Communities', Advocates Claim
March 31, 2004

NORTH YORK MOORS, ENGLAND--There are around 3,000 people with learning (intellectual) disabilities living in 73 "village communities" across Great Britain, according to a story in Wednesday's Guardian Unlimited.

These living situations have many of the trappings of true villages: farms, bakeries, coffee houses, churches, and theaters. Residents live in "family" cottages, with paid staff members, and labor on farms or in workshops -- with no pay for their work. Most are secluded and separated from the rest of the local community.

Those who support such programs claim that segregated living benefits people with learning disabilities.

"Why shouldn't village communities like ours be used as a model for future provisions?" said Nick Poole, a 30-year resident of Botton Village, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year.

"People with learning disabilities have an enormous contribution to make, socially and humanly," Poole told the Guardian. "But in a competitive, intellectual climate they are disadvantaged. We are trying to create a way of life that does justice to their humanity."

Advocates for community living claim that these "villages" are not unlike institutions, and that they oppress people by not giving them true choice and independence, and by not helping them to be included in society at large.

One leader in the movement to close these programs and move people into the general community is Andy Rickell, director of the British Council of Disabled People (BCODP).

"I see no place for village communities, and I would like to see them closed down," Rickell explained. "Long term, I don't think they help anybody. They are acknowledging that the rest of society doesn't yet include people with learning difficulties. But instead of challenging this, they are accepting it and going elsewhere, so as not to bother anybody."

"They undermine the steps we have taken to achieve greater acceptance of disabled people," Rickell added. "Anything like this is grist to the mill for people who want to deny the right of disabled people to be included. That's the danger."

The government appears reluctant to choose sides on the debate, and continues to provide funding for villages and community-based programs alike.

Related article:
"Fringe benefits" (Guardian Unlimited),7843,1181045,00.html


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