TWO York couples whose daughters both have learning difficulties have spoken of their fears about proposed changes to a unique community where they live.

Andrew and Jean Faulkes, of Skipwith, and Sir Donald and Lady Gillian Barron, of Bishopthorpe, said their respective daughters, Stephanie, 34, and Felicity, 51, had lived happily in Botton on the North York Moors for many years.

They said they lived in homes with volunteer co-workers and went out to work in the village with a degree of independence but claimed the Malton-based Camphill Village Trust (CVT), which runs the village, was now wanting to make major changes which they feared would destroy its whole ethos and disrupt the daughter's lives.

The couples spoke out as a petition was handed in yesterday to 10 Downing Street by a party of learning disabled villagers, supported by their co-workers, who are members of Action for Botton, a group which is campaigning against the changes.

They said in their petition that they wanted to continue in shared living with co-workers and their children in Botton, and said there were growing fears that Trust managers were moving to evict co-worker families from their homes.

One of the villagers presenting the petition, Clare Burge, said: “I just wish that CVT would listen to us instead of just ignoring us all the time... I think it’s time now they just left us alone and let us get on with our lives."

But aTrust spokesman said it was clear from the petition that 'misinformation' continued to be spread by those opposed to the changes required to co-workers' employment status at Botton.

"It is extremely sad and worrying to see the people with learning disabilities we support becoming anxious and upset unnecessarily as a result of this," he said.

"The need for co-workers to be registered as employees does not mean shared living cannot continue.

'"Employed co-workers will be given a choice about where they live and will be able to continue to live in the community if they wish. Many will probably choose to live within households with people we support.

"They will be free to continue as now during their personal time to contribute to the social life of the household, their neighbours, and the community and eat and socialise together with people we support."

He added that HMRC had been clear that the co-worker arrangements at Botton could no longer continue. "To do so risks co-workers being seen to be avoiding tax, and the charity as a result incurring penalties," he said.

"Camphill Village Trust has no choice as to whether we implement these changes, but the co-workers do have a choice to become employees, or real volunteers and continue the life they and the people we support currently live."