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Peter Bateson

Peter Bateson 2018-02-12 00:00:00

Choosing a Life Worth Living

People living with a learning disability or mental health issue in a Camphill community see themselves as co-participants and co-responsible members of the community in which they live and work. 

It is not meant to be a one-way street, with care and support being provided by the service provider and consumed by the service user. As one day-activity worker in a community in Ireland recently put it in an interview on the Camphill Foundation website, "there used to be a stigma attached to people with special needs, but now we are all on an even keel - we are all equals" He also referred to being surrounded by and involved with people who are "full of love, and care and respect". A colleague of his working in the same community and also interviewed on the website, referred to the fact that "we really bond and show each other that we really care".

Anyone who has ever lived and worked in a Camphill community knows well that care, support, education and guidance are by no means a one-way process. Whether it be as a teacher or carer for young children with special needs or as a fellow community member with adults with disabilities, the overwhelming truth is that the ‘pupil/student/client/service user/companion, resident etc.\\\' is often the one who does the teaching, ultimately gives the guidance and certainly the insight, offers unconditional interest, care and support and makes a profound difference to other people\\\'s lives.

In the mainstream social care sector this element of mutuality is ignored. There is a clear distinction between service provider and service user or ‘client\\\' and professional boundaries are fixed which must never be crossed. Whether or not the person with a disability is capable of giving something back, of giving something to the world, is not seriously addressed.

The consequence of this can be that people with a learning disability can fulfill the basic necessities of daily life and, if they are lucky, enjoy a few social connections, but otherwise lead a largely aimless and pointless existence.

Camphill communities and similar intentional communities exist as options where people with a learning disability can choose a life that is worth living. They are able to demonstrate this choice quite clearly in their whole-hearted commitment and often to articulate it quite eloquently for those who have ears to hear. Unfortunately, nowadays, despite the slogans of person-centred planning and choice, freedom and control, the individual\\\'s potential to live life as a more fully-rounded and accomplished human being is not suffciently recognised. There is still some way to go until vulnerable people have a real voice in matters which deeply concern and affect both themselves and others with whom they share their lives. 

A particular aim of Camphill Foundation UK & Ireland is to foster greater general recognition of the astonishing talents and skills which people with disabilities can develop, given the right opportunities, and of the great contribution they can make to community life, also through their creative and social skills. They can be fully engaged, talented and co-responsible community members carrying out real, important and meaningful work which is not only fulfilling for them but also of great value to others.

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