People with an intellectual disability living in an intentional community

M Randell, Stuart Cumella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


Background Hospital closure programmes in England have generally sought to attain a fulfilling life for people with an intellectual disability by locating them in domestic-style housing in urban settings. Few have been placed in intentional or 'village' communities. Yet comparative studies of different housing types have found that intentional communities have better or similar outcomes for their residents than dispersed housing or residential clusters on former hospital sites. A possible explanation is the distinctive pattern of social relationships that exist in many intentional communities and the impact this has on the lives of their residents. This paper reports the results of research that explores the perceptions of people with an ID living in an intentional community and the meaning of their community to them. Methods The research used an ethnographic approach to interview a sample of 15 residents in a large intentional community (Botton Village), which is part of the Camphill Movement. Interviews used Makaton, pictures and symbols where required. Results Respondents included 10 men and 5 women aged between 38 and 78 years. Length of residence in Botton Village ranged from 5 to 50 years. All lived with the families of co-workers and valued these relationships. All but one (who had retired) worked in a diverse range of employment in the village. Almost all were positive about their work. Respondents reported that they took part in both individual and communal leisure activities and all but two had a network of friends. Opportunities for friendship were enhanced by proximity to other people with an ID and a sense of personal security in the village. As in many villages and communities in society in general, these advantages were balanced by some loss of privacy. Conclusions Results confirm those from earlier studies of intentional communities and suggest that positive outcomes derive from the absence of the overt subordination of residents to staff, the facilitation of friendship with other people with an ID, high levels of meaningful employment and a sense of community. These factors contrast with the experience of living in small homes funded on a contractual basis by public authorities, in which cost pressures reduce wage levels for staff resulting in difficulties in retaining suitable staff and a consequent high staff turnover.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)716-726
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Intellectual Disability Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2009


  • village communities
  • intentional communities
  • Camphill Movement
  • intellectual disability
  • ethnography


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