An Open Letter to the Salvation Army
Dear Salvation Army
My name is Liz, I grew up in the Salvation Army – so did my dad and his dad, and my mum and her mum. I became a Junior Solider at 7, and a band member at 8. You taught me how to play the trombone, and to speak out about what I believe in.
Although the Salvation Army is no longer part of my weekly life (we part ways over a few issues and reconciliation seems unlikely for me), I still feel a connection to the organization. Despite condemning your homophobic actions around Section 28, I have always felt proud to have a link to the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army is my single biggest connection to my wider family history; I have an uncle who is a minister, and frankly there are more Salvationists than non-Salvationists in my family by a long way.
I felt proud to be part of a church that takes Christianity seriously and actively through service – I also felt proud to be part of an organisation in which women have always had a more equal footing than in other churches. Most of all I felt proud to be part of an organisation which worked to help the poor, and indeed was set up for that very purpose.
It is in that spirit that I am writing this open letter, to share my disappointment in your continued involvement in the government’s work programme. I am asking you to reconsider and withdraw your support for this government scheme, which degrades workers and the unemployed alike.
The work programme promises ‘work experience’ for those out of work for long periods, which seems like offering a helping hand. The reality is that if people do not wish to comply with the programme they can lose the meagre amount of money that they have to live on. There is very little evidence that the scheme helps people into work – in fact it is likely that the work experience positions are replacing paid jobs in the retail sector. I understand that Salvation Army charity shops are run by volunteers, so any work experience placements you accept are unlikely to replace paid work; however, by supporting the scheme you give it credibility. By supporting this scheme you support a government who would make someone homeless for their refusal to work for free, a government threatening to withdraw housing support for young adults. In my view this goes fundamentally against the mission of The Salvation Army.
My experience of this scheme is also personal, my partner is unemployed and has been for a long time. He has in the past been forced to volunteer in a different charity shop, an experience that was profoundly negative, damaging his self-esteem and addressing none of the barriers he faces to get into work. He is not a ‘job snob’, he is applying for hotel porter jobs despite being educated to degree level. The fact of the matter is that in some areas there are up to 35 people for each job vacancy.
I have always respected the Salvation Army as having a practical approach, but if there are no jobs, then why place the blame on the unemployed? Why spend time giving them skills in retail, when there is a scarcity of full time retail jobs? My partner is now in the unfortunate position of being forced into more of this ‘work experience’, with Salvation Army Charity shops as one of the possible places he could end up working against his will. I am not against work experience, or offering support to the jobless – but all work experience should be voluntary, supported and properly remunerated.
I am asking you to consider the work programme from a Christian perspective, and ask your self what Jesus’ approach might be in this situation. Would Jesus support people like Emma Harrison, founder of A4E, an organisation that forces the unemployed to volunteer in your shops? Would he be happy that she earns millions of pounds from forcing others to work for free?
Would Jesus support a government of millionaires who bail out bankers whilst blaming the unemployed for a crisis created by the greed of the wealthy?
I grew up learning that Jesus evicted market sellers from the temple, and went against the leaders and profiteers of his day. Through your involvement in this scheme you are propping up the market sellers, and supporting the profiteers who Jesus forcefully removed.
I am calling on you to follow the lead of other charities like Oxfam and withdraw from this scheme.
I would ask that others, in particular Christians and Salvation Army members consider the issue and write their own letters.
Former Junior Solider, Singing Company and YP band member Castleford Corps – 1986 -2002ish
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I only found this website by accident. I was actually looking for a number to call to arrange a pick up for quite a large amount of items I wish to donate. Having read the comments on here I am really shocked. I always thought the Salvation Army were genuine and straightforward in their wish to help the needy. I am disgusted to learn that they are willing participants in this form of slave labour which is what it amounts to.
Well done liz Ely for bringing this out in the open.
I shall now be looking for somewhere else for my donations.
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I used to work for the Salvation Army as a volunteer van driver in the early nineties.
I once was proud to be apart of such a good community.
But to see it joined to IDS attack on the poor is indeed awful.I no longer donate to the Salvation Army charity shops,nor buy Warcry etc.William Booth would not be proud of the direction the Army has taken.
I totally abhor the sham of forcing people to perform ‘voluntary’ work under threat of having social financial benefits withdrawn. I also totally abhor those hypocritical organisations that play on the misery of such a scheme.
I can understand that some commercial organisations would take advantage of such schemes; they follow modern trends of using any means to cut costs and increase private profits in the short term. The financial advantage goes to the shareholders.
Whilst understanding it, I cannot agree with it either morally or as commercially valuable in the long term. It smacks too much of ripping off the customer by any means possible whilst ignoring wider social involvement and responsibilities.
For many people in the UK there has been a long-time unquestioned acceptance that government serves the people first and foremost.
My understanding is that insurance is a means by which an individual (or legal entity) may lay-off or share the risk of the effects of an undesired event. We have house insurance in case our home burns down or floods etc. We have car insurance so that the financial effects of a car accident, fire or theft may be settled.
The idea of insurance is that a customer or client pays a premium, and the insurer (receiving the premiums) is able to settle the total cost of all reparations or other claims from the fund collected.
In the case of the UK National Insurance scheme, employers, employees and the self-employed make national insurance payments to the government to cover the risk of unemployment, illness and disability. The government then has the responsibility to make payments of benefits when someone becomes unemployed, ill or disabled.
It now seems pretty apparent that this particular government is doing whatever it can to both abrogate government payment responsibilities whilst simultaneously helping commercial organisations and their shareholders.
I believe that this blatant act of a government openly and deliberately failing its population, and openly attacking the most vulnerable in society is an increasing trend.
It highlights a government that believes the people serve the government. In short, you are there to do only what they ‘let’ you do, and specifically, what they ‘tell’ you to do.
I suspect that the people will not accept such treatment forever. Disagreement between government and population will escalate. Some will bury their head in the sand until such a time that it affects them personally. (It will be too late for them).
It will of course end, eventually, but it won’t be pleasant.
The pertinent question is not whether you are on the side of the government or on the side of the population.
The pertinent question is not even what you are personally prepared to do about it.
The pertinant question is whether you will do whatever it takes to make the other side back down.
And what about the other side?
And at the same time as the above I’m only receiving Half my rent since this government changed the rules, I’m 32 and you must now be 35, so as well as being pushed into forced labour I am being made homeless at the same time, youve gotta love the con-dem party, heartless beeps.
I can confirm that Salvation Army are using forced labour, i received a letter today stating i must work for them 40 hours a week, I have not signed on before in my 32 years on this planet and was proud of that but I lost my job. I was told I had to do mandatory work or loose my benefits, I told them what I thought about that and was told I have no choice or will loose bennefits, it states in the literature that the job doesn’t need to be to do with my career, it is purely to make me be on time, work under supervision, hold down the job. If I fail to meet any of those criteria I will loose my bennefits…. While doing this month of work I will be classed by the government as employed which massages their employment figures as looks like they are reducing employment, I still have to sighn on though, even though though I am working 9 – 430 I am to make up that time, I’m assuming by working Saturdays as no time left in the week. I am very angry, I feel used and people are getting paid to use me, there is no job at the end and this will not add to my job prospects, oh and I’m still expected to spend the rest of the time job searching. Angry in fact is an understatement.
I sincerely hope the Salvation Army’s hierarchy sits up and pays attention to the above Open Letter, which is a tour-de-force of clear-sighted, righteous common sense.
I am currently long-term unemployed myself and therefore wholly accountable to a Work Programme provider. My advisor makes my life a complete misery, in spite of the fact that (a) I apply (and always have applied) for masses of jobs, and (b) I work three full days each week unpaid as an administrator with a local charity (which I was already doing prior to being on the Work Programme, because it’s a sensible thing to do if you wish to find a paid job).
Regardless of what they may tell themselves, the reality is that the people who work for Work Programme contractors are entirely morally bankrupt – because they have no qualms whatever about the fact that their job consists of bullying harmless unemployed people purely in return for a pay packet. Anyone with a properly-developed conscience would simply be incapable of doing such a job.
When I discovered that the Salvation Army (whom I’ve long admired for their work with the poor and downtrodden) had become a Work Programme contractor, all respect I had for them evaporated at a stroke. What kind of naive halfwits would imagine that the Work Programme (with its Draconian powers to cut off means-tested Benefits for up to three years) could possibly represent anything other than a manifestation of the very nastiest type of governmental “Throw them to the wolves” attitude?
If the Salvation Army had the first clue what the Work Programme was truly all about (viz. brutally cutting weekly government spending by whatever ruthless means that can be used to accomplish it), they would be publicly protesting against it, not lending it their strength and actively helping to shore up a merciless and utterly amoral agenda.
All one can hope is that the scales will fall from the eyes of the Salvation Army’s top brass and that they’ll withdraw their support in a calculatedly high-profile way, castigating the government in full view of the British media.
The thinking behind the Work Programme is base and vicious in the extreme – and the Salvation Army would do well to stand back from the scheme right now or risk being permanently tainted in the eyes of that very sector of society which it’s foolishly, pathetically imagining it’s trying to help.
I’m a decent, fair-minded, principled human being – and as such, I don’t deserve to be treated like garbage by morally-immature ‘advisors’ let loose by the government with the power to destroy the lives of poor people at will. In fact, nobody at all, anywhere in the world, deserves to be treated like that.
If the Salvation Army wishes to attempt to salvage what remains of its tattered reputation, it should withdraw its involvement with the Work Programme immediately. There can be no half measures.
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“A worker deserves her/his wages.” (Luke 10.7)
That some people choose to forgo a wage for work does not justify employers refusing to pay, nor (especially) governments requiring it.
You can note me down as another Christian who thinks that volunteering ought to be, well, voluntary.
I am truly disappointed to find that the Salvation Army is participating in the “workfare” scheme. If there are jobs to be done, then they should be paid, and with real wages right from the start.
I am a devout and active Christian. I take my faith very seriously.
Good letter. It really seems kind of shady, this scheme. One always has to be careful when it comes to “get-more-experience” kind of jobs. You might be taken advantage of. I hope your boyfriend gets a job soon.
What a good letter, thank you for writing it. As a Christian I find it utterly abhorrent that the Salvation Army use workfare people: forced labour is never acceptable under any circumstance.