The Salvation Army hit a new low today after singling out critics on twitter and accusing them of being ‘offensive’ for referring to their workfare programmes as forced labour.
The Salvation Army are one of the UK’s largest advocates for unpaid work – not just condemning people to forced labour in their charity shops but also bidding for lucrative government contracts to manage workfare schemes. Those who refuse, or are unable to attend workfare face having benefits sanctioned – meaning stopped completely in most cases – for up to three years.This grotesque exploitation from a so-called charity has led to hundreds of people to contact them on twitter @salvationarmyuk and their facebook page to vent their disgust at this abuse of unemployed, sick or disabled benefit claimants.
Today the organisation fought back and ranted at their critics: “It is offensive that you would refer to volunteering and work experience as ‘Forced Labour’ since The Salvation Army helps support victims of Human Trafficking who go through harrowing and unimaginable ordeals.”
This crass attempt to use the very real suffering involved in Human Trafficking to try and silence any criticism of other forms of forced labour is contemptible. It does not in any way undermine the victims of trafficking to point out the harrowing consequences that benefit sanctions inflict on people. A recent report from Citizens Advice told tragic stories of people attempting suicide, or having to go through bins to find food due to benefits being sanctioned. The report also echoed the findings from an earlier report by Homeless Link which warned that people are being made homeless because of sanctions. Some of those newly homeless people may have been sanctioned because they didn’t work in a Salvation Army charity shop.
Just because Human Trafficking is worse than workfare does not make workfare acceptable. The Salvation Army are complicit in causing some of the most desperate poverty in the UK and have made millions out of the current vicious benefit sanctioning regime. The fact that they might have helped a few victims of trafficking doesn’t change a thing. What is truly offensive is that the Salvation Army can stoop to exploiting the misery of trafficked people to try and silence criticism of their own use of forced labour.
Above pic and a report of the Edinburgh protest can be found at: http://edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/node/120
This post exploring the under-examined psychological impact of the workfare regime is worth reading: http://medicalhumanities.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/whistle-while-you-work-for-nothing-positive-affect-as-coercive-strategy-the-case-of-workfare/
Apologies for lack of posts recently, things are likely to remain sporadic until the new year.
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