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Poppy Project to close, funding going to missionaries instead


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In a clear signal of a return to Victorian values of the undeserving poor and salvation through faith, the Home Office is terminating its funding for the fabulous Poppy Project for trafficked women and instead awarding a contract to the Salvation Army, the evangelical Christian missionaries known mainly for their ability to blow trumpets at Christmas. At the same time, it seems the nature of the contract and the level of support for victims of trafficking is being reduced to a bare bones service without facilities for proper counselling.

The Guardian report this news is drawn from goes on to describe details of just one Poppy Project case which would never have come to light without the fantastic service provided by the project. Substantial compensation was awarded by the Home Office.

A quick visit to the Sally Army website is rather revealing. ‘Why does the Salvation Army do what it does?’ you may ask yourself. Helpfully, the answer is provided:

Mission statement

Called to be disciples of Jesus Christ, The Salvation Army United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland exists to save souls, grow saints, and serve suffering humanity.

Vision statement

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we will be a Spirit-filled, radical growing movement with a burning desire to lead people into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, actively serve the community, and fight for social justice.

Presumably the whole purpose of bidding for the contract was therefore to lead trafficking victims into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Major Anne Read is in charge of trafficking at the Salvation Army and is quoted as saying:

“Working with and on behalf of people who are trafficked has been part of The Salvation Army’s mission since it began but today the most vulnerable people in our world continue to be exploited and drawn into what is, effectively, modern-day slavery!  The Salvation Army wants not only to reduce human trafficking and to restore abused women but also to respond practically to the needs. It is a huge task but in God’s name, we are determined to succeed.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice has put out a press release:

“The immigration minister has said that the government is taking positive steps to ensure it remains a world leader in the fight against human trafficking.”

This is not exactly the first announcement from the Government which leaves women significantly worse off. Almost unbelievably, The Guardian quotes a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice as saying that part of the reason for awarding the contract to the Sally Army was because they were offering to broaden the service to include male victims of trafficking. There undoubtedly are male victims of trafficking — mainly forced or indentured labour — and they get very little attention, but that is not a reason to divert and dilute the funding that was previously provided for female victims of sexual trafficking and exploitation, award it to Christian missionaries and thereby destroy the skill base built up by the Poppy Project over the last few years.

I have no doubt that trafficking victims will suffer as a consequence.

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The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.


20 Responses

  1. I am also extremely disappointed that the Poppy Project have lost their contract but being Christian does not necessarily mean that the Salvation Army can’t also be effective. It is possible that some of the Poppy Poppy staff may also be Christians.

  2. this isnt a good move..trust me,i do know and because of that, i haven’t got anything good to say about the SA organisation.
    a decision that’s miles from reality is all…….just like that mission statement…

  3. For some reason this does not surprise me. Firstly, we had the involvement of Barnados in the new pre-removal centres. While this happened (I believe) for tactical reasons, so the Home Office could prevent another visit to the High Court in another Suppiah’s (and other) case, the Poppy Project is clearly a victim of the government’s new policy to transfer more and more of its own responsibilities to charities and voluntary organisations. Unfortunately projects such as the Poppy Project that are funded by the government are bound to disappear regardless of their importance and significance.

  4. The government wants to fund the cheapest possible basic service so it can claim it is supporting trafficked women – who are victims of sexual abuse – to be distinguished from adult male victims who are usually trafficked for their labour, when it is letting them down. Essential that there are services for all victims but abused women need specialist advice, support and counselling of which the Sally Army has no experience. It has totally the wrong ethic too, as its website makes clear it sees itself as a missionary army crusading for Jesus. All very well, live and let live but trafficking victims should have their complex psycho-emotional needs met, whereas purist Christians think that faith in god cures all unhappiness by giving a vision of some pastures green type life hereafter. God hasnt done the trafficked much good so far.
    And if you were sexually abused would you go to a tambourine swinging, happy clappy set up which is utterly and totally domiinated by men in uniform?

    1. I couldn’t agree more. I have reservations about the appropriateness of the Salvation Army but the main problems are getting rid of the Poppy Project, which is just so good at what it does, and the massive reduction in the proposed level of service as well. It also perhaps illustrates the naivety and/or bravery of organisations like the Poppy Project and Refugee and Migrant Justice: if government money is used to challenge the government, such an organisation is vulnerable to political and ideological decisions like this, sadly.

  5. I think I prefer ‘brave’ to naive…. Having set up Poppy I did not feel that I had the right to keep silent about the horrific cuts and the lack of ‘quality’ that would follow. Our bid of course prioritised the need for quality and so we have been cut. Having worked in the voluntary sector for years I am neccessarily a pragmatist but if I had kept silent and provided a cheap shabby service just to keep the cash I would have been a cheat. Despite the widespread rumours of Poppy’s death please take note that we intend to stay alive and (very much) kicking… Denise.

    1. Great to hear you are alive and kicking. It is genuinely tragic that your funding is being pulled. The Poppy Project has always done a brilliant job for its clients and trafficking victims generally; perhaps too good, as far as the Home Office is concerned, that is my point. Same with RMJ: there was never any chance of a bail out, not least because RMJ had become a real thorn in the side for UKBA.

      This blog would be delighted to help with any fundraising effort.

    2. All help gratefully accepted……… We cannot allow trafficking to disappear from the agenda. Thanks. Denise.

  6. Your whole attitude to the salvation army is awful and for the most part shows you have no idea of the work or expertise they have

  7. Your point is absolutely rubbish. The Salvation Army has done and continues to do an enormous amount of good work. Why are you and the guardian wanting to rubbish this all on the basis of a religious belief. Believe in religion or not, you make no argument as to why they will do a worse job. Don’t post all this without really understanding the issues.

    1. What point would that be? Has anything incorrect been said about the Salvation Army? If it has, would you rather opinions you disagree with are not expressed?

  8. Will the staff not get transferred over by tupe? The G4S deport staff were apparently transferred when that contract was changed? Maybe the spirit of Poppy can live on…

  9. The Salvation Army is a church primarily so its Mission statement and Vision statement has little to do with activities outside its primary focus. Even so the “and fight for social justice” bit seems relavant.
    If there was an SA school I wouldn’t look at the statements, but instead the school’s results.

    I think the reason the Poppy Project lost its contract is not quality, but quantity.
    On their home page they state they have 54 rooms available nationally. I make that about 1 to 2 per county. They would be considered a mis-match if both parties were commercial.

    The unfortunate tone of the piece could be described as secular scoffing in places, and I hope that lessons are learnt and not repeated, especially considering the high professionalism normally displayed.

    1. I’m not sure that all would agree about the high professionalism normally displayed! There is an element of boot on other foot – this is a blog, it is a mix of updates with commentary and opinion, there are always bound to be some bits that someone doesn’t like. If it wasn’t a little controversial at times, it probably wouldn’t be terribly interesting to read, either.

      I’d say that the mission and vision statements should or do underpin the purpose of an organisation. I’m profoundly doubtful about whether an organisation whose entire reason for being is salvation through faith is really the best one to carry out a task that should have no religious dimension to it at all. And the section on trafficking at the moment looks rather amateurish, frankly. Contrast this with the immense, tangible achievements of the Poppy Project and their enormous experience and skill and it looks like an appalling, and indeed ideological, decision.

  10. This is an absolute travesty. My sister is one of the fabulous support workers working for poppy and she and her colleagues do such a wonderful job in very harrowing circumstances it is a difficult difficult job and they deserve our praise and thanks not to have all their funded pulled. Why would you take the funding away from an organization with such an excellent reputation if not for purely political means. The salvation army just do not have the expertise to do this job and the funding will be so stretched as they try to cover a wide aim that they will not be able to support anyone effectively. Good luck with the fund raising poppy.

  11. Hi Freemovement. Long time no see. In response to your post…Shucks. We’ll just have to get by with Churches Against Sexual Trafficking and Exploitation; Stop the Traffik; UK Unseen; the Salvation Army; the NSPCC; Barnados; LAST (Leeds); CCAT (Croydon); The Madeille Trust; ECPAT UK; The Scottish Refugee Council; The Church of Scotland; Amnesty International UK; The Church of England; STOP (Trafficking UK); City Hearts (Sheffield); LOVE146 (Bournemouth); The Helen Bamber Foundation; City Light (Brighton); ATLP (the Anti-Trafficking Legal Project); BAWSO (Cardiff, Newport, Wrexham etc); Anti-Slavery International (London-based); Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (Glasgow); Act Against Injustice (Manchester/Merseyside); the Human Trafficking Foundation (London); Housing for Women (London); Aphelia (Worthing); Leeds Women’s Aid; Afruca (Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, London and Manchester); CARE (London); Beyond the Streets (Southampton-based network of 50 projects); Kalayaan (migrant domestic workers, London-based); Migrant Helpline (for potential trafficking victims, dial 07766 668781); Migrants Rights Network; Rights of Women (London); Safe and Sound (Derby); ACT London Forum; The Children’s Society; Unchosen; The AIRE Centre; the Wales Strategic Migration Partnership; the Welsh Refugee Council; Ashiana (Sheffield); the Womens and Girls Network (London); and the International Organisation for Migration (offices in London, Brostol, Glasgow and Leeds).
    ….all for less than 200 confirmed victims of ALL types of trafficking victims per year in the UK.

    1. None of whom will do as good a job as Poppy in sheltering and preparing immigration cases for victims of trafficking, in my view. Poppy have been excellent with the cases of which I have had direct personal experience. Good lawyers I trust who do more of this work than I do hold them in very high regard. I’ve never had dealings with any of the other organisations you list, which itself says something about their reach and role, and seriously doubt that they could provide such a good service.

    2. I rather suspect they did do an excellent job for those categories of trafficked persons with which they dealt. But they didn’t deal with women trafficked for labour and they didn’t deal with male victims at all. Furthermore, there is evidence that their radical feminist attitude to sex work has been detrimentally affecting their chances of referrals from key actors in the subculture, such as clients of sex workers and sex workers’ ‘maids’.
      The ability to deal with male victims would surely be crucial to a body expected to act as ‘gate-keepers’ to funding for the protection of all victims.
      As for the legal side, the Anti-Trafficking Legal Project (ATLeP) may interest you, though you may well know of it already: http://www.atlep.org.uk/

  12. In order to work for the Salvation Army in any of their ‘Social Care’ operations, you need to demonstrate a ‘Christian Faith’ which, it would seem, totally contravenes any ‘Equal Opportunities’. Tories are very keen on the use of Christianity as a means of ministering to social care needs – Check out ‘Betel of Britain’ which is the favoured treatment for people with drug and alcohol problems – the Centre for Social Justice even gave them an award!!! They are really bonkers!