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Salvation Army shop blockaded over workfare complicity

Charity believed to be the main Edinburgh placement for exploitative scheme

Anti-workfare campaigners blockaded a Salvation Army shop in Edinburgh for three hours on Saturday for its involvement in getting jobless people to work for their benefits.

Members of Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty (ECap) and Boycott Workfare unfurled a giant banner proclaiming “If you exploit us we will shut you down” across the shop’s door in Earl Grey Street on between 11am and 2pm, preventing customers from entering.

Police attended several times but made no arrests.

Dubbed the Starvation Army by its opponents, the charity is heavily involved nationally in the government’s controversial work-for-benefits scheme.

In Edinburgh campaigners believe the charity to be the main work placement for claimants forced onto workfare, including those who are vulnerable and disabled.

Claimants unable to take part, or who decline to work for just £2.40 an hour, face having their benefits stopped under the government’s “enhanced sanctions” regime.

“We felt our action was very successful. We shut down a key workfare user for three hours at the busiest time of the week,” said ECap’s Esther McDonald.

“We gave out hundreds of leaflets to passers-by, stressing that workfare is an attack on the wages and conditions of all workers, and many people reacted positively.”

The protest was aimed at galvanising opposition to the government’s plan for new scheme Community Work Placements — due to start later this month — which extends the period of compulsory work-for-benefits to six months.

Ms McDonald added: “The Community Work Placements scheme is already in trouble. Many charities have already said they will not participate — even the Salvation Army won’t touch it — and its start date has been postponed.

“We urge all charities and voluntary organisations to boycott the scheme. Research shows that workfare does not help the unemployed find jobs and being unemployed is not a crime.”

ECap and Boycott Workfare believe the main contract for the Community Work Placements scheme in Scotland has not yet been awarded, but they plan to take direct action against any organisation that gets involved.

Salvation Army was unavailable for comment.

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