Right of Reply: Alex Hughes

The UK commander of the Salvation Army replies to Deborah Orr's contention that its new policy document implied a change in its priorities from the deserving poor to the middle classes
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IN A week when the Salvation Army has sought to highlight the need for society to take seriously the trends towards increasing discontent, we welcome Deborah Orr's discussion of some of the issues in our report The Paradox of Prosperity.

We didn't commission this report to depress the public unduly, nor just to stimulate debate. This is part of our strategic plan to prepare for changes in social issues over the next 10 years.

We would, however, deny her assertion that this report has prompted the Army "to change its charitable policy" from helping the poor, towards rescuing the stressed-out middle classes.

Our policy has always been to meet people's needs, material or spiritual, regardless of the person in need.

Many of our church members, and others with whom we work, are just those businessmen and over-stretched professional people who are predicted by the report to become increasingly discontent, despite rising prosperity. For them, the Salvation Army already provides much-needed support.

Now, what of the solution to this growing spiritual vacuum and increasing misery?

Deborah Orr was right to assume that, as Christians, we believe that faith can bring satisfaction and comfort. And with a resurgence in interest in introductory classes to Christianity, primarily from the middle classes, there is evidence that others share our convictions.

However, uniquely in the Church, our wide-ranging involvement in issues of significance in modern life, such as homelessness and substance abuse, gives many people an opportunity to regain a sense of community and self- worth by means of voluntary work with us.

Rich or poor, atheist or believer, you can be certain that the Salvation Army will be fighting to protect your quality of life into the next millennium.