Former officers express anger at Salvation Army over pension ‘injustice’ | UK News


The Salvation Army has been accused of a “grave injustice” in refusing to pay pensions to former full-time officers who resigned after years of dedicated service but before their official retirement date.

At least 17 complaints from former officers have been lodged with the pensions ombudsperson since May 2020, and activists say hundreds more have been affected.

Philip Mountain, one of the plaintiffs, said it came as a shock to find out he would never receive a pension even though he was a minister for 21 years.

“It was an extremely enriching experience, I have absolutely nothing to regret. But I feel angry with the leaders about this, ”he said.

The Salvation Army, a worldwide Christian church that works among underprivileged communities, provides officers with accommodation and a car and pays them a stipend of £ 12,240 per year.

The officers are not legally employed by the Salvation Army and do not have an employment contract. Instead, they sign a “covenant with God”.

The Salvation Army funds a non-contributory pension scheme, the Salvation Army Officers Pension Fund, established by an Act of Parliament in 1963.

The Salvation Army says the fund is a registered charity that provides discretionary allowances to retired officers. Those who resign before retirement age usually receive a modest one-time allowance to roll them back.

But former officers say their pension funds should be allowed to increase until retirement age, when they can be used, according to most pension funds.

Mountain and his wife, Marion, together served 46 years in the Salvation Army, in training and as officers. Marion Mountain served an additional nine years as a sister in charge of a leprosy hospital in India.

When they resigned in 2011, Mountain received a termination allowance of £ 1,378 to help cover his temporary living expenses. Both were informed that they would not be entitled to a pension at retirement age.

“The Salvation Army paid into the pension fund every month we worked. For many years our payslips had a section detailing ’employer pension contributions’, ”he said.

“What happened to this money? Between us, we gave 55 years of full-time service with no pension to show it. “

David Kendall, another former officer, resigned in 2006 after 16 years of service. His wife, Barbara, who also served for 16 years, resigned at the same time.

Kendall, 56, now runs her own business. “When I retire, a Salvation Army pension would be helpful but not essential. But it’s not just about me, it’s about fighting for justice.

In August 2013, Kendall received a letter from the Salvation Army saying he would get a pension after all. Seven months later, another letter stated that he would only be able to receive a pension if he had pension credit, rather than entitlement – in other words, the pension would be means-tested.

The retirement policy was “irreconcilable with the ethics of the Salvation Army,” said Kendall, who still serves as a volunteer, or “soldier.” “They are hiding behind the letter of the law rather than doing what is right.”

Under the new arrangements put in place in 2017, staff who resign with more than 10 years of service can receive a discretionary transferable pension. This provision is not backdated.

According to the Charity Commission, the Salvation Army Trust and the Salvation Army Social Work Trust, two UK charities, had a combined annual income until March 2020 of £ 400million. Seven employees earned more than £ 100,000 a year.

A spokesman for the Salvation Army said the fund was “legally prohibited” from paying a pension to officers who leave service before retirement age.

“In order to resolve any issues that may arise, we have started providing a grant to Salvation Army officers who resign before reaching retirement age in the early 2000s.

In 2017, The Salvation Army updated its practices so that an officer leaving service before retirement and who has been in service for at least 10 years can receive transfer value in a designated pension pot. While this remains discretionary, it should mean that no agent who chooses to leave early can do without financial support.

“Our donors expect their money to be used to help vulnerable people and we work hard to ensure that as much money as possible goes directly to our services. “

A spokesperson for the pensions ombudsman confirmed having received at least 17 complaints which were “in the early stages of our process”.


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