The Salvation Army has released a manifesto  listing 13 social policy challenges to the political parties – from homelessness to anti-human trafficking, help for older people and the long-term unemployed.
It is designed to reflect the Salvation Army’s reach as one of the largest providers of social welfare in the UK.
The manifesto headlines the issue of faith-based service delivery by charities such as the Salvation Army, which provide services to vulnerable groups that statutory agencies find difficult to reach.
Drawing on its The Seeds of Exclusion research produced with the University of Kent and Cardiff University, which examines the early-life indicators and adult outcomes of social exclusion, the manifesto also urges the next government to invest in programmes and services which enable everyone in society, even the youngest, to find and achieve their potential.
The Salvation Army, as the largest provider after the Government of services to people who are homeless in the UK, calls for greater long-term emphasis on helping people to develop positive personal relationships and providing a sense of purpose, instead of merely offering a quick fix by only solving short-term housing needs and providing benefits.
Acknowledging the pressure on public finances, the Salvation Army manifesto says that removing the barriers and disincentives to employment, such as the 16-hour rule and continuing funding for sustainable employment services, are not only vital to the economic recovery, but are needed to enable those furthest from the labour market to enter and sustain employment.
Other measures in the manifesto include a call for the introduction of a single minimum price per unit for alcohol, combined with restrictions on licensing hours to save thousands of lives a year, and the creation of a high pay commission to reduce the gap between the lowest paid and the highest paid to reduce income inequality.
A future government should also provide adequate funding for social care provision for those who cannot afford to pay and provide more integrated care and support for those leaving the armed forces, it says.
The manifesto asks for clear targets to ensure prison overcrowding is diminished. Cutting re-offending rates for prisoners by providing access to work or education courses would save the UK taxpayer billions of pounds spent on re-offenders each year, says The Salvation Army.
The church and charity organisation also highlights the need for a Financial Transaction Tax, the profits of which could be used to help third sector and non-profit organisations working with the most vulnerable.
The manifesto makes the case for welcoming people fleeing from persecution and seeking sanctuary. It calls for an end to the detention of children and families for immigration reasons. People seeking sanctuary should be treated fairly and humanely, have access to essential support and public services, and should be allowed to volunteer or to work to help them remain independent while they await decisions on their futures, it says.
Tim Stone, Public Affairs Officer for the Salvation Army, says: "Our manifesto reflects not just the work of the Salvation Army in the provision of social services in the UK, but our commitment to help people in need without discrimination. The contents challenge the political parties to consider the wellbeing of vulnerable people as they look to lead the nation over the next few years.
"We welcome the recently published myth-busting guide from the Department of Communities and Local Government to help local authorities work with faith groups in the delivery of vital community services. The guidance recognises the experience, reach and innovation of faith-based providers to enable the highly effective delivery of services."
To download a copy of the manifesto visit: www.salvationarmy.org.uk/publicaffairs