Salvos pull court chaplains due to COVID pressures
The Salvation Army has been told to "get its priorities right" after deciding to withdraw its paid chaplains from Sydney courts at the end of the year.
Paid positions will also cease in hospitals, clubs and hotels. Trained chaplains will instead be encouraged to volunteer their services.
The move to pull chaplains from courts was yesterday blamed on COVID-19 cost pressures, but criminal lawyer Greg Walsh slammed the decision as misguided.
"I think most people in the community who really support the Salvos will be really worried about it (and) really upset," he said.
Mr Walsh praised Salvos court chaplains as "angels" who provide a "wonderful" service helping both victims of crime and those charged with offences.
The organisation was briefed about the decision on Friday after it was made by the leadership team. The Salvation Army website says court chaplains "provide court support for anyone going through the court process".
"This includes the victim and their family, the accused and their family, legal profession, law enforcement and court staff," the website states.
Services included providing clothes for people who appear before the court "to give them some dignity", Mr Walsh said.
"I'm absolutely devastated. I can't understand it," the lawyer said after learning of the move.
The Salvos currently provide chaplains in schools, airports, hospitals, clubs and hotels, rural areas, in emergency services situations, as well as in courts and prisons.
It is understood the move to scrap chaplains from courts will help prioritise them in rural areas and homelessness services.
Chaplains will also continue to work in drug and alcohol recovery.
"The (Salvation) Army has got to get its priorities right, and this is not a correct decision," Mr Walsh said.
The court chaplain program will officially end after December 31, but courts will close for the Christmas break before then.
Other people involved in the court system expressed their "great disappointment" at the move yesterday.
The Salvation Army confirmed it will stop the program in order to refocus its chaplaincy efforts elsewhere.
It is understood some within the Army say the decision was made with "great sadness".
But it was necessary amid the "pressures of COVID financial impacts".
However, Mr Walsh said chaplains were earning "peanuts" anyway.
A chaplain's gross salary is only up to $30,000 per year, the lawyer said.
Following the decision to cease providing paid positions in some areas, trained chaplains will be encouraged to volunteer their services instead.
Originally published as Salvos pull court chaplains due to COVID pressures