EMERGENCY APPEAL. UK poverty is rising. We urgently need your help to reach everyone.
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Policy and research

Two men and two women stood outside number 10 downing Street holding posters which say, hashtag look again, at UK poverty.

Our mission

Right now, debt and poverty are forcing millions of people into impossible situations. Families are struggling to put food on the table and growing numbers cannot afford to turn on the heating. More and more people are living under the all-consuming pressure of financial hardship. That’s why we’re working hard to shape and influence policy, using out expertise to take steps towards an end to UK poverty.

We’ve been advocating for and supporting people experiencing debt and poverty since 1996 and we’ve seen change happen, but there’s so much still to achieve. We don’t plan to stop now.

What we do

We want to see an end to UK poverty. Our Policy and Research team pull together evidence and research, undertake consultations and publish reports to help decision-makers develop and shape policy. We also campaign and petition, attend events and roundtables, and advocate for people in debt and on low incomes.

Our current focuses

We concentrate our efforts and campaigns on specific areas to achieve maximum impact.

We want the Government to ensure that no one is left struggling as the cost of living increases.

We want the UK to be a place where debt collection does not push people further into hardship. We work to present evidence and shape policies that protect people living in vulnerable circumstances.

We’re working to see social security provided at adequate levels, where caps and sanctions don’t push people into destitution and for processes to work for all.

We believe having a warm, lit home is a basic human right. Our policy work feeds into the design of financial support schemes and the prevention of disconnection from utilities. 

Our work in financial services aims to identify where harm is being caused, where regulation is needed to ensure good outcomes for all. 

As the landscape of debt solutions evolve and change, we want to make sure insolvency remains the fresh start it was designed to be. 

Our successes

We’ve celebrated a number of big policy wins over the years; seeing structural changes to legislation have a huge impact on the quality of life of those living on a low income. We will continue to pursue change at the highest level to end UK poverty. 

Debt Relief Orders (DROs) were introduced in 2009 as a form of insolvency for people on low incomes who could not afford to go through bankruptcy. However, the eligibility criteria was not fit for purpose, and was preventing many low income people from accessing this very needed debt solution. In 2014, reforms to DROs were brought in which were a step in the right direction, but did not go far enough. 

Throughout 2020 and 2021, CAP, alongside other debt advice organisations, fought for this issue to be addressed by the Government. In February 2021, we published a report, Simplify the Solution, that provided research into how DROs were preventing people accessing debt relief.

In late 2021, we were thrilled to see the eligibility criteria for DROs widened! Since the eligibility criteria changed, tens of thousands of people have now been able to access a Debt Relief Order who otherwise wouldn’t have been eligible. But fees to access this solution were still acting as a barrier.

In the Chancellor’s 2024 Spring Budget, it was announced that the £90 fee was going to be removed. This meant that CAP clients would be able to become debt free much sooner, without having to wait months to save up to pay for the fee. Perhaps even more meaningful, was the decision to increase the eligibility criteria further (to the level CAP had been calling for in Simplify the Solution), which included increasing the debt value threshold and the vehicle asset limit. This great win shows that change is possible, but can often take years. Thank you to our supporters who joined us calling for this change over the years.

A prepayment meter is a type of domestic energy meter that lets people pay for energy before they use it. Millions of households use prepayment meters, and typically these households are more likely to be living on a low income. Up until 2023, the cost of energy for those with a prepayment was higher than those who paid for their energy on a credit meter.

For many years CAP campaigned to see this change, in 2015 we released a report called The poor pay more. After many years of advocating, presenting evidence and calling for change, we were happy to see the Government announced it would bring prepayment meter costs in line with direct debit in 2023.

In certain circumstances, the Department for Work and Pensions can deduct money from a claimant’s benefit payments and pay it to a creditor or supplier to clear a debt. When Universal Credit was introduced the maximum amount that could be deducted was set at 40%, leaving people struggling to make ends meet and pushing people deeper into poverty.

We proved the huge impact this was having on low income households with our report Powerless People. We found almost half (49%) of CAP clients had owed money to the DWP, HMRC or their local authority and those clients were more likely to be on a low income and vulnerable.

We relentlessly called on the Government to make changes. In 2021, the Government took notice of our evidence and reduced the debt deduction rate to 25%. Reducing the maximum amount that could be deducted from 40% to 25% has had a massive impact on those living on low incomes and in debt.

Our latest research

We produce regular publications based on our research to demonstrate the difficult and often hidden effects of living in poverty and debt.

Under the rubble of debt and poverty: Client report 2024

In the last 12 months, there has been an alarming rise in reliance on credit to survive — three fifths of those who responded to the survey had to borrow money to pay their bills. Deficit budgets form the biggest reason for a call for help — both the amount that we see daily, and the depth of the deficit are distressingly prevalent.

Read the full report here

Pushed under, pushed out

Debt is both a symptom, as well as a driver, of poverty, but how does household debt interact with living standards? We’ve partnered with the Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) from Loughborough University to explore the interaction between living standards, debt and the persistent nature of inadequate income.

Read the full report here

Our latest blogs

A collection of our latest blogs, written by our Policy and Research team, as well as those with lived experience of debt and poverty.

National polling

We commission polling research into poverty in the UK to give an insight into the realities that people face.

Using this data alongside the experiences our clients are facing and information from our services, we’re able to see a thorough picture of the reality of poverty in the UK.

Further information

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Ruth holding a sign that reads 'There is so much need. I'm at my limit.'
‘Rising poverty is pushing churches like mine to their limit,’ says Ruth. ‘Please help us meet the growing need.’

We urgently need your support to reach every person in poverty.

Ruth holding a sign that reads 'There is so much need. I'm at my limit.'