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Reports and briefings

A collection of publications from our research. 

Client reports

Our annual Client report unpacks the experiences of thousands of people who we’ve supported through debt, presenting data and stories from across our debt help service each year.

May 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.

We see close partnership with the industry as the only real way to make a difference and defuse the ticking time bomb of debt. The report is divided into three key parts:

  • Part I: The collapse: what causes people to become trapped in debt?

  • Part II: Crushed under the weight: The impact of debt

  • Part III: A helping hand to clear the rubble

May 2023

In 2022, the cost of living continued to rise, while household incomes fell behind. Rates of priority debt went up, and more people struggled to pay household bills. We saw higher demand for emergency food shops, fuel vouchers and help with essentials.

In Taking on UK poverty, we found that over half of CAP clients’ budgets were unsustainable due to low income. More people are being driven to extreme poverty and destitution, and one in two CAP clients have considered or attempted suicide before seeking help. Now is the time to come together and fight back. Because poverty isn’t going anywhere unless we do something about it. Read our latest client report and find out how, together, we can take on UK poverty.

June 2022

As the cost of living continues to rise across the UK, millions of households are being pushed to the very edge, one move away from being plunged into the chilling depths of poverty. In On the edge, we explore the reality of living in debt and poverty in the UK in 2022 through the experiences of our clients, and what’s driving people to a place of financial crisis. We also dig into what can be done to pull people from the depths, and prevent them from getting there in the first place.

April 2021

The Our story’ report is about real people’s lives: the stories behind the statistics. As we commemorate 25 years of helping people to escape poverty and write new stories for themselves, we also look back on a year where the pandemic intensified the impact of life on a low income.

June 2020

The 2020 CAP Client report brings together 1,217 responses from our annual client survey, alongside other CAP data. It explores the consequences of poverty, as well as the multiple complex needs that often come hand in hand with debt, unemployment or addiction. The report highlights the importance of partnership and exemplifies how creditors, referral agents, frontline staff and the local Church can all work with CAP to tackle poverty in the UK.

For the first time, the Client report includes CAP Life Skills, CAP’s newest service. Run as a community group meeting each week, CAP Life Skills looks at the wider issues surrounding money management. This includes relationships, health and wellbeing and organisational skills. CAP Life Skills was officially launched in March 2017, after an 18-month pilot.

June 2019

The 2019 CAP Client report focuses on the realities faced by clients like Nicky. Having grown up surrounded by money worries and moving in and out of abusive relationships, Nicky faced constant battles with mental ill-health and growing debts. She felt like a failure and saw no hope for the future until Ken from CAP visited her.

Like Nicky, millions feel stuck in an inescapable cycle, facing mounting debts and relentless poverty coupled with seemingly insurmountable personal difficulties. The people we meet at CAP have not only disengaged from their creditors, but are often completely isolated. Going to bed hungry has become the new norm and many have no means to buy or repair essential household items.

In 2018, CAP helped 24,300 adults and children in situations like Nicky’s (inclusive of those interacting with more than one service), bringing stability, providing tools and the self-belief needed to move forward.

June 2016

The 2016 Client report looks back on the journey CAP has taken and acknowledges the 293 debt centres, and the journey of 2,598 people becoming debt free in 2016. But going beyond the numbers, this report recognises the personal journey clients like Mark go on from living in despair to having hope of a life beyond debt. 

June 2015

The 2015 Client report brings together 1,600 responses to our annual client survey, along with other CAP data, this report shows the substantial extent of debt, poverty and vulnerability amongst the clients we serve. For the first time it also features our newest service, CAP Release Groups, which offer support to those struggling with life-controlling dependencies such as smoking or gambling. This follows an 18-month pilot, which saw 28% of members achieve a self-set goal. Now in our 20th year, we have long seen the impact addictions have on those in financial difficulty, and we are thrilled to be able to offer a more complete solution to clients affected by multiple difficulties. Follow the link below to see our key findings and download the report.

June 2014

The 2014 Client report details our growth and work in 2014, as well as the findings of our annual client survey. The report details the key demographics of our client base and how debt has affected them, with findings from our latest research showing that on average our clients faced a minimum of 30 years in debt before CAP’s help. In addition there are special focuses on welfare reforms, prepayment meters and vulnerability.

Reports and briefings

We produce regular publications based on our research, drawing attention to things that need to change.

March 2024

One in five of us in the UK live in poverty and, until now, very little was known about the impact that debt can have on poverty and living standards. Christians Against Poverty (CAP) has partnered with the Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) at the University of Loughborough to explore the interaction between living standards, debt and the persistent nature of inadequate income. Some findings, as you will see, are not as you’d expect.

November 2022

Unpredictable finances are a part of everyday life, but right now too many people do not have surplus income after essentials to build the financial resilience they need to cope in a crisis without turning to credit. This is only worsening in the cost of living crisis. Right now, non-credit financial lifelines are too often insufficient, hidden or lie beyond their reach. This reliance on credit as a lifeline in the UK today contributes to the millions of people who are drowning in the storm of problem debt. Our latest report sets out our recommendations to shoring up incomes and support saving, increase access to non-credit lifelines and make credit safer.

December 2021

2.6 million people in the UK do not use the internet regularly, and 14.9 million have very low levels of engagement (according to the Lloyds UK Consumer Digital Index). This report presents data from CAP clients, as well as UK-wide population data from Experian Mosaic, to reveal the barriers that cause persistent and periodic digital exclusion – including capability and confidence, lack of access to devices and infrastructure, and the ongoing cost of internet data or a broadband connection. 

July 2021

Financial and mental wellbeing are central planks that allow us to plan, connect and have control over our lives. Problem debt, low income and some welfare policies can have a harmful effect on people’s financial wellbeing. This report considers the role that debt advice, creditors and government can play in improving the financial and mental wellbeing of the UK population and helping people move on from problem debt for good.

February 2021

CAP’s debt help service supports people in finding a route forward. Often, this is through an insolvency solution that provides a fresh start for people with insurmountable financial difficulty. However, too many people face roadblocks that make finding a route out of debt impossible. CAP’s latest report, Simplify the solution, examines how the Debt Relief Order (DRO) can be improved to ensure debt relief is effective, accessible and affordable for all.

February 2020

The majority of low income households cannot afford the cost of the energy they need to live safe, warm and well. Over half (55%) of CAP clients have rationed their energy at least occasionally in the last two years, with three in ten (29%) doing so weekly. CAP’s latest report, A dark place, based on research from a survey of 1,000 CAP clients, as well as five focus groups, leaves no doubt that many people are starving themselves of heating, light, hot food and hot water to keep costs affordable. We must do more to ensure everyone can live safe, warm and well.

October 2019

CAP has released the briefing paper, Unlocking a new start. The paper explores why insolvency alone does not always provide a new start for people in severe financial difficulty. With 130,000 people pursuing an insolvency solution each year, there needs to be more action to address the root causes of debt – in particular the amount of support available to help meet rental costs.

June 2019

In a society that believes in compassion and justice, it can’t be right that many people are held back by destitution and locked out of opportunities to improve their lives. This is particularly the case for a high proportion of those in financial difficulty who experience poverty so extreme that they lack basic subsistence. For example, before CAP’s help, 89% went without food, 80% without heat and 9% even went without shelter. 

March 2019

CAP carried out a study of over a thousand clients to see what additional difficulties affect people in debt. The report shows how these problems combine to intensify situations and takes a fresh look at what vulnerability means in practice.

December 2018

This is the first paper in our Checking in series exploring the experiences of CAP clients who are early Universal Credit claimants. Each year CAP helps 20,000 people in the grip of debt and poverty. 82% of whom will transition onto Universal Credit in the next few years. These are people living on low incomes, with a high incidence of mental and physical health problems and other difficulties that mean their financial worries are just the tip of the iceberg. Download this briefing paper to read their experiences of applying and waiting for Universal Credit. This is the first paper in a series of three presenting the experiences of CAP clients who are early Universal Credit claimants. The next instalments, explore how debt and Universal Credit interact and what it is like to live and work while receiving Universal Credit.

October 2018

This is the findings of London School of Economics (LSE) Housing and Communities’ twelve-month research project detailing CAP’s Social Return of Investment. LSE’s research concludes that CAP’s approach is more intensive, personal and holistic than most approaches to poverty relief. For every £1 invested, CAP delivers £3.60 of social benefits.

July 2018

This briefing paper highlights the issues we are seeing with public sector debt collection. Almost half (49%) of CAP clients have owed money to the DWP, HMRC or their local authority and these clients are more likely to be on a low income and vulnerable. We have found that public sector debt collection processes create fear, leave clients feeling powerless and render debts unmanageable. CAP is calling for three key principles to help change this: time, flexibility and consistency.

December 2017

During the ongoing review of debt advice funding, there is no better time to argue the benefits of Fair Share. Fair Share is a voluntary agreement between creditors and debt advisers to pay back a fixed percentage of the amount received by the creditor in debt repayments. CAP has released a briefing, The case for Fair Share, which lays out the many advantages of this funding model. As demand for debt advice grows, so will demand for funding and this paper argues the case that Fair Share should be retained on its own merits — why abolish a mechanism that works well for its intended place in the sector?

May 2017

CAP’s Offline and shut out briefing exposes the extent of digital exclusion amongst CAP clients. One in five (22%) do not have internet access at home or on a smartphone, more than twice the national average. In an increasingly digital landscape, being offline puts millions at a disadvantage in their day-to-day interactions with financial and essential public services. These findings show the continued importance of offline channels, and are extremely relevant in the context of Universal Credit roll-out, energy switching discussions and increasingly digital financial services.

December 2016

The freedom report looks at the outcomes of over 200 clients who have become debt free through Debt Management Plans (DMPs) and Debt Relief Orders (DROs) up to five years ago. The findings show the important role debt advice plays in building financial capability and resilience to ensure people feel in control of their finances and stay free of problem debt in the long-term. 93% remain free of problem debt, with 82% still using a budget. An incredible 69% of the DMP sample also had savings, which is 28% higher than the UK national average savings rate of 41%. The report shows that through CAP’s debt advice, financial capability skills – such as budgeting and saving – are gained and financial resilience is often built as a result. The report compares the outcomes of DMP and DRO clients, and the experiences of the handful who were struggling with repeat problem debt.

February 2015

10.8 million people live in households that pay for their energy by prepayment meter (PPM). This research report highlights the hardship they face and the widespread self-disconnection taking place. Low income households with pre-payment energy meters are suffering twice as much fuel poverty. Instead of being able to access the best online deals, the poorest are forced into paying sometimes hundreds more on energy every year.

As the number of PPM installations continues to rise, it is imperative that more is done to protect these consumers.

Annual reports

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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.'