Money is something that can rule us or serve us. I'm really struggling with writing a book at the moment called 'Dethroning Mammon'. It's about how we make money serve, rather than rule. One of the key things that keeps coming back to me as I'm writing is the way we are able to do that. It's by giving money away that shows it who's master.
And you as Life Changers, you are doing that every month in supporting CAP. They are then reaching out to people you'll never hear of, but through what you do they are finding hope. You are helping people by allowing CAP to get alongside them in the most amazing way, so thank you very much for that.
You are mastering money and you're enabling others not to have to serve its demands, and you do that so simply and so generously. Please keep doing that but thank you for what you are doing.
What is CAP doing to help people with poor mental health?
17 May 2016
UK poverty is the grinding, seemingly endless, despair-inducing sort, and it’s no surprise these factors can have an impact on someone’s outlook.
When people first call CAP for debt help, it’s often at the end of an on-going struggle - spoiling relationships, affecting sleep, preventing regular meals, nagging away at self-worth and gradually isolating people from friends and even family. Anxiety accompanies every day.
Will bailiffs come? Will I lose my home? How will this end?
One of CAP’s core values is to give the best to those with the least, and we’ve become industry leaders, winning multiple awards, for our service to people who find they are at a vulnerable point in their lives.
This is some of what makes our service unique:
We see people in their home, making CAP completely accessible
CAP deals with all the post and negotiates with all the creditors
Each debt centre has a team of volunteer befrienders to cheer and support clients
The local church offers an instant caring community in the locality
On that first home visit, we leave every new client with a pile of freepost envelopes, which they can use to post any more demands straight to our head office in Bradford. Once CAP is proactive in communicating with the companies involved, the client finds the distressing phone calls and letters soon stop, giving them some much-needed breathing space.
Just showing that we care can make a massive difference too. Our volunteers and debt coaches can offer friendship, encouragement and one-to-one support alongside the practical help. All our front-line staff receive training to help them understand different mental health conditions.
CAP isn’t a mental health charity, of course, and we’re always ready to signpost people to their GP, the Samaritans, mental health team or others if we feel they need more in-depth assistance. Dr Rob Waller, a Consultant Psychiatrist in Scotland explained why CAP’s service is so unusual, ‘We need supports that understand both the money and the mind; can help with the debt, but also with the loneliness and isolation. CAP is one such organisation, whose befrienders are an absolute lifeline - especially to those who struggle with their mental health’.
CAP is also working behind the scenes to make sure the voice of the most vulnerable is heard. We know that even the tiniest changes by big organisations can result in huge improvements for people. Therefore, we do all we can to ensure the experiences of our clients are described to those at the top, making the decisions.
We’re meeting with the Government, utility companies; we’ve recently been round the table with Ofgem and making presentations to the finance industry. CAP is also feeding into the work of Martin Lewis’ new Debt and Mental Health Policy Institute which seeks to research and develop policy proposals to improve the people’s lives.
The word “addiction” conjures up images of drug taking yet, studies show around a third of us are hooked on something. Are you leaning on something too hard?
It might be cigarettes or alcohol but it could just as easily be gaming, gambling or over-working. Is there something you’ve come to rely on that makes you feel good…or used to?
The weird thing is, habits trigger chemical changes in the brain so even if you’re not putting a substance into your body, you can be getting addicted to a repeat behaviour.
Even with these, highs released by the brain lead to lows and the regret that follows.
So, how do you know if you’re addicted?
Addiction is defined as not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you. Does that sound like you?
Addiction is anything that dominates your thinking. Do you get stressed or angry when you can’t feed this habit?
The more often you find yourself doing it or thinking about doing it, the more likely you have addiction and should seek help.
Addiction changes how you feel while you’re using it. This is more obvious with things like alcohol, nicotine and other drugs in cases where they’re taken to chemically alter your physical brain and alter your perception.
By changing your brain it changes how you see the world. Many addicts find that they need the thing they’re addicted to, to celebrate or fully enjoy something.
Do you seek out your habit, even when you’re really sick or feeling low? Many people use their addiction to medicate against depression, stress and loneliness or to calm themselves down.
It’s not healthy or a permanent cure, of course, and your addiction won’t just be harming you, it will be affecting your relationships too.
Like the rest of us, clients sometimes find themselves suffering with addictions. Some turn to certain substances or activities as a way to deal with the stress of their debt and, in most cases, their debt is made worse. This is why our charity began CAP Release Groups to help people who know it’s time to stop.
Last month saw the biggest improvement to the bankruptcy process in England & Wales for 30 years, with the launch of a new online Government service allowing people to apply for their own bankruptcy via the internet.
Before this change, there’s no doubt, the process was complicated and daunting. Anyone who requested a bankruptcy had to go in person to their local county court – a pretty intimidating thought for many people. The paperwork was long and complicated (and needed to be in triplicate!) This took a long time and was costly for both the court staff and the client.
On April 6, the Government’s Insolvency Service switched to a new system called ‘Online Debt Solutions’ (ODS). This now allows someone to apply for bankruptcy through a secure, online application form. The online version tailors the questions as you go along, which makes life much simpler. For example, it is smart enough to only ask the questions about property ownership if the person is a homeowner instead of the client having to wade through pages of unnecessary questions.
Well, what about people with no internet access? So far, our experience shows our clients have been able to easily submit their applications with some guidance from their local CAP Debt Coaches who can check through their online form and click ‘submit’.
One of our Debt Coaches sent in this story about a soon-to-be bankrupt client, Stephen:
I helped Stephen check and submit the form today. He pressed the submit button then gave me a big hug, danced (literally) round the office and went down to the Drop-In (where there were three brand new clients) singing at the top of his voice and saying ‘if Ruth and CAP can help me then they can help anyone!’
One of the benefits of the new online system is the cheaper upfront application fee. Previously it was £705, now it’s £655 per applicant which, on the face of it, seems like a better deal and helps people feel it’s not such a big hurdle. However, here’s the whole story: previously, when the bankruptcy applications were presented at court, the poorest clients had a opportunity to apply for a discount, bringing the cost down to £525. Around half of CAP clients petitioning for bankruptcy were eligible for this discounted fee and this is no longer available via online bankruptcy. So, the result is that the fee has effectively increased for thousands of the poorest people, which, of course, is not welcome.
While designing, building, and rolling-out this brand new online system, the Insolvency Service’s ODS project team has carried out extensive research to gather the opinions and requirements of all the different users of this new system – creditors, Insolvency Service staff, third party advice agencies like CAP, and of course people in debt.
We have seen at first hand the real desire of the project team to make the online service as pain-free as possible and we believe they have achieved that. Hopefully, we’ll hear of many more clients as happy as Stephen as they find a way forward from their debt problems.
Get ahead with summer savings
08 May 2016
Whether you are looking to get away, thinking about how to entertain the kids, or you are just wanting to make the most of getting out an about at home, there are ways you can be smart with your money.
If you know what you are likely to be doing, there’s no reason why you can’t start thinking now about how you can save money. Create a budget of what you would like to do and roughly how much it would all cost. If you find yourself wildly off budget, then be realistic about what you can afford. For example, do you need to go abroad this year or could you try camping in the UK instead? Could you plan some fun activities at home instead of going away for the weekend? It is better to say ‘no’ now rather than find yourself in financial difficulty later.
If you’re headed abroad, have a look at price comparison sites for the best deals on airlines or hotels, TravelSupermarket.com or Skyscanner are a good place to start. It’s worth noting that budget airlines are cheaper when you book two or three months in advance, but package holidays are cheaper when booked last minute. Also, have a think about when you travel because according to Which? Research, it’s 35% cheaper to fly on a Tuesday than a Friday and 45% more expensive to come back on a Sunday! Remember to book your airport parking in advance to get the best deal and try travelmoneymax.com for the best currency exchange rates.
If a holiday abroad is not on your agenda, why not see what this country has to offer? Visitbritain.com is a great website for ideas that include all the best of British culture, countryside, heritage, food and entertainment and suggestions to suit your budget. There are also lots of websites offering discounts on eating out and activities such as Groupon or Vouchercodes. These savings can really add up so don’t be afraid to suggest cheaper alternatives to your friends – they will probably appreciate the savings too!
Kids go free
As for activities for the kids, MoneySavingExpert.com has a great list of free and cheap ideas to keep them entertained over the school holidays. Your local council or library may also list some free events happening in your area. If you do plan taking them to a theme park or major attraction, then see what deals and vouchers there are beforehand, and remember to take a packed lunch instead of spending lots on food.
Save now and pay less
With so much credit readily available, why would you bother saving when you can pay later? It may be a quick fix to your financial situation, but a lot of us end up spending far more than we needed to. For example, a £900 holiday paid back on credit over a year could end up costing you £1,057. That’s £150 you could have put towards your next trip. Saving is effectively the same as paying back each month what you borrowed just the other way around and without the interest or the stress if you fall behind in your repayments.
Getting into debt is very easy but a lot harder to get out of. However, if you’re struggling don’t worry, we can help. Try a free CAP Money Course for help with budgeting, or for free debt help call us today on 0800 328 0006 or go to capuk.org.
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