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You can be heroes!

calendar17 August 2017

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

You can be heroes!

It’s superhero week at Christians Against Poverty and the team here at CAP HQ are getting into the spirit of things, dressing up and celebrating all that’s done to rescue people in debt, here in the UK.

If you’re a CAP Life Changer you’ve probably already received a superhero thank you card from Steph, James, and their daughter Isabella from Leeds, a family helped because of your giving.

Steph writes that if it wasn’t for CAP, she’d still be in the same dark place. After she lost her job, she was going to be evicted from her house. It was hard to deal with because she felt guilty about her debt. But support from CAP has saved her life and made a sad home into a happy home.

There are a lot of ways in which CAP is actually changing and saving the lives of people struggling with a wide range of issues. In many ways, coping with all that life throws at them, they are superheroes too.

One client, Catherine* suffers with anxiety and panic attacks, depression, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel and hypoglycemia and all of this adds to her financial struggles.

Sometimes existing problems are made worse by money troubles. Allan* and Sandra* were having a hard time suffering with mental health, fear and anxiety. They felt bullied by debt collectors knocking on their door and have been feeling too scared to open the curtains.

So, the extra face to face support given by each debt centre is so very valuable, tackling that isolation and providing a solution.

Over on CAP’s Facebook page, we asked people to name their CAP superheroes.

‪Joyce Bloomfield wrote,‪ ‘I cannot pick ONE… My befriender Margaret Woffendin and debt centre manager Sarah Cutts, release coach Sally Martin and two special people who prayed and listened who have moved on – Rose Young and Gillian Fernyhough.’

Carol Anne Wastell‪ wrote, ‘I must say Julie Parker is the best. She will walk to the end of the earth with you. She is amazing. She was there for me and helped me though everything. Even when I was at my lowest, she brought me back alive again and gave me hope. I will never ever be able to repay her.’

The team effort everyone makes for CAP results in a genuine difference in thousands of lives. If you’d like to join CAP’s superhero team, it’s easy! You could challenge yourself to a sponsored event, make a regular donation, or see if you’re the right fit for one of our current job vacancies.

*Names have been changed to protect clients’ identities

Are your supermarket favourites shrinking?

calendar16 August 2017

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Are your supermarket favourites shrinking?

The Office for National Statistics recently confirmed what a lot of us shoppers suspected for a long time: as many as 2,529 products have shrunk in size over the past five years.

Yes, in spite of being sold for the same price, manufacturers have sneakily ensured you get less for your money in a phenomenon called 'shrinkflation'.

It's especially easy for them to do with food products because they won’t last from one week to the next so it's hard to keep track and compare to what you used to have, if they do it gradually.

Toblerones came into the news a while ago when people realised that the gaps between the chocolate triangles were getting wider and wider, meaning there was less chocolate per bar. It's not just chocolate though.

Which? found that 19 sheets from the standard Andrex four-pack toilet roll had gone down the... well... toilet.

There are, however, ways to get around this problem when you’re budgeting, if you’re careful.

Think about what you’re buying.

  • One way that shrinkflation suckers us in is brand loyalty. We stick with the same products week by week because it's easier to shop that way. However, even if you started buying the product because you thought it was a good deal, it might not be so great anymore. Keep checking how much you’re getting for your money.
  • Some price comparison sites allow you to check how much you are buying 'per unit', which means if you’re buying a pack of biscuits you can use the site function to find out the price of a single biscuit, so you know exactly what you’re getting. This is a big benefit of shopping online because you can compare across the board, and very few supermarkets have this information on their price tags. mySupermarket is great for this.
  • Most supermarkets do give you the price by gram or kilogram on the shelf. You can also work it out yourself in your head or with the calculator function on your phone by dividing the price by the weight on the package.
  • You could also learn to make your own food. This helps you get around shrinkflation because you know exactly how much you’re putting into it and how much it costs because you bought the ingredients to make it. Knowledge is power!
  • We've been running CAP Life Skills courses across the UK to help people learn how to budget better in their day to day life. We look at cooking on a budget and making some really delicious meals that the whole family can enjoy. Another really popular session involves a taste test where we ask if members can spot the luxury, brand, own brand and value products, and guess the price. Often there is minimal difference but the price per 100g varies enormously. The course also goes through the techniques that shops use to get you to spend more. It's a science all its own! You can find your nearest CAP Life Skills course here.

Ten years on from the credit crunch: it’s about survival not spending

calendar09 August 2017

Marianne Clough's avatar Marianne Clough

Ten years on from the credit crunch: it’s about survival not spending

It’s not the kind of anniversary that requires a party but ten years ago, following too much borrowing in the US amid soaring interest rates, the first ripples of the credit crunch crossed the pond and the UK began to suffer.

By September 2007, queues were forming outside Northern Rock as we witnessed the first run on a high street bank since the 1860s.

“Financial crisis” became “Credit crunch”, then “economic downturn” and then “recession” – all delivered by the now familiar drawl of TV journalist Robert Peston.

While there have been significant reforms in the banking sector since then – notably the crack down on easily available high cost credit - the FCA and the Bank of England are again concerned that unsustainable levels of consumer borrowing are driving economic growth.

The level of unsecured debt in the UK is now £200.9 billion – the highest since 2008.

Meanwhile, average weekly earnings are stagnant at best and benefits frozen – a problem for so many families with inflation at 2.6%.

Looking back at the last ten years, we’ve seen big changes here at Christians Against Poverty, not least in our network’s growth to meet the need, thanks churches across the UK.

The nature of clients’ debt has substantially altered too.

In 2006, secondary debt (credit cards, store cards and loans) made up 85 per cent of the whole. On average, people had just £1,411 of priority debt (bills, rent or mortgage) of a total £16,260 debt per household.

Figures from 2016 show the amount of priority debt has tripled in the past decade. Arrears on essential household bills now account for 32p in every £1 of debt owed. Average priority debt per household is now £4,582 from a total debt of £14,298.

On top of that, nine in ten CAP clients report that they took out credit to pay for a household bill or serve another debt.

Our concern is this increase in consumer credit is driven by households using credit they can’t afford as they struggle to keep up with essential household costs.

In short, for the people we’re helping, this isn’t about too much shopping - it’s survival.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) says 2.1 million card holders have persistent high levels of credit card debt which they may be struggling to repay, a further 1.6 million are making minimum payments. We have to ask why? What is happening in their lives that is causing this?

Unless we first address the difficulty many face paying for their basic living needs, we will continue to see unsustainable credit use and problem debt grow.

While the credit crunch began with big banks, the impact was felt among families who saw jobs lost, businesses go under, homes repossessed. It's this human cost that must not be forgotten - people's physical and mental health, the relationships that suffer and the children.

New CAP clients are being chased for ten separate debts, on average. That’s ten companies trying to collect in person, or by phone, letter or email. It's a hugely stressful way to live.

The result is stories like that of Pete, who struggled to pay rent, council tax and other debts; hid himself away and, tragically, was beginning to think suicide was his only option.

Thankfully, he was able to contact CAP and rather than being evicted, he was able to keep his home and, supported by his local debt centre, become debt free through a Debt Relief Order.

Pete has now trained to deliver our CAP Money Courses to help others prevent their own personal credit crunch. Let’s hope others can take his lead.

Eee by gum, it’s Yorkshire Day

calendar01 August 2017

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Eee by gum, it’s Yorkshire Day

What were you doing way back in 1996? How old were you? Were you even born? Well, that year Bradford boy John Kirkby was busy bringing an idea to life – an idea to tackle the crippling debt he was seeing in his home community, and had experienced in his own world. In 1996, Christians Against Poverty was born.

From his spare room in Great Horton, Bradford, armed with nothing but a £10 donation and a passion to see the poor set free, John set about helping families who, like him, had been through crushing financial difficulties.

Today, CAP helps more than 21,500 people every year from all over the UK, but CAP HQ still lives in Bradford, in a restored paper box mill called Jubilee Mill. It’s something we’re very proud of.

So, as 1 August marks Yorkshire Day, we thought we’d celebrate all the great things going on through CAP in this fabulous county.

CAP has 19 debt centres across Yorkshire – all run through local churches, of course.

We couldn’t do it without them! Each of these centres has a team of wonderful local Christians and volunteer befrienders who go out to see clients in their homes, often armed with a packet of biscuits and some tea, because that’s how we roll! In the majority of cases we see, debt is rarely just debt alone. It’s debt and mental ill-health, physical illness, bereavement, domestic abuse, fuel poverty, skipping meals… the list goes on. That’s why the holistic element of the CAP service is so important – these clients need more than just practical help with their money, they need a hand to hold and someone to reassure them that there’s a way out.

Alison*, a single mum from Wakefield, got into debt when she had to leave her job due to problems with her mental health. She suffered with depression and, at the worst point, considered ending her life. Thankfully, she contacted CAP and got the support she needed, practically and emotionally.

She says, ‘Sarah [Wakefield CAP Debt Coach] was so lovely and supportive and really wanted to help me. It was just knowing that someone was there who could help me, who was reaching out to me. I was just overwhelmed by the love and support to be honest. When Sarah said, “I’ll take all your papers”, I said, “What?! You can’t take all my mess!” I felt guilty almost that someone was taking on that burden. But it was a huge pressure taken off me. It was incredible. It really lifted me, someone saying, “Right, let’s get this sorted”.’

As well as our debt centres, there are six CAP Job Clubs in the Bradford area alone – 18 in Yorkshire in total.

These are designed to give people seeking employment a place to open up about their experiences with others who are in the same boat, get one-to-one coaching and practical guidance with CVs and application forms, share ideas, practise interviews, and gain useful networking contacts. It’s always satisfying when we get a call from a member to say, ‘I can’t make it to job club tonight – I’ve started a new job!’ That’s what it’s all about!

Greg* had been unemployed for four years when he started coming to a job club in Bradford.

He says, ‘I was applying for 20 jobs a week or more. I became depressed and found it very isolating. After joining the CAP Job Club I got a job more or less straight away! I’m now working as a bin man and love being outdoors and talking to people – it’s pulling me out of lots of dark places.’

Having officially launched earlier this year, there are already eight CAP Life Skills groups open across Yorkshire.

Over an eight-week period, CAP Life Skills members learn new ways to live for a brighter future, whether it’s through practical money management skills, ways to shop and cook for less, help to maintain healthy relationships or advice on good decision-making. It’s the stuff everyone wished they’d been taught at school! As with all of CAP’s group services, the coaching and community elements are key, giving members one-to-one time with an expert coach and the chance to meet new friends.

One in eight of the UK’s CAP Release Groups are based in churches in Yorkshire too.

CAP Release Groups is all about helping people who are struggling with life controlling habits, such as smoking, drinking and gambling. The groups are a safe and confidential place to tackle the issue right at the core to break free and stay free.

Alan* from Barnsley joined his local CAP Release Group in a bid to quit smoking, a habit that had gripped him for 24 years!

He says, ‘The CAP Release Group taught me lots, including about changing my habits. In the morning I would have a coffee which I associated with cigarettes, now instead I have tea which I associate with biscuits! Since I quit smoking, my health is better, my budgeting is better, and the money I’m saving is going towards getting my own place.’

To read more about how Christians Against Poverty became what it is today, order your free copy of John Kirkby’s Nevertheless here

*Names have been changed to protect identities

Seven budget activities for a rainy day with the kids

calendar26 July 2017

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Seven budget activities for a rainy day with the kids

It’s now officially summer… apparently. Tell that to the dark clouds and puddled streets. With any luck, Britain will afford us one or two glorious days of sunshine over the next few months, but if not it’s a good idea to be prepared, especially if you have kids. Plan in advance lots of activities and things to do in the event that a downpour keeps you indoors over the school holidays.

  • Baking buns and biscuits is always a great rainy day activity, but why not help the kids make their own ice cream instead? Double cream, natural yoghurt, lemon curd and some lemon zest are all you’ll need to make a batch of tasty lemon ice cream. And you don’t need a fancy ice cream maker either – just a little arm strength to whip the cream! Mix in the other ingredients and freeze the whole lot overnight. Perfect if the sun comes out the next day!
  • Fancy a quiet afternoon? Help the kids to build a den out of duvets, blankets and chairs. Set the laptop up inside and pop on a film. Hey presto - the world’s most inexpensive home cinema!
  • Time consuming and cheap, paper mâché is always a favourite. It’s fun, it’s creative and it’s messy! Blow up a balloon and let the kids cover it in a few layers of ripped up newspaper dipped in PVA glue. Make sure the final layer is plain white paper. Once it has dried, use a pin to pop the inner balloon and leave the little ones to paint and decorate it as they please!
  • Messy bedrooms? Perfect! Challenge the kids to a tidy up race – fastest gets a prize!
  • Grab a shoe box and start filling it with bits and bobs today. Whether it’s old kitchen roll tubes, magazines, plastic bottles or loose bits of string, keep it all. That way, when a rainy day comes and extinguishes all your plans, you’ll have a go-to craft box to keep the kids entertained. It really is amazing the things you can make with some leftover items and a bit of imagination!
  • If you’ve got kids whose likes, dislikes and skills differ from one another’s, why not challenge them to put on a variety show together? There could be a solo dance section, a dramatic performance for two or a team magic show. It’ll get them working together, and you could even invite the family round to watch them perform and make a real show of it. That’s surely a whole afternoon sorted!
  • So it’s been a week, the rain is still coming down and both you and the kids are going a little stir crazy. Perhaps it’s time to make a dash for the car or bus and head to the nearest cinema. All through the summer holidays, various Vue cinemas are offering a morning movie from £2.49 a ticket. Click here to find out more.

Got your own ideas for keeping the kids entertained this summer? We'd love to hear them - leave us a comment below.

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