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Making that first call for debt help

calendar16 April 2021

Author: Kate Dykes

Making that first call for debt help

This post is about CAP’s Debt Help service. For free, professional debt help, give us a call today on 0800 328 0006.

We want your first phone call for debt help to CAP to be as easy as possible. To help you put a face to a name, we'd like to introduce you to Bev, one of our New Enquiries team members. We asked Bev what it’s like taking those first calls from people, and what you can expect to hear on the other end of the line.

Hi Bev! Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m 62 and married with three daughters (my husband Simon and daughter Helen work at CAP too). I love family time, reading, pilates, good meals, films (especially Lord of the Rings), music, dancing (only at weddings these days), sunsets and nature.

How did you hear about CAP?

I heard through church back in 2007. We were fundraising for CAP and I was immediately drawn to the charity. We were in debt ourselves and had some help from CAP. I experienced in person what a hope-giving service they provide, and I desperately wanted to do the same for others. I’ve been here 12 years now and I still love it.

What's it like answering the phone to people who call for debt help?

A lot of people are very nervous when they call. Some have even waited years to pluck up the courage to call, so I know that being their first point of contact at CAP is a big deal.

It's great when you can tell that they feel there is hope and a light at the end of the tunnel.

Some people seem very downtrodden, so empathy and a bit of kindness goes a long way. We let them know we genuinely care about them. You can often feel the relief in their voice as the call goes on and they often say they feel a lot better just for calling in.

It’s a real privilege and I thank God everyday for my job. I love taking calls and having the chance to welcome people into CAP and to show them God's love. It’s humbling to know that God trusts NET to do this!

How many calls have you taken during your time working here?

I’ve taken approximately 65,000 calls.

What happens on the call? How do you find out if CAP can help?

The main thing that we check is whether we have a centre that covers your area. If we do, we book in your first appointment with their local Debt Centre.

If we are unable to help, we will always signpost you to other reputable organisations such as StepChange, PayPlan or Citizens Advice. If you are feeling unsure about whether we can help, give us a call anyway and we can always help point you in the right direction to get help elsewhere.

What questions do you ask people?

We ask some basic questions about you and your current situation, such as your name, contact details, whether you rent or pay a mortgage, your source of income and a bit about what kind of debts you have. We’ll also ask if you have a partner, as we always work with couples together.

Do you only help Christians?

No! We help everyone regardless of religion, gender, sex, age, ethnicity etc. We offer the same caring and professional service to everyone. We give people a non-judgemental, friendly warm welcome, hopefully make them feel at ease and let them know that there is a way forward!

I do explain that we are a Christian charity, and that we are happy to pray for you if this something you’d like us to do, but there’s never any pressure and I’ll never push prayer on anyone who doesn’t want it!

Does it matter how much debt people have, whether too much or too little?

Not at all. I have people call for debt help with only a few hundred pounds of debt who were really stressed and physically or mentally struggling, with no support network, so CAP was able to come alongside them and really give them a hand to reduce their stress. 

Sometimes having a small amount of debt would lead to us suggesting one of our other CAP services, which are the CAP Money Course,, Life Skills, Job Clubs or Fresh Start.

Many of our clients go through a repayment plan, or those with larger amounts of debt may go through DRO or bankruptcy.

How do you make sure someone's information stays secure and confidential?

All the information you give us is securely stored on our systems. We have extensive security measures in place in order to keep your information confidential. To read more about our privacy policy please take a look at our privacy notice.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about making that first call for debt help to CAP?

Don’t be afraid! We are a really approachable and friendly team. The booking process is short and uncomplicated, and hopefully there will be a local CAP centre to provide you with face-to-face, ongoing support (depending on Covid rules). I know it’s worth that call because I was once making the same call!

 

Hopefully hearing from Bev has given you some insight into what to expect when you call for debt help and put your mind at ease.

Please don’t hesitate to give us a ring on 0800 328 0006 and ask for debt help if you are feeling overwhelmed by debt.

We look forward to chatting to you!

What lockdown taught us about Easter

calendar29 March 2021

Author: Claire Wong

What lockdown taught us about Easter

A year ago, we faced the prospect of Easter in lockdown. It was the start of the pandemic and no one knew what to expect. Now we’re approaching that same milestone in the calendar a year on, and in the UK we're still under restrictions. But this year looks different. Is it possible that lockdown could teach us an important lesson about how to find hope this Easter?

Since the beginning of Covid’s spread, I’ve found myself drawn to Easter Saturday. This might sound like an odd day to get excited about: in the modern Christian calendar it can feel uneventful. Good Friday is all about the cross, Easter Sunday is the joy of new life, but in between there’s a day where nothing much happens. We wait for it to be over, because we know something better’s coming tomorrow.

When you don’t know how the story ends

But for the early disciples, that first Easter Saturday was very different. It didn’t come with any reassurances of a victorious ending to the story (Jesus did foretell his death and resurrection, but his followers didn’t grasp his meaning until after it had all happened). For them, it felt like they’d lost everything. They were defeated. They went home in despair.

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.' When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:44-46)

cross on a hill with light behind

What does Easter Saturday mean for us?

In many ways, we’ve been living in Easter Saturday ever since last year. We haven’t known how this pandemic is going to end, and we’ve been aware of how much we’ve lost. As we approach Easter, I find myself very sympathetic towards those disciples huddled together in dejection.

And yet, the story of Easter is all about hope and new life. Let’s not forget that for Jesus’ followers, it was the biggest surprise plot twist of all time! The man they saw killed actually came back to life. The switch from despair to amazement must have been a rollercoaster of emotions!

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!'  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20)

Spoiler alert: you can find hope this Easter too!

We, of course, have the benefit of knowing the end of that story. We know that God’s unfailing love and light win out over darkness. We know that God’s heart is to rescue and redeem the people he loves so much. And therefore we have a reason to hold on to hope: hope for change, hope for joy, hope for new life and possibilities. It’s why at CAP we use the words ‘always hope’ so much. Because we’ve seen, in the bleakest of situations, that change is possible.

Over the last year, we’ve all perhaps had to work much harder to hold on to that hope. But as all nations of the UK start to move out of lockdown, and vaccinations continue to rollout, we can begin to hope that change is on the way.

After a year of Easter Saturday uncertainty, be encouraged that we can all find hope this Easter in the knowledge that the whole resurrection story is one of God’s deep love for us and the surprising turnarounds made possible when he gets involved in our lives. Whatever happens, we always hope.

What are you looking forward to this Easter? Tell us in the comments about your hopes for this year.

Superhero charity ideas: 5 ideas for young families

calendar17 March 2021

Author: Helen Richards

Superhero charity ideas: 5 ideas for young families

‘You get what you get and you don’t get upset!’

As parents it can be frustrating when our children don’t seem to appreciate what they have, and you may have resorted to phrases like this one in the past. But there are lots of ways to chat to your kids about privilege, gratefulness and social justice – ways that will encourage action from within, not just because they’re being told to do something nice.

Today, we’re going to look at the idea of ‘everyday superheroes’.

Do your kids love Iron Man? Are they charging round the living room pulling gravity-defying stunts like Black Widow? Well, teaching children about ‘everyday superheroes’ can be a great way to put all that energy to good use!

And at the end of this post, we’ll share five fun superhero charity ideas to kick-start your family’s social justice journey.

What is a superhero?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines superheroes as ‘characters who have special strength and use it to do good things and help other people.’

Over the last year, we’ve seen thousands of people fulfil this definition, from the NHS staff using their skills to care for the sick, to the delivery drivers ensuring our food supply is maintained. They’re all superheroes!

Chat to your children about who has helped them during lockdown, and what special gifts they used to do this. Here are some examples:

Help your kids become real-life superheroes!

Everyone has superhero skills – you just have to look for them. And when we use our skills and gifts and position to help others, we become world-changers to the people around us.

So we’ve pulled together a list of fun superhero charity ideas for you to have a go at as a family. Why not have a read through these ideas with your little ones and pick one to try together?

Five superhero charity ideas

Donate books

You probably have lots of books lying around at home. Why not choose some that you’ve finished and donate them to your school so other children can enjoy them? If you’re not at school at the moment, you could gift them to a friend who lives near you instead.

Do some recycling

Being a superhero is not just about looking after people – we need to take care of our planet too. Could you take some bottles to the bottle bank? Or wash out some food cartons so that they can be recycled?

Super skills

What are you really good at? Can you play the flute? Can you speak French? Are you a footballing whizz? Maybe you’re good at washing cars or making lunch? Why not use your super skills to raise some money for charity and offer your skills in exchange for money! You could even get some friends to join in to raise even more!

Drop off some clothes at a charity shop

Some families have very little money to live on. If you have some nice clothes that are too small for you now, you can take them to a charity shop for other people to buy at a much lower price. Charity shops also use the money they earn to do other amazing projects in local communities. (Lots of charity shops have local bins for donating clothes or can even pick up from your house, so you can still donate to them, even if the shops are closed).

Be a monster superhero

Lots of superheroes transform when they start doing their superhero good deeds (think Hulk from The Avengers or Ladybug from Miraculous). Could you ask people to sponsor you to paint your face a bright colour for a week? Or maybe you could colour your hair instead? Send the money you raise to a charity that you care about.

These are just five charity superhero ideas to get you thinking. Maybe these ideas have even sparked some more ideas that you'd like to try out as a family!

Want more family-friendly superhero resources?

If you're interested in getting your hands on some more family-friendly resources to explore UK poverty and justice with your children, good news: we’ve got some Marvel-ous (!) new things coming up! By letting us know you're interested below, we'll make sure you're the first to know when they launch!

 
 

Register your interest in our resources for families

Christians Against Poverty will ensure your personal details are held securely to enable us to contact you moving forwards in line with our privacy policy. We will never share them with anyone else. If you'd like to change your consent options in the future, please just contact us.
 

 

 

Too deep in debt to break free? Why we need to simplify the solution

calendar18 February 2021

Author: Laura Kirkham

Too deep in debt to break free? Why we need to simplify the solution

My name is Laura and I work as a Senior Debt Advisor in the Insolvency Team at Christians Against Poverty. Our team helps those clients who simply can’t afford to repay their debts within a reasonable timeframe.

There are two main types of insolvency, if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. Most people have heard of bankruptcy, but a Debt Relief Order, or DRO, is a form of insolvency for people with low incomes and few assets. This is for people whose budget is simply too tight to pay back their debts, and they don’t own much of value that they could sell towards repayments either.

Most of the clients we help in the Insolvency team fall into this category: on average they’d have spent 58 years paying back all their debts, so a DRO is a chance to get their lives and their finances back on track. However, we find that many low income clients are excluded from a DRO because they fall short of one or two criteria. (Join our campaign now to make DROs accessible to those who need them!)

During my time at CAP, I’ve experienced many challenging conversations with clients where I have to tell them that a change in circumstances means they are no longer eligible for a DRO. In these conversations I have to tell them that the fees for bankruptcy are seven times more than a DRO, costing £680 instead of £90. The discussion is never an easy one to have.

Simplify the solution to problem debt

This month, CAP has launched a new report called Simplify the solution, which builds the case for why the eligibility criteria for a DRO must change. At the same time, the government body overseeing insolvencies, the Insolvency Service, launched a consultation for changes to the monetary eligibility criteria for a DRO. As momentum builds, this is a perfect time to see changes and to help more people access an affordable debt solution.

The problem with the DRO debt limit

Tony* was all set for a DRO, but a final check revealed that one debt balance was higher than we had originally listed. This brought his total debt balance to over £20,000. A DRO has a debt limit of £20,000, and so he was no longer eligible for it. Tony is not alone. More than half of CAP clients excluded from a DRO have less than £30,000 of debt, which is the new limit proposed by the Insolvency Service. But our research shows that increasing the limit to £50,000 would cover a huge 92% of CAP clients who are currently excluded based on debt balance alone. They are living on extremely restricted budgets, have no real assets that they could sell to pay off their debts, and have no realistic chance of saving the £680 they would need to pay for bankruptcy.

The vehicle limit

It’s no secret that good quality things tend to last longer than those of poor quality. Cheap shoes will often be walked into the ground within a few months, whereas a pair of expensive shoes may last for years. The same applies to vehicles and this is the perpetual cycle of poverty that a lot of our clients find themselves in. Cheap old cars repeatedly break down, which can mean you’d spend more on repairs each year than if you’d been able to afford a more reliable car in the first place. And that’s money that people on the tightest budgets just don’t have spare.

Our client Susie* found herself caught in this trap, so her parents gave her a new car which allowed her to drive her daughter to hospital for frequent appointments. This was great news for Susie. However, since the new car was worth £1,500, it meant she was no longer eligible for a DRO. Even if she applied for bankruptcy, it risked her car being taken and sold by the Official Receiver to pay back some of her creditors. By keeping the vehicle limit at £1,000, clients who need cars are having to decide whether to sell reliable vehicles and risk paying more in repairs down the line.

Debt Relief Orders bring real hope to people who find that they can access all the freedoms of having their debt cleared without all the unwanted stigma or costs of a bankruptcy. The existing eligibility criteria for DROs is no longer suitable. The Insolvency Service is proposing to make great steps this year to expand the DRO criteria allowing more people to access this solution to their debts, but we are asking them to revisit their proposed changes to offer more of the country’s most vulnerable people a way out of the darkness of debt.

You can help make a fairer system for people trapped in poverty! Add your voice to our campaign today, and tell your local MP that you want DROs to be accessible for those who need them. Use our ready-made template to email your MP.

*Names have been changed.

Photograph taken by Kathryn Anne Photography

A message from Paula Stringer

calendar10 February 2021

Author: Paula Stringer

A message from Paula Stringer

As we share the news that, 25 years after founding the charity, John Kirkby is moving on from his role here at CAP UK, I want to take a moment to express my admiration and gratitude for the incredible legacy he will leave.

I have had a passion for the work of Christians Against Poverty for many years, so after joining the organisation in 2018, it was an incredible privilege to be asked to take over running the organisation just over a year ago. My own personal experience of debt and some extremely difficult challenges really solidified my belief in, and passion for, the work that CAP does.

My story

A few years ago, my husband Dan and I owned a deli, coffee shop and restaurant in Marple. I was working for the BBC at the time but when the recession hit, despite our best efforts, the business didn’t make it. Debts sprang up from every angle, we had to let our amazing staff go, and Dan was completely broken. Our only option was to go through bankruptcy.

Sadly, Dan ended up very, very poorly and unable to work for a whole year as he recovered. It was a really difficult time for all of us and I could have never anticipated the impact this would have on our marriage, our family, or our relationships. 

There was a key moment during our recovery when we realised that, if this had been so incredibly difficult for us, even though we had my Christian family supporting us, a local church family praying and rallying round and an income coming in, then how on earth did anyone who didn’t have these things ever get through it? We realised the enormous impact debt has on people’s lives and knew that, if we could, we wanted to do something to help. We had no idea what though at that time. As usual, God did!

There were times where I thought Dan and I were going to get to breaking point, it was so hard, but God did get us through it. The experience gave me an understanding of the true trauma of debt. The shame, and how judged you feel as a person just going through those kinds of things and how hard it is – I’ve lived it.

Working with John

So, I ended up joining Christians Against Poverty and, as I said earlier, what a privilege it is. John founded the most incredible organisation and God not only used John’s own experiences and past to drive his passion for the poor but also gifted him with an entrepreneurial spirit, sheer grit and determination. Without John’s personal commitment and sacrifice in the past 25 years this country would not have seen as many people’s lives changed and people following Jesus. It has been my honour and joy to work alongside, and get to know, John more deeply over the last year or so and I have committed to keeping the foundations of this organisation standing on the same ground they were built on – Christ.

What’s next?

CAP looks different now to how it did ten years ago and it will likely look different again in another ten years but there will be no change to the way God has always been absolutely central to our vision. We will not lose sight of his call on us to serve and include the many people for whom poverty and debt are ruining their life. And we will never turn away from reaching those people through partnerships with his Church.

Leadership is always a temporary assignment — always. It is a temporary assignment because leaders do not ultimately own the teams, ministries or organisations. They simply steward what God has entrusted to their care for a season. A wise leader embraces the temporal reality of leading, and they prepare the ministry for the future. This is exactly what John has done. Even before I joined CAP, for many years, John held an ‘open handed’ attitude to CAP’s future. That means we now have a team of empowered, experienced staff who have been carrying CAP’s vision extremely well for many years. This is an incredible, strength-giving gift for a founder to give to an organisation, and it means that the vision, mission and culture are not built entirely on the shoulders of one person. When John leaves later this year, CAP will not change identity or lose any of what makes it ‘CAP’: of that we are certain.

As we look back on what has been achieved in the past 25 years, it’s not about a trip down ‘memory lane’. It’s a moment to celebrate the foundations laid through our history, ready for us to build on in the future. And God has our future in his hands. I am just thrilled that I still get to work alongside John doing some of the International work for CAP so I won’t have to miss out on the privilege of working with him.

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