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Why you should volunteer at a Christian festival this summer

calendar08 April 2019

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Why you should volunteer at a Christian festival this summer

This summer, Christian festivals and conferences are running all across the UK. Volunteers will be helping out around the conferences, helping anywhere and everywhere, from on-site cafés to security to prayer teams, and lots of organisations would love you to be a part of the fun!

I started volunteering as a venue steward at Christian events when I was 22, mostly because it was a great way to have an affordable holiday! Generally, volunteers don’t have to pay for tickets to festivals, meaning you can be part of the fun for free.

You don’t have to worry about it being a working holiday, either. You’re given plenty of time off to explore all the activities and sessions going on. A typical day might involve a couple of two to three-hour shifts spread throughout the day, then the rest of the time you’re free to enjoy the event.

I also thought volunteering would be a chance to meet lots of new people, and it was - the people made it an amazing experience! I loved making friends and having fun with them, as well as chatting and praying with those attending the events.

When you’re a volunteer, meals are usually included. This takes a huge weight off when planning what to bring with you – especially if you’re camping – and means you’ll be well taken care of, so won’t be living off instant noodles the whole time!

Gemma, who works here at CAP and first volunteered at one of our CAP Cafés last year, said she was nervous about going at first, but totally loved the experience:

‘It was quite daunting because it was the first time I’d done anything like it - I’d never been camping for more than a night, for one thing! But I honestly had the best time. I met some amazing people, made some great memories and had space to encounter Jesus in a really powerful way. The best thing was that it was all for a fantastic cause - I loved seeing people find out about CAP, often for the first time, and really engaging with what they do. As soon as I got home I wanted to go again!’

This year, the CAP Café is back! If having a blast with a team of passionate people sounds like your cup of tea, why not join us at New Wine or the Big Church Day Out this summer?

Join the CAP Café team

Ordinary people change a nation

calendar05 April 2019

John Kirkby's avatar John Kirkby

Ordinary people change a nation

Last night was another of those ‘pinch myself’ moments that only God can make happen. On (yet another) key evening for our Government amid the Brexit turmoil and uncertainty, I was in Westminster, too - preaching at St Margaret’s Church, part of the Abbey.

The annual Whitehall Easter service, hosted by Christians in Government, is typically attended by hundreds of civil servants who pause to focus together on the events of cross and the tomb.

However history-making the voting in the House, here we were considering his–story.

Here’s what I said:

‘In these turbulent times when much around us is uncertain, I praise God for the certainty and promises that we receive as Christians: the life sustaining, reassuring, transforming power released as Jesus rose from the dead.

This Easter will be my 26th since I found Christ. As you will hear, Jesus’ resurrection power and redeeming love that I first experienced all those years ago has transformed my life.

Prior to finding Christ, I’d ruined my life: I had a difficult early childhood, and left school at 16 as an angry, violent, lost young man. My father died when I was 18, and my mother suffered a severe mental breakdown and was sectioned. Left to my own devices, I became a debt collector.

I rose through the finance industry and was successful, yet underneath I was broken and lost. By my 30th birthday I’d lost my marriage and home, and was in huge debt. I felt abandoned by everyone. I was broken and in crippling debt. I lived with my two daughters in one room of a friend’s house.

I know what it’s like to be poor. I’ve experienced putting things back on a supermarket shelf. I know the shame of not being able to provide for my kids - the brokenness, guilt and hopelessness.

But someone showed me the love of Christ and I accepted Him as my saviour. My faith journey was a challenge. For the first couple of years I was still lost, in need of his grace, as we all are, but through his love and that of the local Church I recovered.

I set up a system to get my debts paid, work improved, and with a newfound focus and Christ in my life I saw things change. I met Lizzie, who was very much part of the rebuilding of me.

Everything looked amazing as I approached my 4th Easter - a life transformed by his grace! Little did I know he was about to call me to start CAP.

In 1996, 18 weeks before we were to be married, I felt Jesus say, 'Okay Johnny boy, remember when you were in that one room, you said you’d do anything I asked? Well, I’d like you to help the poor.’'

"What? Now? When it’s all looking so good? When I’m getting married in 18 weeks?"

"Yes, Johnny boy. Now!"

I knew God was calling me to help the poor in my home town of Bradford. So, not knowing what was going to happen, we got married and started CAP from my home office with £10. 23 years later CAP has grown to 600+ centres all based in local churches. We reach over 23,000 people every year, releasing thousands from the misery of debt and poverty. Every day ten people go debt free, three find work through our CAP Job Clubs after being out of work for more than two years, people are released for life controlling habits and get a fresh start.

God has drawn tens of thousands to support us. We now have 30,000 regular givers and over 10,000 supporters, pray-ers and advocates who make sure our quality services, that work, are free. They enable us to keep faith. Our heart is that no life is beyond his redeeming power – it’s the core of who we are. We have been included in conversations including on debt, universal credit, fuel poverty and more, highlighting the scale of the complex problems our clients face.

Through our work with government, we have had ours eyes opened into how much you do and the burdens often carried. You may think your role goes unnoticed (perhaps it does) but I am here today to tell you that we see what you do and we appreciate it. You are following God’s call on your life to do his work right here in Westminster. My hope is that you will feel God’s smile and favour over you as you continue to shape legislation and support those in wider society.

Jesus is leading us to serve him through what we do, and you to serve him where you are, through what you do as public servants, with a genuine heart for the people of this nation, who perhaps don’t often tell you of their gratitude.

So, on their behalf, thank you! You outwork the same Easter miracle, same Jesus, same call to see our life count for others. The practical help we offer is great. But we know that true transformation is found through a relationship with Jesus.

When Christians are living a life that reflects Jesus, people can sense it. When we are non-judgemental, kind, helpful, willing to go the extra mile - generous people are easy to spot in every walk of life.

At Easter, we are once again reminded that Christ died, was buried and rose again for us. For me, for you, and for each and every one of our clients that we help. We want them to know that Jesus loved them so much that he died on the cross for them, to share good news of the resurrection.

For over 20 years, CAP has committed to be the best reflection we can of who Jesus is, to show this nation that the Church is relevant to the communities we serve.

As Christians, we all play a vital part in showing a hurting world that God is love, forgiveness and compassion. He’s a God of second chances, a God of "your life can change", a God of "I believe in you", a God of salvation.

As Christians, we have a hope that does not disappoint.

Thank you for all you do and please pray and help wherever you can.

For me, it’s only ever been ordinary people that believe it’s possible to change a nation who ever do - let’s do this together.'

Do you know what poverty looks like?

calendar21 March 2019

Claire Cowles's avatar Claire Cowles

Do you know what poverty looks like?

I’ve not been out to film with a client of ours for a while, so despite the four-and-a-half hour journey to Kent being an uncomfortable prospect at seven months pregnant, I was pretty keen to be interviewing Tina the next day.

We drove onto a pretty nice, spacious new build estate that didn’t ‘look’ like the stereotypical image of UK poverty. When we turned into Tina’s street, suddenly the feeling of space and luxury was gone – basic brick built terraces were crammed together in one cul-de-sac. Nobody on the estate would have reason to ever look at this corner, unless they lived here. Even the way housing estates are laid out contributes to the way UK poverty remains hidden from view, leaving people isolated.

We knocked on the door and waited. Tina’s face greeted us and what struck me immediately was the depth of life you could physically see in her eyes. She was smiling, welcoming, friendly and whilst I knew what I was seeing was genuine joy, I also knew it was preceded by a life of unimaginable difficulty. You see, Tina’s life makes anything I’ve thought was difficult seem like an absolute breeze. I felt an immediate sense of privilege to be standing in this lady’s house.

A survivor of life-long domestic abuse, Tina was living with clinical depression, anxiety, PTSD, fibromyalgia and a crumbling hip. Just before contacting CAP, she was on suicide watch. On describing how she fled her abusive relationship, her words to me were ‘I left that relationship with nothing. Well, nothing apart from the debts.’ And so we see how she eventually connected with CAP.

Tina is an example of what vulnerability truly looks like amongst those living in UK poverty. Our latest report Stacked against  has uncovered that the term ‘vulnerability’ represents something inconceivably more complex than perhaps we realise. We’ve discovered that families experiencing bereavement are almost twice as likely to fall prey to fraud or financial abuse, and that a third of households that have suffered a relationship breakdown are also struggling with addiction.

As Tina opened up in the four hours we were with her, she revealed just what a difference it had made to receive CAP’s help: ‘Not once has any person from CAP said, “this is your doing”. Every step has lifted me a little bit further. It’s so nice to get up in the morning and see sunlight. Without CAP and the support of the church, I would not be debt free. I would not be here.’

By the end of the interview, Tina and I were declaring we were ‘BFFs’ and she was making me promise to let her know when my baby arrives. A week later, a parcel arrived in the office. Tina had handmade me a hanging sign saying ‘It’s not how big the house is, it’s how happy the home is’.

I can truly say that Tina’s home is a happy one. But whilst her debts may be solved, her physical and mental health battles are still very real. Looking at Tina’s life, she is a mind-blowing example of God‘s joy and peace that pass understanding.

On the back of the findings of Stacked against, we’re calling on companies to recognise the ways they can make changes to their services in order to support those facing multiple complex needs.

Claire Cowles is our Communications Manager, passionate about seeing justice and freedom for those who have the biggest battles on their hands.

A day in the life of a CAP Job Club

calendar18 March 2019

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

A day in the life of a CAP Job Club

On a dark grey evening in a warm burgundy-walled church meeting room, a community of jobseekers and volunteers gather for their weekly CAP Job Club, one of 156 currently running across the UK. This week, I’m joining them.

The group are from a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Most are unemployed, but some are simply seeking more sustainable employment, like David and Mark*. They both work for the same security firm and are seeking more long term employment, working on nightclub doors or guarding building sites overnight.

Like most Christian gatherings, since the early Church, a good portion of the meeting is devoted to making sure everyone was properly fed. Volunteers and members connect over plates of pie and mash, or pizza. There’s even a large chocolate cake for someone’s birthday.

‘It’s always a laugh coming here,’ David says, ‘It’s great meeting new people and helping each other. The staff are excellent so when you need help, help’s there.’

Balwinder* is living on Universal Credit. He heard about the job club through his CAP Debt Coach. For him the sense of community is essential. As a single guy, being part of a weekly group of like-minded people gives him the friends and support network he needs. He comes along to the job club every week because there’s always something new.

‘Gaz is brilliant,’ he says, ‘He explains everything properly. I think it’s one of the best job clubs in the world. CAP’s changed my life.’

After the meal, everyone splits into groups and work booklets are handed out. Gaz talks everyone through filling out long-winded applications forms and how to write a standout cover letter. The atmosphere is cheerful and many of the members are happy to keep the conversation flowing and add to the discussion.

On my table is John*, a gas engineer who also runs his own business. He volunteers as a greeter at the job club and at the church’s food bank, signposting people to the different help that’s on offer.

He explains that he started to volunteer at the club because he wanted to make a difference and help the poor.

‘I enjoy it,’ John shares. ‘I believe it’s a reflection of God’s heart to the poor. Setting up a CAP Job Club is an important ministry. You need to find the right people, people who have a heart and a drive to genuinely listen and be there to offer advice. People who will go for it!’

After the meeting is over, Gaz explains why he thinks starting a job club is one of the best decisions you could make.

‘It’s a great way to release people and bring them into community. It’s more than just helping people find work. I’ve seen people written off by society, written off by job centres, written off by themselves, and yet I’ve seen how the work we do changes lives. That gives me hope.’

If you’re passionate about seeing people flourish, and are interested in finding out how your church can run a CAP Job Club, just give us a call at: 01274 760580, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or request an information pack today.

* Names have been changed to protect their privacy.

‘Cut to the bone’ - our clients talk about life on Universal Credit

calendar07 February 2019

Claire Wong's avatar Claire Wong

‘Cut to the bone’ - our clients talk about life on Universal Credit

Chances are, you’ve noticed Universal Credit making the headlines a lot lately. At CAP, we work directly with people who are being affected by it, so we asked them what it’s really like to apply for and receive Universal Credit.

Universal Credit – what is it?

The big idea behind Universal Credit is to simplify a range of benefits and tax credits into a single payment. It’s being rolled out in stages, so some people are already using it while others are still on the old system.

In theory, that all sounds sensible, but what do CAP’s clients say?

Making the switch

Just applying for Universal Credit can be a challenge. The lengthy form is online: great if you want to save trees, bad if you don’t have internet access, and 22% of our clients don’t have internet at home. Our client Alison* tried to apply over the phone instead, and this was her experience:

‘I was on hold forever and I didn’t have the money on my phone. I have no Internet at home so I walked to my local library which is quite far away... The form was quite long and I only had one hour to complete it. I did struggle to remember my past addresses. I’ve been homeless before and have had lots of care-of addresses, so it’s hard. The ID was also tricky because I’ve never had a passport. I had to buy new copies of my birth certificate.’

Once the claim is in, there’s a five week wait before the first payment. That’s five weeks without the benefits you’ve been living on. One single mum resorted to selling her belongings and another client was threatened with eviction because they couldn’t pay the rent during this time.

Getting in debt

To cover that five-week gap, there are ‘advances’ available. These are interest-free loans. While there’s no denying it’s good to have something to live on, it immediately puts you in the position of owing money that you have to repay within the space of a year. So as soon as you switch to Universal Credit, there’s a chance you’ll be in debt.

Everyone we spoke to said the repayments were too high for them to afford. One client said: ‘I read one line on a website that said, “We will take it back from your payments at a rate you can afford”. Well I shouldn’t have trusted them... as soon as I got the award for the benefits, I was down to £60 a month straight away.’

In practical terms, this meant people fell behind with household bills and had to use foodbanks.

But another side to debt and Universal Credit is that debts can be collected from your monthly payments, and some people are surprised at the proportion that can be taken for this. Imagine paying your rent and then having almost a third (30%) of your remaining income taken away. What would you have to go without to make ends meet?

Another of our clients said: ‘Every month, I’m ringing people to say I can’t pay, even though I’ve only got very small bills. I pay £9 a month for phone, I don’t have internet, I don’t have Sky or anything like that. Everything is cut down to the bone and I’m still living hand-to-mouth. I try not to go to the food bank when I don’t have to but I’ve always been using the foodbank while I’ve been on this benefit.’

Surviving day-to-day

If you’re on a low income then, put simply, you need to be brilliant at budgeting to get by. You might have heard that switching to Universal Credit means any fortnightly benefits you received move to monthly payments. But what’s less well known is that Universal Credit payments can fluctuate dramatically, and clients said they often didn’t know how much money they would be getting that month.

‘I work 22 hours a week and I find it very difficult to budget because my Universal Credit payment fluctuates so much. It’s never what they say it’s going to be. I look at my online account and it shows a figure but you can’t rely on it. It can be a big change, like £300.’

This is particularly a problem for clients who have paid jobs. If their wages come in more frequently than once a month then the system may miscalculate how much Universal Credit they’re owed.

What’s more, Universal Credit will cover up to 85% of a claimant’s childcare costs (up to a limit), but you still have to pay these costs up front and then reclaim them. Most single parents on low incomes simply don’t have the money to do this. Sadly, one of our clients lost their childcare place while waiting for their first Universal Credit payment, which then led to them then losing their job.

It’s safe to say there’s a lot of problems here. But that’s perhaps unsurprising with such a huge system, which will eventually be used by one in four UK households. The good news is there are people in government who are keen to listen to CAP’s voice and make the changes needed to make Universal Credit really work.

Want to know more about what our clients said about Universal Credit? We’ve produced a series of papers sharing the results of our survey. They’re full of stories from our clients’ real experiences.

Read more



*Client names changed to protect privacy

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