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The people forgotten in the coronavirus outbreak

calendar21 April 2020

Kiri Saunders's avatar Kiri Saunders

The people forgotten in the coronavirus outbreak

A lot can change in a short space of time. No area of life has remained untouched by the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. We have all been affected – some of us socially, financially or physically. Many have tragically lost loved ones. Across the UK, there has been a staggering response to the pandemic. Thousands signed up to volunteer to help the vulnerable, millions of pounds have been raised for the NHS and within days the Government rolled out new measures to help businesses and individuals during this time of uncertainty and turmoil. The UK has truly joined together in unity, and yet there still remains many who we mustn’t overlook and forget.

CAP’s External Affairs team

At CAP, we don’t want to just treat the symptoms of poverty; we also want to address the causes. We don’t want to be people who just help pick up the pieces after this pandemic; we want to ensure that people are protected during this difficult time too. That’s why our External Affairs team is working tirelessly behind the scenes to shape and influence the support offered by firms, regulators and government.

Who has been forgotten? 

As people spend much more time at home, living costs – such as food and utility bills – will increase for many. This is why the Government announced a much-needed £20 per week boost for those on Universal Credit and those receiving Tax Credits. But what many won’t realise is that a staggering 2.83 million people will fall through a gap in this vital provision. These people are those who are still receiving ‘old style’ benefits that Universal Credit is designed to replace – things like Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

Around one in five of our clients at CAP receive Job Seeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance. These clients will miss out on the Government’s support package, which is worth more than £1,000 over the next twelve months. Social security is designed to be an anchor for people in difficult times, but the coronavirus crisis will push thousands of households to the brink.

Our action plan

It’s crucial that our social security system keeps households afloat during this crisis. Today we released a policy statement listing three further changes we need to see.

We want to see the Government:

  • Increase Job Seeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance by £20 per week, in line with the income boost given to Universal Credit and Tax Credit claimants.
  • Increase Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates to the median market rents. 
  • Suspend the benefit cap during the pandemic.

While we play our part, will you play yours?

Sadly, a lot of CAP clients will be struggling during this time. Last week, we launched our coronavirus emergency appeal to provide vital support for key needs amongst our clients, from emergency food packages to fuel vouchers, to crucial mobile phone credit to help those who are isolated stay connected during this time.

Your generosity was staggering - we reached our target of £80,000 in just four days! This means we can now provide for at least 1,600 families and individuals who are in desperate need during this pandemic - thank you!

But it’s not time to sit back - the impacts on the most vulnerable are going to be long lasting. For some, this will be the tipping point into financial difficulty. We need to ensure we respond now so CAP can be there for them when they dial our helpline in the coming months.

A gift from you today could ensure we can answer the calls of those ringing for help. It could cover the cost of setting up clients’ plans with us after their first appointment, so our teams can draw up a budget and begin the debt free journey with them. Your gift could see someone through from their first phone appointment with a debt coach through to having a complete solution in place.

Will you provide a lifeline of hope during the coronavirus pandemic?

Donate now

Finding hope in helping others

calendar20 April 2020

Claire Wong's avatar Claire Wong

Finding hope in helping others

Tough times can bring out the best in people. Across the country, we're hearing stories of compassion, generosity, community spirit. From the children putting rainbow pictures in their windows, to the volunteers stepping up to support the NHS, everywhere you can see people taking simple actions that make a meaningful difference to others. There's hope in every one of these acts.

You might feel like there’s not much you can do to help others right now. It’s normal to feel tired, overwhelmed or powerless in response to events like this. But there are simple things we can do to combat those feelings and make a positive difference in the world.

Remember God hasn't changed

Isaiah 41:13 says 'For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, "Do not fear; I will help you."'

We have a kind and courageous God. And we still have each other, even if we can’t meet in person right now.

Join forces for good

Alone, we might be limited in what we can do. But when we work together, we can change lives.

One of CAP's greatest strengths is our network of partner churches. Up and down the UK, compassionate Christians are ready to get to work. We have a plan. We have volunteers. And we have an easy way for you to be involved.

At CAP, we're well placed to understand the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in society. People who've lost jobs due to the lockdown, whose already precarious situations have just been made worse by the outbreak. So we're going to deliver emergency aid to those most desperately in need. We're also planning for the future, making sure we're poised and ready to respond to an increased need for debt help. We want to offer a lifeline to anyone in financial turmoil due to coronavirus.

Get involved!

Our coronavirus appeal means that you can give vital support to someone who needs it, and ensure CAP is ready to help those thrown into financial difficulty by coronavirus. But more than that, you're telling them they're not forgotten or invisible. You're making sure today contains a little bit more hope than yesterday did.

Make a difference to someone's life today. Be part of our coronavirus appeal.

Donate now

Easter behind locked doors

calendar14 April 2020

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Easter behind locked doors

Things are pretty scary for everyone right now and you already know why. One of the upsides of everyone being at least a little bit anxious about the same thing and worried for their loved ones is that we’re all in the same boat and there’s empathy there. Hopefully, there’s kindness too.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis means we’ve all been told to stay in our homes as much as we can. That means all our lives are different. Many people are facing unemployment or finding their jobs either threatened or entirely changed. Those of us who can work from home are facing the challenges this brings.

Those of us who aren’t able to work from home are facing new risks we never thought we’d have to face when we started our jobs. Speaking as a retail worker, I never expected political leaders to call my job ‘heroic’ when I started working in my little shop.

For many, Easter must have felt weird this year. From Easter egg hunts to meeting up with family, agape meals, walks of witness and the many church services throughout Holy Week, it’s easy to overlook how much we as Christians experience faith by being in close proximity with other people. Admittedly, it’s a little easier to maintain our church traditions and communities than it used to be, in the age of online communities, smartphones, video calling, blogs like this one and TV. My church and many others have been sharing their services on their Facebook page. Technology means that although we’re socially distant, we aren’t socially isolated.

Hopefully you were able to attend an Easter service in some way over the weekend – it has a lot to teach us in these anxious and uncertain times.

As things go, for his followers, Jesus’ death was about as bad as it could get. The disciples knew he was God, the Messiah, the person who could protect them, and when he died it must have been petrifying for them. Believing Jesus was gone forever and fearing they would be executed in the same way for following him, the disciples hid together in a locked room from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.

Meanwhile, the female disciples went to Jesus’ tomb. There was a huge earthquake and an angel appeared to them, making the guards at the tomb faint in fright. The angel said:

‘Do not be afraid, I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see him.” Now I have told you. So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him.' (Matthew 28:5-9)

Had the women not gone looking for Jesus when they were afraid, they wouldn’t have been able to spread the news to others. In our own lives today, it’s easy to let fear and uncertainty overwhelm us and we can end up hiding like the disciples or fainting like the soldiers. But when we have the courage to look for Jesus, we can find miracles. And Jesus finds us too, wherever we are. Even locked away in that room, he found the disciples and spoke to them. It’s comforting to know that even when we’re locked away and feeling isolated, God will come and find us.

Finally, the Easter story tells us that difficult times are temporary. For the disciples waiting on Easter Saturday, it must have felt like the worst of all the worst-case scenarios, but it wasn’t like that forever. Hope was just around the corner. I know it may not feel like it, but even by the worst predictions, the pandemic isn’t going to last forever. We may be in the middle of what feels like a long and unpredictable Easter Saturday right now, but there is the hope that Easter Sunday is coming.

How will the pandemic affect the UK’s poorest?

calendar30 March 2020

Marianne Clough's avatar Marianne Clough

How will the pandemic affect the UK’s poorest?

Everyone is trying to get their heads around what coronavirus, social distancing or isolation measures mean for them. It’s a surreal level of upheaval on many fronts. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking, ‘Is that headache I’ve got a symptom of stress or have I actually caught this virus?’ - it’s enough to give you a stressy headache. Whatever our own discomfort, it’s vital we look beyond, and remember how this will be for the most vulnerable in our society. So here, for prayer and consideration in your neighbourhood, is a rundown of the major issues we at Christians Against Poverty believe people will be facing. Once we all understand the issues better, we can begin to help more effectively.

Vulnerable people really need face-to-face contact 

The key issue will be support. Usually, people can call on friends or family or access face-to-face support from charities and organisations but this has been cut off due to social distancing. We’re concerned that people who are offline and very vulnerable will be even more under the radar than usual. Someone to hold your hand or give you a hug is more powerful than it sounds and an uplifting invite to church or an event can’t be replaced.

One in five of our clients have no access to the internet, either at home or on a phone. For them, there’s no Facebook or Whatsapp community to cheer them along. Loneliness is no small issue and we expect the Government to focus on this in the coming weeks. We’re hopeful that the amazing army of NHS volunteers and those neighbourly groups will be able to zero in on this group. We’re absolutely certain that the Church will be doing what the Church does best in all this - love and care. 

More than seven million people in the UK are functionally illiterate. Letters that arrive can be frightening and confusing. It’s a face-to-face encounter that brings much-needed clarity and peace… which brings us on to:

Accessing help

We’re glad that the Government and suppliers have made provisions for people in need but these rely on them knowing what’s on offer and how they can access it. Our experience tells us that instructions like ‘call your energy supplier’ will be difficult on several levels to frightened people whose trust of such companies might not be very high. Will they be able to hold the line and wait for the information and help they need? Again, reassurance from those on the ground is important.

While official help may be difficult, loan sharks and fraudsters might find this situation an easy market. Action Fraud is reporting a spike in people taking advantage of genuine need via false offers of help. Ensure the vulnerable people you know are aware of the dangers.

Poor mental health

This is commonplace among those we help and these clients especially, rely on face-to-face support and healthy distractions to keep them going. For many with poor mental health, day-to-day living was already fragile and full of anxiety, long before the coronavirus pandemic began.

Our experience at CAP tells us that people who are very stressed, or unwell don’t cope with extra admin tasks easily, finding it hard to open letters and fill in forms. All we can do as a society to support by phone, or practically where it is safe, will be invaluable. 

It’s also worth saying that it will be a testing time for those fighting addictions, without the accountability of supportive friends. Again, knowing this means we can ensure we can give people special attention.

Poor physical health

Many of our debt clients are likely to be self-isolating. Not many are over 70, but there are a large number of carers and a fifth of our clients are either seriously or terminally ill. We’re very concerned for our typically vulnerable clients with multiple complex needs. Nearly nine in ten were already socially isolated before CAP’s help and now, we can’t see them face-to-face. We know they will be finding this time hard.

Housing

Self-isolation is miserable but for many, a garden and comfortable home surroundings can bring comfort. Not so for the families in emergency accommodation with no cooking facilities or poor housing situations with no carpets, curtains or safe outside space. For families or for those in volatile relationships, these weeks will be very hard indeed. We are glad there will be no evictions for non-payment of rent over the next three months but we’re concerned there could be a wave of them after that.

Families

Being at home for longer periods with children to feed means more energy is required to heat and cook, more water is needed for essential hand-washing, etc. This will cause greater expenditure, while income will likely dry up because for many, no childcare means no paid work.

More than a quarter of our debt clients are single parents and without support or respite, the days and nights will seem unrelenting. Do you know a mum or dad at home alone? Give them a ring and let them know you’re thinking of them.

Work and income

Our experience at CAP is that low income coupled with an unexpected change in someone’s circumstances is what usually causes much of the debt we see. Now large proportions of people will be experiencing exactly that. 

Job loss or a reduction in working hours; companies folding; unstable temporary work; all this coupled with a likely global economic downturn, will mean charities like ours are going to be even more vital in the future.

What about the future?

It’s a sad fact that coronavirus is going to be making us very busy at CAP.  We fully intend to carry on bringing hope and restoration through our church-based service, helping people know they are loved in the tough months and years ahead. If you can help to support our work by regular giving, that would be absolutely wonderful. capuk.org/donate

Celebrating women this Mother’s Day

calendar18 March 2020

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Celebrating women this Mother’s Day

We don’t talk often enough about the amazing women of the Bible. We're regularly not given their names but time and again, we definitely know what they did, whether it's ‘The Woman of Samaria’ or the woman who poured perfume on Jesus’ feet.

There are named men in the Bible who we know little about but Bible women are almost always included for doing something amazing. 

With Women’s World Day of Prayer just gone and Mother’s Day upon us, this blog is about celebrating some of these amazing Bible women.

Mary of Nazareth

Mary, Jesus’ mother is probably the most famous woman in the Bible. Many depictions of Mary show her as innocent, meek and obedient. If you look at what she takes on as the mother of Jesus, above everything, she was courageous.

Mary was told, as a young girl and a virgin, that she was going to have a baby that isn’t her fiance’s. She would know it would be a threat to her personal safety enough without knowing that the baby is going to grow up to be the Messiah. She knew the Messiah would go on to take on those in power. She knew her child would face up to that threat and, by extension, she would too. She knew how important it was and she bravely agreed to it.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth was Mary’s relative and, at a much older age, became mother to John the Baptist. He was another dangerous person to be parenting and ultimately John was beheaded for what he said. Elizabeth was brave too and incredibly kind and supportive because when a pregnant Mary came to visit her, possibly because she had no one else to run to, Elizabeth said:

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

If Mary was worried about being a mother, this was exactly what she needed to hear! Elizabeth gave Mary a home and kept her safe for about three months so she really went above and beyond to support Mary.

Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus’ followers and in John’s account was the first person to see, at his grave, the resurrected Jesus. No one else was around because all the other disciples were hiding thinking they’d be killed next. That threat doesn’t seem to concern Mary in the same way and she becomes the first to know the most amazing news.

The Canaanite Woman

While Jesus had withdrawn away from the crowds, another unnamed woman, this time from Canaan, came to him asking for help for her demon possessed daughter and Jesus actually said something apparently rather cruel;

‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel...It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.’

The woman replied, ‘Yes it is, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’

Then Jesus said, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment.

This is an impressive exchange. The woman answered in a way that is both wise and courageous. She stands up to him and wins, it’s important because, arguably, it’s partly this conversation that opens up Christianity to being a separate religion in its own right. It introduces the idea that God should be for everyone.

Take time to notice and appreciate the Bible women. Like many great women today, they are changing the world in small ways and big ways. Happy Mother’s Day to all the women in our lives.

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