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Five minutes with… Bronwyn, a CAP Debt Advisor

calendar02 October 2019

Hayley Tearall's avatar Hayley Tearall

Five minutes with… Bronwyn, a CAP Debt Advisor

Our Debt Operations teams are key in supporting clients towards becoming debt free. Bronwyn has been part of the Debt Management Plan Contact team for two years, working with clients who have chosen a repayment route out of debt.

Hi Bronwyn! Can you tell us about a typical day in the DMP Contact team?

We respond to communication from clients and negotiate with their creditors – it’s all about standing in the gap for them. And I have good banter with the clients, we have a laugh when they call. They’re with us for maybe three, four, five years, so we really do see them through the highs and lows. It’s definitely a marathon not a sprint.

What do you love about being a Debt Advisor?

I get to speak to people who are worried and put their minds at ease. You can hear people’s voices change over the course of the call. There’s a lot of shame attached to debt, so being able to help clients break through that is a privilege. Working with the Church is amazing too, it’s like a big family. We say constantly how amazing it is to be so close to God’s heart in what we’re doing.

What’s your biggest challenge?

We are seeing more clients with disabilities, mental health issues and other challenges on top of their debt who need extra support and time with us. Thankfully, because we partner with the Church, our clients have local support to call on.

How do you see God at work in your role?

One example is when a client called who was struggling with depression, relationship breakdown and severe anxiety. He called expressing suicidal ideation and was unable to take the action we encouraged. We prayed as a team as we knew God needed to intervene. He called later that week and we were able to help him see a way forward. God is always stepping in to lift our clients’ heads, reminding them there’s a future brighter than their present circumstances.

How do you go the extra mile to support clients?

Last week I had a call from a lady telling me about her finances, but that wasn’t why she was phoning. She was upset because her son was in hospital. I prayed with her, and wrote her a card to say, ‘We’re thinking about you, we care about you, we hope that he gets better’ and popped it in the post with a box of chocolates. If a client is really struggling, we might say, ‘Do you want us to ask your Debt Coach to come?’ or put them in touch with a befriender in the area, and so we’ll get someone to go round. We’re limited by distance, but that’s why we work through local churches.

How does it feel to call a client and tell them they’re debt free?

It’s the best feeling. Hearing what they want to do next, like saving up for a present for a family member or going on holiday, is amazing. But the only reason we get to make these calls is because our supporters are giving, are praying, are completely involved in the journey. I don’t think we can ever say ‘thank you’ enough.

Five really good reasons to stop smoking this October

calendar23 September 2019

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Five really good reasons to stop smoking this October

Stoptober is back for another year! The national campaign, set up by Public Health England, is designed to encourage people to give up unhealthy habits and dependencies throughout October. For lots of people, it’s an ideal time to try and finally get rid of the cigarettes. We don’t have to tell you that there are all sorts of benefits to stopping smoking – it affects us in every area of our life, physically, mentally and financially. Take a look at our top five reasons why we think it’s a great idea to give up this October (and beyond!)

Oh my gosh, smoking in the UK is expensive!

Like, ridiculously expensive. For the non-smokers out there, at your local shop you’d struggle to find a pack of 20 cigarettes for less than £8 (and that’s the smallest pack you can now buy). The more premium brands are even more expensive and with the taxation on tobacco, it’s only going to get worse. If you smoke, why not try the NHS cost calculator here and find out how much you could really save if you were to ditch the cigarettes. Imagine what you could do with all that extra cash!

Your health matters – and quitting is a really quick way to improve it

Cutting out smoking improves our health – we all know that. But did you know that it improves almost immediately? The NHS has created this fascinating infographic showing the positive changes in your body starting just 20 minutes after your last cigarette. You should check it out!

Smoking might one day become a thing of the past

In the past, it was easier to be a smoker. There were a lot more allowances made for people who smoked, but now the world is changing. As awareness started to spread about the dangers and effects, more restrictions were put in place on things like where and when you are allowed to smoke. Today, younger generations are receiving a greater amount of education about the effects of smoking and the habit is becoming increasingly uncommon. Perhaps there will come a day when it’s a thing of a past? Why not be part of the change and get rid of the cigarettes today?

Your time is precious

How much of your day do you usually spend having cigarettes? There are so many other things you could be doing with your time! You could take up a new hobby or even just spend more time with family and friends. This October, see how many minutes you save when you give up smoking - every one is precious!

You don’t have to do it alone

Campaigns like Stoptober are fantastic for those of us looking to quit because we get to do it alongside other people. This helps keep us accountable and motivated. Imagine you’re trying to eat more healthily and everyone else at the table is eating cake – isn’t it so much harder being the only one trying to resist? Having a supportive group around you can offer encouragement, helpful tips and even a bit of healthy competition in not wanting to be the one that slips back into old habits!

Plus, there are lots of free support groups available across the UK that provide practical and emotional support as you quit. As well as local NHS services, CAP offers Fresh Start groups run through churches across the UK. Find out more here.

The journey to debt freedom

calendar18 September 2019

Claire Wong's avatar Claire Wong

The journey to debt freedom

Give a future free from debt

 

 

When tragedy struck, Francella’s first priority was to be there for her family. Keeping on top of her finances was, understandably, not top of her list. But before long, she found herself not only newly widowed but also deep in debt.

‘My husband passed away suddenly. Left to pay everything by myself, the debts started to build up. I tried to repay what I owed but I wasn’t getting anywhere. I was getting loans to pay off loans. It was depressing.

I was still grieving – unable to sleep – but now I was also worrying about whether I’d ever pay off my debts. I suffer from high blood pressure. Anxiety kicks in and I can’t breathe. The stress was constant.

Then there were my kids. I couldn’t afford the things they needed. There were times when I couldn’t afford to feed them properly. They’d come home asking about school trips. What choice did I have but to say no? Sometimes I’d use the rent money so they wouldn’t miss out.

One Christmas, I had no money for presents, dinner, decorations or anything like that for the kids. All their friends were opening presents and they had none. You have to explain to them why you can’t give them certain things. As a mother, it’s hard.'

Sadly, this is all too familiar a story seen here at CAP. As a national charity dedicated to setting people free from poverty and demonstrating God’s amazing love, we help thousands of people like Francella every single year. Through unexpected circumstances like bereavement, illness or redundancy, it’s easy to suddenly slip into hardship.

Through face-to-face debt coaching, volunteer befrienders and a team of highly trained caseworkers, CAP steps into the lives of those overwhelmed by their finances.

‘I told a friend at church about my problem, and she introduced me to Christians Against Poverty. Ian, my CAP Debt Coach, came round and together we looked at how to manage my everyday life. CAP contacted my creditors and I started on a Debt Management Plan. Paying in every month was straightforward – CAP took into consideration what was coming in, what was going out and what we needed as a family. I even had money left over to put into savings in case anything came up.'

Helping clients learn to budget and save is only the beginning though. CAP’s Debt Coaches are always willing to pray with anyone who wants prayer, and every debt centre is planted firmly within the supportive community of a local church. Francella was encouraged by this, and felt more able to trust CAP because of that link.

‘I’d had a bad experience with a debt management company, so I was wary at first. When Ian offered to pray in the first visit, I started to get that bit of confidence. I’ve been going to church since I was small and my faith is something I believe in strongly.

CAP listen and they care. They don’t come to take your money, they just want to help you. It’s good to be able to open up to people and talk about your problems. They encouraged me a lot.

Volunteer befrienders meet up with CAP clients to offer emotional support. After all, if you’re struggling to make ends meet and it’s affecting your health, it’s good to have someone to talk to.

‘In the end, it took less than a year to pay everything off. That call telling me I was completely debt free – it was wonderful.

CAP also invited us on a Discovery Break for clients. We did so many activities! We even went to a water park. After everything they’d missed out on, the kids loved it.'

More and more clients like Francella celebrate becoming debt free every day. It’s not just about the fresh start financially, but about what that means for your family and for yourself.

'Now I have my own budget that I stick to and I’m better at organising my finances. I no longer get up thinking about debt every day, wondering whether I have enough money to feed my children.

My son, Devughan, is in secondary school. I can pay for him to go on some school trips. There’s one coming up soon and I’m so grateful he can go. I’m able to put money aside for my kids too, to save for their future. I’m happy now! My kids are happy.

I know that in the trials I faced the Lord has brought me through.'

For Francella, working with CAP hasn’t just resolved her money worries and supported her family, it’s also strengthened her faith. She’s seen what the Church can do to help those in need. When she was struggling, it was other Christians who gave her the practical and spiritual input to change her situation: a picture of Jesus’ words, ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another’ (John 13:35).

‘If other people need help like I did, I’ll always introduce them to CAP. They helped me and I want to encourage others now.

I’d love to save up and visit my family in Jamaica. It’s been 15 years since I’ve seen them or been back home. If it wasn’t for CAP I’d still be paying my debts and it wouldn’t even be a possibility.'

What is a Debt Management Plan?

At CAP, our experienced Debt Advisors create a bespoke budget for each client, taking into account their individual circumstances. It allows families to live sustainably while paying their creditors monthly. We call this a Debt Management Plan.

It can take several years for some clients to repay their debts. We support them throughout.

For many, the Debt Management Plan is the first time they’ve learned how to manage their money. Like Francella, clients leave CAP knowing how to budget, save and avoid getting back into debt. 93% are still debt free five years on!

For richer and for poorer - keeping your wedding plans on budget

calendar10 September 2019

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

For richer and for poorer - keeping your wedding plans on budget

Plan the wedding you can afford

Here’s some big news: I am getting married next year! I am incredibly excited to be marrying the love of my life, my fiancé. We have already started calling each other, “future wife” and “future husband” in everyday conversation, just because it’s so fun to say. We’re adorable. It’s sickening!

However, what I am not excited about is getting everything organised and paying for everything. Firstly, because we have never had to organise a wedding before, because we haven’t been married before and secondly because we are quickly discovering, from dresses to balloons, everything that has the word ‘wedding’ on it is at least five times the price of something you’d buy for any other occasion. Some companies even mark up the price for “wedding packages”. 

So, being a trainee wedding planner myself, I called on my married friends and all the married people here at CAP for affordable wedding advice.

Spend money on things you care about

You’re going to receive a lot of pressure, from people in wedding shops and even from your friends and family, to buy things they say you need for it to be a “proper” wedding. But really, as long as you’re married by the end of the day, it’s a proper wedding. So think about what you’d actually miss having. Looking back on all the weddings my future wife and I have been to, we have never thought, ‘wow! Those chair covers were amazing!’ so given the choice, we decided we’re not having them. This is a pretty good litmus test for most things. If you didn’t notice them then, then you probably won’t notice them at your own wedding either.

Wedding dresses

There are a lot of places you can go to get the dress you love, on a budget. Some of my friends said they had managed to get dresses for around £100 from an online overseas company and from stores that were shutting down. One lucky bride managed to get a dress for less than £50 because it was last year’s style. So like anything, it helps to shop around. You could buy second hand, if your budget is a little tight. Wedding dresses are usually worn for just one day so where ‘used’ read ‘practically new’.

Setting the date

“Wedding season” often occurs between May to October, with the peak during the summer months July/August. So that’s the time that wedding businesses are the busiest. This can mean you’ll have a lot fewer chances to shop around at that time of year and, in the worst-case scenario, you can find wedding businesses raise their prices during this time because that’s the time they get the most business. Picking a time of year or even a time of week when things are less busy could make a real difference. 

One of the reasons why we’re having our wedding at 3:00pm is so we only need to provide catering for the evening meal (don’t tell my guests that!).

Do it yourself

You can save a lot of money by doing a DIY wedding, as much as you can. You could make your own invitations and decorations on your computer, by printing, by e-mail or by hand with craft materials. You could make your own food and cake or you could do a ‘bring and share’ buffet. If you don’t think you could do it on your own, you could invite friends over and have a creative day together. You could make a Spotify playlist rather than hiring a band. You could even ask your guests to suggest songs to play.

Favours!

Do any of your friends, coming to the wedding, have a useful skill? Are they good at baking, playing music or doing photography? Why not call in a favour? My mum does flower arranging so we’re hoping she can help make some of the decorations herself. 

Even simple things like, is there even anyone who would be willing to give you a lift in their car? You could save money by not hiring someone to drive you. It could even be your friend’s wedding gift to offer their professional skills, for a reduced cost or for free.

Your marriage is more important than the big day

Stick to your budget. Your wedding is about you and your ‘future wife’ or ‘future husband’, starting your life together, as present tense husband and wife. So, don’t let your wedding day put your finances in trouble by breaking your budget for one day. It’s not just the wedding day that’s important it’s all the days after you spend with the person you love.

Born into poverty - how can this be fair?

calendar27 August 2019

Crispin Northey's avatar Crispin Northey

Born into poverty - how can this be fair?

Making ends meet is hard at the best of times. Throw in the two-child limit for Child Tax Credits and Universal Credit and suddenly hundreds of thousands more families are thrown in poverty.

 At CAP, we see every day the impossible choices families are forced to make and while mum and dad are trying to cope with the changes to their income, has anyone spared a thought for the children themselves?

Children are not immune from the strain financial worries placed on their families – relationally, practically and emotionally. The number of children already living in poverty in the UK is unacceptable. It is not right that children should bear the brunt of this policy. Like everyone else, they do not choose to be born and deserve the opportunity to flourish.

That is why Christians Against Poverty (CAP), along with 45 other charities, has thrown its full support behind Child Action Poverty Group (CPAG) and the Church of England’s All Kids Count campaign to remove this unjust and unfair rule which penalises those who simply cannot bear any responsibility for their situation the most – the children.

In CAP’s recent Client report, 80% of parents shared they felt debt negatively affected their children and 17% of all our clients went without meals on a daily basis before working with us.

So, what is this all about?

Announced in 2015 and introduced from 6 April 2017, the two-child limit removed entitlement to Child Tax Credits or Universal Credits for third or subsequent children born after this date - worth £2,780 per child per year.

Child Poverty Action Group estimates two million children will be affected in the next four years, half of whom would have been in poverty anyway.

Of the 160,000 families who have been affected so far, the majority (66%) of these are from working families, with potentially 300,000 children being pushed into poverty and one million pushed deeper by 2023/4. 95% of those surveyed said the two-child limit has affected their ability to pay for basic living costs. This is forcing families into debt to try to cover these and naturally the stress is affecting their mental health and relationships.

The Government has said the policy will have positive impact on family stability as it makes parents consider carefully whether to have another child but has supplied no evidence for this to date. We at CAP would challenge the Government to look again at this and end now the suffering they have placed on so many.

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