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Giving the gift of time

calendar15 August 2018

Ellie Gage's avatar Ellie Gage

Giving the gift of time

It’s coming up to the time of year when I go and serve on a Discovery Break, where CAP takes clients on a short break to spend quality time with their family and be blessed. My family and I have served on these breaks for several years and they’ve always been special. I say ‘special’ because we’ve experienced the joy of seeing people unwind in front of our eyes.

We see some clients arriving with anxiety, stress and fear. They might have had a stressful journey, or found it difficult to pack for a family break (I know I can find that stressful!) After all, most of our clients haven’t had a family holiday in years while they’ve been facing poverty and debt. 

Over the course of the few days, we run fun sessions for children so their parents can have some breathing time, and organise activities for the whole family too - from treasure hunts to karaoke, and even a barn dance! The break isn’t just a family holiday, it’s a break away from the challenges of everyday life.

But as well as the fun moments, there are those other times where it may not seem obvious that I’m serving others. I call it God in action. The gifts of time I give to people seem to make the biggest impact. 

On one Discovery Break, I had a late night chat over hot chocolate with an older couple who’d lost their sense of hope. We laughed and talked about the good things we remembered from the past, but we also thought about the good things that were happening in their lives at that very moment.

I also had a conversation with a lady in the ‘pamper zone’ as I gave her a facial. She said she was failing as a mum, and didn’t know how to connect with her teenage daughter. I encouraged her that she was doing just fine, and that other mums go through the same situation too.

I experience the power of giving the gift of time to clients - listening, encouraging and speaking God’s love to people. There’s a great exchange because we receive fulfilment that we’ve helped someone who may be struggling and might need a listening ear. I think it’s something we lack in our society, giving up our time for each other. This is why I want to serve others all year round, especially with the gift of time.

Join our latest crowdfunding campaign to help 183 CAP clients get the break they desperately need this summer.

Ellie Gage is CAP's Director of People and Culture. Her passion for CAP is that it takes people from a point of desperation and transforms them into people with hope for the future. Ellie leads the people and culture strategy for CAP ensuring that we are able to really make an impact and help others because we have an excellent workforce that are themselves well equipped and cared for.

‘If you’d asked me where a hug came on my list of priorities, I’d have said bottom. Turned out, it was top.’

calendar13 August 2018

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

‘If you’d asked me where a hug came on my list of priorities, I’d have said bottom. Turned out, it was top.’

Imagine somebody has been involved in an accident and is taken to hospital. A broken leg will be put in a cast to give it time to heal, medication administered, wounds stitched up. But is that it? Usually the patient won’t simply be sent on their way. There may be mental health check-ups on account of the trauma experienced, physiotherapy to help them get back to normal, lots of people around to support them in their recovery. The healing process is about much more than the broken bones and the stitched up wounds. And they almost certainly wouldn’t be expected to do it alone.

It’s the same with CAP’s service. One key characteristic is the holistic approach to debt counselling. As well as having expert caseworkers working to find an appropriate, practical solution to the client’s debt, create a manageable budget for them and negotiate with creditors, we offer emotional support that goes deeper than the maths equation.

Every client is visited at home by a local debt coach and befriender. They help them to understand any paperwork and the process of becoming debt free. Wherever possible, they help with immediate needs, such as a food shop or topping up the electricity meter.

Beyond these home visits, our volunteer befrienders continue to keep in touch with the client. This may come in the form of inviting them out for a coffee or simply being on the end of the phone when times get tough.

For the kinds of people that come to CAP for help, many of whom are vulnerable and have multiple complex needs, this approach is vital. Debt can be stressful, frightening and isolating, and that’s before you factor in the other issues they’re facing at the same time – mental and physical ill-health, bereavement, relationship breakdown to name a few.

Another advantage is that it allows us the opportunity to share our faith with clients, offering prayer or extending an invitation to church (where appropriate). A local church offers a ready-made community and a support network that lasts long after the journey with CAP has concluded, and it’s here that lots of clients report finding family and a sense of belonging. When it comes to a holistic approach, we look not only at the person’s present situation, but their future too.

CAP client Leigh Walton recently shared her story with the Sussex Express, recalling that she had always suffered from depression but found it increasingly hard to cope when her mother sadly passed away. This quickly led to her falling into debt.

‘I developed a worsening spending habit, even though I was on a very low income,’ says Leigh. ‘I was filling an emotional hole. I was defensive, bitter and angry.’

‘I was becoming agoraphobic and spent hours sitting on the stairs, pretending I wasn’t in, with people shouting through the letterbox and banging on the windows.’

It wasn’t until Michelle from CAP arrived on her doorstep that Leigh realised the extent of her isolation. ‘If you’d asked me where a hug came on my list of priorities, I’d have said bottom. Turned out, it was top. I needed to feel like I was talking to a real person about me, not automated advice or advice online or over the phone.’

Stories like Leigh’s, who is now debt free and visiting other CAP clients as a befriender herself, are a testament to the importance of a face-to-face service that looks at the whole person and their wider circumstances.

What’s more, CAP is committed to tackling the underlying issues that lead to debt and poverty: unemployment, addiction, a lack of life skills and poor money management. Through Job Clubs, Fresh Start, Life Skills and the CAP Money Course, we’re delving deeper into the person’s circumstances in the hope of offering an all-round brighter future.

This is why we work through local churches. Without them, we wouldn’t have the teams to carry out the home visits and run group services or befrienders to provide ongoing support. We wouldn’t be able to look people like Leigh in the eye and say, ‘It’s going to get better’.

Sadly, there are still lots of people in the UK that we can’t reach because we don’t have a CAP centre in their area. We vitally need more churches to partner with us and bring hope to their communities. Click below to find out more or pass on the message to your church leader.

Find out more about partnering with CAP.

Support the work of CAP with a one-off or regular donation.

An ordinary and extraordinary job

calendar12 July 2018

Jon Day's avatar Jon Day

An ordinary and extraordinary job

My name’s Jon and my role here at CAP is the Director of Technology and Transformation. I love working at CAP – fact. But that doesn’t mean that every day of my working life is pure joy! I’ve concluded that as part of the CAP team I have both an ordinary and an extraordinary job.

It’s ordinary because if you came and visited us in Bradford (please do!) you’d see me and my team doing normal office stuff: meeting to discuss a key technology project, looking at the latest research from our Fresh Start service, recruiting and building teams, training, setting budgets, making tea rounds. And, yes, sometimes that can be fairly ordinary, and busy, even stressful.

But (and it’s a really big one) you’d also notice the extraordinary. We pray for all sorts of things here (trust me, praying for a phone system was something I found quite bizarre in my first week at CAP!) We celebrated the lives being changed through our Fresh Start work. We decided when we recruited a member of staff that they needed to have a passion for CAP’s work. Even though this meant that the job might’ve been unfilled for a while, we knew that God had a plan and would lead the right person to our team. We made you an extraordinary cup of tea… no, just kidding.

I’m so proud that, as I lead our Technology, Research and Development teams, I know that we’re part of something incredible. Celebrating families going debt free, celebrating generational changes to people’s stories, celebrating people finding faith and a community in their local church. When things are busy or we face a challenging situation, I know that we can stop, look up, look around and be instantly encouraged by all that God is doing through Christians Against Poverty.

I’m always on the lookout for people who’d like to work with us – especially in our Technology and Transformation team. You can see our current vacancies below. If there’s nothing that suits you right now, please get in touch at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and ask to be added to our regular recruitment emails. If you’ve got skills in tech, send in some info on your skills and experience and why you’d like a role at CAP. Our recruitment team will pass that on to me. I look forward to hearing from you!

Interested in joining the team here at CAP? See all the roles we currently have on offer.

Jon Day started his career in technology at a US investment bank before leaving after a few years to join the charity sector. He has managed IT projects and programmes at Christian Aid and the British Red Cross. Jon is passionate about using technology to enable CAP to bring hope, life and freedom to those who are desperately in need of it.

‘To fill her stomach, she’d been eating tissues.’

calendar19 June 2018

Dan Lane's avatar Dan Lane

‘To fill her stomach, she’d been eating tissues.’

It’s estimated that 75% of people have a fear of public speaking, yet, every few weeks, whether to large crowds or small, I stand up and I ask people to support our work.

As a charity, we rely on the generosity of tens of thousands of people - people who choose to support us - and each year we have to find more to join us. Each person has a reason they continue to support us, and I have a reason why I will unashamedly stand up and ask people to join us on the journey.

It started ten years ago, when I lived in Headingley in Leeds, not far from the famous cricket ground. I used to walk up the road to catch the bus to take me to the train station to get me to work. I would walk past the same houses day in and day out, never once wondering who lived in them or what their story was. Their lives were separate to my own.

Then, one cold January morning, I arrived at work and we gathered, as we often do, to hear stories of the people we’re helping. These can be stories of people becoming debt free, finding work or breaking free from life controlling habits. They can be stories about people making a commitment or joining their church community.

The opening words caught my attention: ‘This story comes from our West Leeds Debt Centre’. The West Leeds Debt Centre was run by a church I passed on my commute every single day. My house was in the catchment area for this debt centre. Immediately I knew that whatever was said next was about my community, my neighbour.

The next words spoken still impact me today. These opening lines have never left me:

‘When we first met K, she was eating from a box of tissues. Her benefits weren’t due to be paid for another week but she’d run out of food. To fill her stomach, she’d been eating tissues.’

This was my neighbour. Every time I passed those houses I wondered, does K live there? Was there someone in these houses unable to eat, sitting in the dark unable to afford electricity?

UK poverty is real with millions trapped in its miserable grip – words from our vision statement. For me the most powerful word is UK. It’s here, around our lives. People are living trapped in poverty.

Wherever there is poverty or injustice in the world it’s wrong, but to find it here, so close to my doorstep – could it be true? Are there really people living here in abject poverty? In the house next door or across the road?

At Christians Against Poverty we see this on a daily basis. People whose lives have hit rock bottom. 1 in 3 contemplating or attempting suicide. Marriages on the rocks. Kids going to school in worn out clothes.

In fact, over my time at CAP, I’ve heard of monthly food shops that consist of just two bottles of lemonade and a packet of biscuits. People cooking on a stove in their garden. People too fearful to leave the house for years! UK poverty is real – and millions are trapped in its miserable grip.

It’s for these people that I keep pushing to grow our work across the UK. It’s for them that I’ll seek more and more churches who want to impact their communities. And it’s for them that, whenever I can, however I can, I’ll ask people to join in and support CAP.

Would you join us and help more people break free from the grip of poverty? Become a Life Changer today.

Dan Lane is CAP's Director of Fundraising and Marketing. He grew up in Kent, moved to Yorkshire thirteen years ago, and has been doing his bit to beat UK poverty at CAP since 2007. He's passionate about the transformation that happens when people find freedom through CAP’s services and hopes you will be too!

Our mid-year impact report

calendar13 June 2018

Matt Barlow's avatar Matt Barlow

Our mid-year impact report

This year, through our Created for Community campaign, we’re celebrating the way God uses CAP to rescue people from isolation. I’m pleased to say the first half of the year hasn't disappointed. Let’s take a look at some highlights and the impact CAP has had so far in 2018.

Top highlights

Back in May, we had a visit from TV’s Money Saving Expert, Martin Lewis, whose public endorsements of CAP always lead to an increase in calls to our helpline. It was a pleasure to show him around CAP HQ and say thank you in person. ‘Every time I mention Christians Against Poverty, I get people who tell me how it’s changed their lives,’ he said.

In March, we launched our annual client report at the House of Lords. The event was attended by MPs, members of the credit industry and national journalists, who gathered to hear the impact CAP is having across the UK. CAP’s Patron, Archbishop Justin Welby, spoke at the event, as well as some very brave clients who shared their stories with everyone there.

It’s also been an incredible year for our Founder, John Kirkby, who last week was included in the Queen’s Birthday Honours and will receive a CBE later in the year. John was awarded the Langton Cross for Community Service back in January too. 'When it comes to inspiring others, sharing his story and championing the poor, John is always ready to go again,' said Archbishop Welby, who presented the award.

CAP Debt Help in numbers

When a new client calls our helpline, it’s the first step in their journey; the moment they’re reminded that they’re not alone and there’s always hope. The year got off to a great start, as January was our biggest month in history for booking in new debt clients. Overall 4,474 bookings have been made since the beginning of the year.

Meanwhile, our local centre teams have visited over 3,883 new homes. When our frontline workers step through a new client's door, they no longer have to carry the burden of debt by themselves. They’re offered not only a practical way forward, but friendship too.

Our face-to-face service means frontline workers are often in a position to invite clients to church, where they can come to find a welcoming community and discover more about Jesus. This year, 326 people have chosen to make a faith commitment because of their involvement with CAP.

Depending on a client’s circumstances, the journey out of debt can take up to five years. That’s where our long term casework teams step in, always on the end of the phone to offer a vital source of support and advice. So far this year, they’ve answered over 20,000 calls.

1,151 families have completed their journey and become debt free – an increase of over 10% compared to the first half of last year. That’s 1,151 families that can now shift their focus to other things, like rebuilding relationships broken by debt, and their own health and wellbeing.

Group services in numbers

38% of CAP Job Clubs members find work – higher than any other initiative of its kind – and so far this year 1,670 members have attended a job club. 731 have taken part in a CAP Life Skills group. Community is an integral part of our group services, where members meet others in similar situations and can support one another.

In May, we launched Fresh Start for people struggling with dependencies, and we’re excited to see the fruit this will bear in the coming months – watch this space!

The future

As Galatians 6:9 tells us, we must ‘not become weary in doing good’. There are more people out there who desperately need our help, and areas that still aren’t covered by a CAP centre. We need more churches to take a stand against poverty in their communities by opening a CAP centre, we need more people to spread the word, we need more people to say ‘yes’ to supporting CAP and ‘yes’ to speaking up for the poor, vulnerable and lost across this nation.

That said, I for one am very, very excited to see what the second half of 2018 has to offer.

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Matt Barlow joined CAP at the beginning of 1999 and, having spent seven years building the systems and infrastructure to support CAP’s growth, was appointed UK Chief Executive in 2006. In 2018 he also took over as International Chief Executive. He lives with his wife, Josie, and their two children.

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