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Homeless and sleeping in a graveyard until CAP saved me, says fundraiser

calendar07 June 2016

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Homeless and sleeping in a graveyard until CAP saved me, says fundraiser

We all know that CAP's life-transforming work is not exclusive to our clients - and Lancashire man Ashley Parkinson is proof. When the now 57 year-old was homeless and sleeping in a graveyard, he would never have thought that two years on he would be planning to walk 240 miles to raise money for the Christian charity that turned his life around.

Yet here we are, with Ashley undertaking a mammoth fundraising walk to raise awareness of homelessness, hunger and debt. The trek will cover 240 miles from Clitheroe, Lancashire to Westminster, London, during which he will visit several CAP debt centres along the way.

In 2014, Ashley started to struggle to afford his rent and eventually lost his house. Finding himself homeless, he ended up back in his hometown of Clitheroe. Ashley had worked in the local cemetery in the 1980s and knew the public toilets were left unlocked overnight – and it was there, in the winter of 2014, that he found himself sleeping.

‘It was awful,’ Ashley recalls. ‘No human should have to live like that. In my lowest moment, I was sitting on a bench just before Christmas, looking out towards the town, and it started to rain. I was thinking about how I’d been trying so hard to get work and was failing all the time. I felt so miserable, so let down, and I couldn’t see a way out.’

Ashley spent two months sleeping in a graveyard when his business fell through and left him homeless

Ashley spent two months sleeping in a graveyard when he ended up homeless

For two freezing cold months, Ashley slept in the cemetery toilets, just trying to survive the winter. Until one day, while sitting in a nearby park, a man came along.

The man was Colin Wrighton, who happened to be a former CAP client. He came across Ashley quite by chance, and invited him to a coffee morning which CAP had organised at St James’ Church for clients in the area.

‘I didn’t see how they could help me, this bunch of Christians, but they were all welcoming and non-judgmental,’ Ashley explains. ‘I couldn’t believe that these people who I once would have sneered at could be so friendly.’

He says that the coffee morning and meeting CAP was a turning point in his journey. ‘The love and kindness they showed me drove me onwards. Through CAP I found places like my old church and the local foodbank. It gave me somewhere to go to get some food and a drink, instead of having to go to the betting shop and pretend to put on a bet just to get the free coffee!’

Two years on from his lowest point, Ashley has a roof over his head and a new life, and he is determined to raise CAP’s profile. ‘So many people still don’t know what CAP is and does so I want to highlight the life-transforming work they do,’ he says.

The  walk will kick off on 11 June and Ashley is expected to cover a whopping 15 miles a day! The CAP centres he plans to visit include Blackburn, Radcliffe, Altrincham, Middlewich, Crewe, Market Drayton, Stafford, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Coventry, Rugby, Northampton, Bedford, St Albans and London South, finishing up in Westminster after an estimated 18 days. Whew!

‘God asked me to do this walk,’ Ashley explains. ‘It wasn’t my idea. I feel like he’s been preparing me for this my whole life. I used to be a postman and thought it was such a waste of time and energy walking all over the place, but now I think it was all part of the plan!

Ashley is walking 240 miles from Clitheroe to Westminster to raise funds for CAP

Ashley will walk 240 miles from Clitheroe to Westminster to raise funds for CAP

‘I feel this is a chance to make people aware of what it’s like to be homeless, to go without food, and to show people that it’s unacceptable. I’m doing it for four groups of people – those who are homeless, those who are hungry, those who are suffering with debt, and finally for all the people who have helped me out of my predicament.

‘God willed me to go to the capital and I intend to pray outside of parliament when I get there, for all these vulnerable people in the UK.’

Along the way, Ashley is inviting people to walk with him. ‘Whether it’s for a few hundred yards, a mile or a longer distance, I would love people to get involved and walk alongside me. It would be a great motivation and I’d appreciate the company too!’

Pam Entwistle, CAP’s Centre Manager in Clitheroe, who has been a guide and confidante to Ashley since 2014, will be setting off with him. ‘Ashley is showing admirable stamina in undertaking this challenge. It is going to be a real pilgrimage for him and a great event for CAP – I urge everyone to get involved in any way they can, whether it be by walking with him, making a donation, or just telling people about what he’s doing!’

Ashley Parkinson (centre) with Colin Wrighton (left) and Pamela Entwistle (right)

From left to right: Colin Wrighton, Ashley Parkinson, Pam Entwistle

‘I can’t wait to get started,’ Ashley adds. ‘I don’t actually want to stop at Westminster – I want to continue to St Michael’s Mount! I want to show that the issues I’m highlighting don’t stop when I finish this walk – they’re still ongoing, still real, and still a problem.’

All true, but we wonder if Ashley will still be saying that when he’s 240 miles gone! Either way, CAP wishes him the best of luck in this incredible endeavour and urges everyone who can to get on board and support him in one way or another.

If you would like to join Ashley for a stretch of the walk, contact Pam for more information on .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Or to sponsor Ashley’s efforts, pay a visit to his online sponsor page at justgiving.com/fundraising/ashleys-walk.

UPDATE

On Tuesday 28 June, Ashley arrived at Westminster and completed the walk. Along the way he had suffered from a leg infection and had to take a detour to hospital, but even this didn't deter him and he continued on to the end. Unsurprisingly, numerous people have shown their support for Ashley's mission and the sponsors have been flooding in - at time of press he has raised £2,400 for CAP!

Ashley was met at Westminster by Canon Vernon White and Nigel Evans, the MP for Ashley's hometown of Ribble Valley, Clitheroe.

Nigel said, 'Ashley has undertaken a tremendous challenge and he was still fighting fit when I met him at Westminster, except perhaps for one dodgy leg! Averaging sixteen miles per day for over two weeks is no mean feat. What is more this was carried out for a fantastic and worthy cause.'

A 60 second guide to Universal Credit

calendar06 June 2016

Marianne Clough's avatar Marianne Clough

A 60 second guide to Universal Credit

What is it?

A re-organisation of the benefits system, rolling six benefits into one monthly payment.

What’s the point?

It aims to encourage people back to work by gradually reducing the payment when someone finds a job. It also gets people used to a monthly payday.

When’s it happening?

That depends on where you live -  it’s being rolled out across the UK one Jobcentre Plus at a time. However, if you’re not making a new claim, it won’t come along until June 2018. Live in Northern Ireland? You can expect to see Universal Credit introduced in 2017.

What are the issues?

Couples will get one joint payment
It will be all online
There will be delays and
Landlords will not be paid rent directly in the majority of cases.

Read more about the issues here

How can I prepare?

See seven things you can do to get ready for Universal Credit

Should I be worried about Universal Credit?

calendar06 June 2016

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Should I be worried about Universal Credit?

Do you receive any of the following?

  1. Jobseeker’s Allowance
  2. Employment Support Allowance
  3. Income Support
  4. Child Tax Credit
  5. Working Tax Credit
  6. Housing Benefit

If so, the new system of Universal Credit is going to make big changes to how you receive your benefits. In a nutshell, Universal Credit combines six benefits into one system of monthly payment, like a monthly wage. Applications will be dealt with entirely online and will be paid directly into your bank account.

The aim is to make it simpler but with any shake-ups, there’s always a few teething problems.

Good news: The changes are happening very slowly across the country, one area at a time and if you’re not making a new claim, you’ll be largely unaffected until June 2018. So, you’ve got time to prepare. Check out: Seven things you can do to prepare for Universal Credit.

Universal Credit will be managed online, a big issue if you don’t have access to the internet. However, most Job Centres have in-house computers and offer training. The Department of Work and Pensions are aware this change to on-line is going to be a big issue and the Job Centre will be able to give you support. If in doubt, ask.

Another worry factor could be the monthly payments. Under the old system a lot of benefits like Jobseekers Allowance were paid fortnightly. Universal credit will mean waiting for a month before the next payment and you’ll need to be really careful to ensure you don’t leave yourself short for all the essentials like rent, bills and food.

Should you worry about free school meals as they used to be given depending on the type of benefits you received? No one’s too sure quite what will happen with this but the Department for Education will tell us in due course.

There are concerns about rent, especially. Housing Benefit used to be paid directly to the landlord but, under the new system, most people will get the whole amount and have to pay the landlord themselves. It will seem like a lot of money at the start but it has some key places to go – and you’re in charge of that. There may also be a delay as you move over to Universal Credit. Ask at your Job Centre Plus about any possible delays and keep your landlord in the picture with what’s happening. As this is going to be swapped over area by area, your landlord will likely be having this situation with several tenants if they own more than just your property.

What if you get behind with things? Well, payments will be taken from the Universal Credit automatically. Rent arrears, benefit overpayments, energy arrears, budgeting loans etc can all be taken at source but only up to 40% of the total of the total amount you’d have normally received. Still unsure? Talk to your work coach.

In fact, asking for support is a good idea. It’s up to your work coach to inform you about what help is available. If you need help, ask for it!

Need to learn about budgeting? CAP can help.

What you need to know about employers

calendar05 June 2016

Kathy Freeman's avatar Kathy Freeman

What you need to know about employers

Judgmental, intimidating and stern – three adjectives that have been attached to employers for decades, but are they really this bad? While you might find the odd boss who makes you shiver with fear, most employers are easy to talk to, willing to listen and want to help you develop.

Knowing that your employer is only human will help settle your nerves when stepping into that interview room. They are not looking to catch you out – they want to give you the opportunity to show them your many great qualities.

As all great chefs know, preparation is a vital ingredient when it comes to success – the same is true for getting a job. So, set aside some time and do your homework. So, what exactly do you need to know?

While it’s not important to know what breakfast cereal the CEO prefers, it is crucial that you know the answer to all those big questions – when was the business founded and who by? Who runs it now? What is the company’s purpose and vision? The more you know, the more impressed your employer will be.

Basic information, such as this, can normally be found online. If you don’t have a computer, go and visit your local library and use one there. Take a look at the company’s website and do some research. Revise the information you find out and recite it in front of a friend or even a mirror. Don’t worry if you don’t remember everything, a general overview of the workplace will go a long way.

Remember to show enthusiasm and passion throughout your interview. Knowing the company vision is one thing, but they are looking to see if you are as passionate about it as they are.

Once you’ve got to grips with what the company is all about, focus on what the company is after in an employee. Imagine yourself in their shoes: what type of person would you hire? Note down some of characteristics and qualities you think are key to the job you are applying for. How can you demonstrate you have these?

You don’t have to pretend to be someone else, but you will need to show them you are suited to the position. And just because interviews are serious, it doesn’t mean you have to act dull. Let your character shine and show employers how excited and enthused you are to be part of the company.

If need further support finding work, CAP Job Clubs can help. CAP Job Clubs equip and support you through your return to work, empowering you to communicate your skills and attributes to potential employers.Facing unemployment can be extremely difficult, but you don’t have to face it alone. For more information check out capjobclubs.org or to book your place call 0800 328 0006.

Written by Kimberley Taylor

Budget recipe binder: Criss-Cross Chicken Pie

calendar26 May 2016

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Budget recipe binder: Criss-Cross Chicken Pie

Comfort food at its very peak, this recipe if cheap and cheerful and a guaranteed hit with all ages. The lattice top is a lovely twist on the classic pie lid and definitely worth the slightly fiddly assembly! Give it a go this Sunday as a great alternative to a traditional roast dinner.

Preparation time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 40 mins
Serves: 4-5
Total cost: £4.08

Ingredients

For the pastry:
225g plain flour
100g butter
Water to mix

For the filling:
500g diced chicken
Tin of mushrooms
Powdered garlic
Dried mixed herbs
1 onion
Tin of chicken soup

To serve:
800g potatoes (uncooked weight)
½ broccoli
3 carrots
100g sweetcorn
100g peas
Gravy

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
To make the pastry:
2. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
3. Add cold water until it is all combined and forms a ball.
4. Knead for a few minutes.
5. Separate the dough into two.
6. Roll out one piece to a thickness of about 1cm and lay it into a greased pie/quiche dish.
7. Roll out the second piece into a rectangle and cut into 3cm strips.
8. Create a lattice by laying the strips next to each other on cling film. Fold alternate strips upwards and lay one piece horizontally over the other pieces. Lay the folded pieces down and fold alternate pieces upwards and lay another piece horizontally. Repeat until the lattice is full.
For the filling:
9. Chop the onions and mushrooms.
10. Fry the onion until soft, then add the mushrooms and fry until they have reduced to about half the size.
11. Add the chicken and brown.
12. Next, add garlic and herbs, then stir in the chicken soup and heat through.
To finish:
13. Add the chicken mixture to the pastry case.
14. Carefully lift the cling film and flip the lattice onto the top of the pie. Trim the edges and glaze with a little milk.
15. Cook in the pre-heated oven for 40 mins.
16. In the meantime, prepare the potatoes, vegetables and gravy, ready to serve.

*Prices from Tesco, correct at time of publishing

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