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Why volunteer?

calendar05 June 2017

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Why volunteer?

Across the UK there are around thousands of people working for CAP in all sorts of different roles, from frontline workers visiting clients to those tirelessly running our group services to the staff at CAP HQ in Bradford. Many of these roles are voluntary and done by people willing to give up their time, energy and skills just to do great things in their communities. Every year, 1 to 7 June marks national Volunteers’ Week, when charities and organisations recognise and celebrate the huge difference volunteers make.

I’m especially happy to hear that volunteers are getting recognised for the hard work they do all year round (for free!) because, well, I volunteer as a writer here at CAP myself. So hooray for volunteers everywhere! And hooray for CAP volunteers! Give yourselves a pat on the back because we are awesome!

When I came out of university I had a first class degree in creative writing, but I was unemployed and I didn’t have any experience doing practical, regular work that involved using the skills I’d gained. This left me feeling pretty hopeless. Being able to volunteer for CAP was a great way to get that experience and seeing my skills put to use for a worthy cause was a real boost to my confidence too.

Coming to CAP HQ to volunteer is one of the things I look forward to every week. It’s a really fun place to work and the people were friendly, kind and welcoming, right from the beginning. Every week is always a laugh.

I hope that this year you’ll join in with the Volunteers’ Week events that are happening all over the country and on social media because, as well as celebrating volunteers, it’s about encouraging new ones. Now is as good a time as any to start thinking about what you, your church or someone you know could do to help out a charity or project in your community.

CAP is always on the lookout for more helpers and there are several ways to get involved.

You might want to work long term, volunteering regularly on however many days a week you’re free – you could do this at CAP HQ if you’re based near Bradford or at a local CAP centre near you. You might want to focus on being a cheerleader for CAP and spreading the word about what we do to others – if so, check out our CAP Ambassadors scheme. Or you might want to help us out by organising your own project or challenge and raising vital funds. Whatever time and talents you’ve got, CAP will be happy to find a place for you.

And don’t worry, you don’t need to be a brilliant expert on money and debt to be a part of CAP!  You’ll be surrounded by people who will be happy to answer any questions you have.

So, if you have useful experience and free time in your week, volunteering could be a great way to put your skills to use and keep them fine-tuned. With the summer holidays coming up, why not also encourage the teenagers and young adults in your life to use their free time to get some work experience? Not only could this prove invaluable when they’re trying to bulk out their CVs, but it’ll also make for a slightly quieter summer for you!

If you’d like to sign up to volunteer with CAP you can search for a CAP centre in your area here and contact them to see what’s available. Is fundraising more your thing? Click here to find out how you can help raise money for CAP.

General election 2017 – a CAP perspective

calendar31 May 2017

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

General election 2017 – a CAP perspective

Click below to view the full party manifestos:

Labour | Conservatives | Liberal Democrats | Green | UKIP | Plaid Cymru | Scottish National Party

It seems like yesterday that Theresa May called a snap general election just two years after the last, but suddenly it’s just around the corner! Thursday 8 June will once again see millions of Britons turning out to vote for the next leaders of their communities, the country and our future.

You should be registered to vote by now (if not, oops – I’m afraid it’s too late to register to vote in this election, but learn from this and get sorted now for future votes by clicking here) and the decision on which candidate and which party to choose is likely to be laying heavy on your mind.

Ahead of the vote, the political parties have released their manifestos, outlining the ways they each plan to run the country. Whether you’re a long time supporter of CAP or you’ve just stumbled across this blog by chance, it’s likely you care about UK debt and poverty, as well as the treatment and rights of the poor, vulnerable and marginalised in our society, and these are points that each of the party manifestos discuss. From debt to employment to housing to social security, the choices we make on 8 June will inevitably have an effect on our clients, as well as those living on a low income or below the poverty line.

Here we’ve aimed to sum up the main CAP-relevant points from each of the ‘main’ party manifestos – that’s Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats – to help you form your own decision. Of course, these three parties aren’t the only ones in the running so we’ve included links to the other parties' manifestos above for you to have a look at. Be sure to also do some research on the plans of each of your local candidates - you can look up who's running in your constituency here - before you head out to vote on 8 June to ensure you’re making a really informed decision.

Debt

First and foremost, CAP is a debt counselling charity. Our group services – CAP Job Clubs, CAP Release Groups, CAP Life Skills and the CAP Money Course – were all created with a view to preventing people from falling into debt in the first place. So it’s not surprising that we’re pretty bothered about how each of the political parties aims to tackle this issue. Thankfully, it crops up in all three manifestos in one way or another.

According to their manifesto, Labour plan to introduce a version of the Debt Arrangement Scheme, a process currently used in Scotland whereby payments are broken down monthly at a rate that suits the individual’s situation. Labour says the scheme will allow those struggling with debt ‘breathing space’ to step back, stop the problem getting worse and repay their debts at a manageable rate.

The Conservatives also refer to ‘breathing space’, proposing to introduce a scheme whereby those in debt will be safeguarded from potential abuse and have six weeks to get help with their debt before being offered a manageable ‘statutory repayment plan’.

As for the Liberal Democrats, the manifesto does mention concern that consumer debt is propping up the economy and that eight million people are in problem debt, although no specific policies are proposed to address the issue. There are policies on financial exclusion, however – including expanding the FCA’s remit to allow them to actively promote financial inclusion and taking forward recommendations of the House of Lords Select Committee on the issue.

Jobs and employment

There’s no doubt about it, unemployment is a significant cause of problem debt in this country. That’s why CAP Job Clubs was developed – to give people the skills and confidence to step back into work and ultimately get themselves a stable income. It’s a problem in itself, but still, simply being employed doesn’t necessarily mean everything is hunky dory, especially with widespread issues such as zero-hour contracts and adequate wages. The good news is that all three of the main parties have said they would tackle these problems in one way or another.

The Liberal Democrats say they will issue an independent review on the living wage - the living wage (about £8.45 per hour) is calculated as the bare minimum someone needs to afford all the things they need to survive, and currently the minimum wage of £7.05 per hour (£7.50 for the over 25s) is proving largely insufficient. The party also vows to tackle zero-hour contracts by giving workers the right to request a fixed contract.

Labour, on the other hand, want to ban zero-hour contracts entirely, as well as giving the same employment rights for all, whether you’re working full or part time, on a temporary contract or a permanent one. Their manifesto also states their plans to raise the minimum wage to the living wage for all workers over 18.

The Conservatives say they will look into changing the rules so that people working in the so-called ‘gig economy’ (temporary or freelance work rather than permanent employment) are protected and continue to increase the National Living Wage to 60% of median earnings by 2020.

Income

Leading on nicely from employment, we come to income and the much-discussed issue of tax. Again, an insufficient income against rising expenditure is a significant cause of problem debt, so it’s very relevant to CAP and our clients.

As well as the proposed changes to the minimum/living wage, the Labour party has promised to not increase tax for those earning below £80,000 a year.

The Liberal Democrats are planning to fund social care and the NHS by increasing basic, higher and additional rates of Income Tax by a penny.

The Conservative manifesto outlines a plan to raise personal allowance to £12,500, as well as a number of points on the cost of living. These include investigating how price comparison websites can better serve consumers, showing service standards and complaint rates for each provider.

Social security

Social security is something that affects all of us, not least the poor, vulnerable and marginalised – the people CAP tends to work with. It’s all about making sure every person in society has enough money to live on in hard times. For an unabridged look at the parties’ plans around social security, we would recommend having a read of the full manifestos (links above) as we’ve just scratched the surface here.

Labour’s manifesto includes lots of policies on social security, many of which reverse cuts made by the previous two Governments. This includes scrapping the ‘Bedroom Tax’ (whereby a person’s entitlement to housing benefit is reduced if they have more bedrooms in their council house/housing association property than people living there) and reversing cuts to Employment Support Allowance. The red party also want to reinstate housing benefit for those under the age of 21 and review and reform Universal Credit.

The Liberal Democrats also have a lot to say about social security and similarly plan to reverse many of the cuts made in the last seven years. The party promises to ensure users of food banks are aware of their rights and how to access hardship payments and, like Labour, reverse cuts to housing benefit for people aged 18 to 21. They want to scrap the ‘Bedroom Tax’ too and encourage councils to help tenants downsize instead.

There is no mention of further social security in the Conservative manifesto.

Mental health

Sadly, mental health and debt go hand in hand. Many of our clients say poor mental health was the cause of their money troubles, while others say the burden of debt was a significant cause of their mental health deteriorating. That’s why it’s positive to see this point discussed on all three of the main party manifestos.

The Conservatives want to increase basic public awareness of mental health, as well as invest a further £1billion of spending in this area by 2020/21. This will go towards promoting wellbeing support to prevent mental ill-health and better treatment by employers for those suffering.

The Liberal Democrats want to tackle the stigma around mental health, starting with the waiting time for care matching that of physical health problems and greater access to talking therapies. The party also has a lot to say around the topic of mental health and employment, stating their intention to promote support for sufferers in their workplace, helping them to stay in work, and to step up the implementation of Individual Placement and Support, a proven approach to getting people with mental ill-health back into employment. A public health campaign to improve mental resilience is also discussed on the Lib Dem manifesto.

As for Labour, the party wants to ringfence a mental health budget (which essentially means keeping the budget exclusively for mental health purposes), invest in early intervention and give the area the same priority as physical health.

Energy

CAP’s The poor pay more report highlighted the unfair deal the poorest and most vulnerable in society are getting when it comes to energy. So what do the main parties have to say about this?

The Conservatives want an independent review into the cost of energy and to introduce a price cap for people on default tariffs. Their manifesto also talks about examining regulation of utility providers to ultimately secure a better deal for customers, as well as ways to make switching energy providers easier and more reliable.

As for the Liberal Democrats, they want to tackle energy issues by expanding community schemes and generating energy locally. They also vow to back smaller energy firms, reducing the dominance of the ‘Big Six’ providers.

Labour are looking to regain control of energy supply networks and back more publically (rather than privately) owned companies. Their policies also include an emergency price cap to keep dual-fuel energy bills below £1,000 and plans to insulate four million homes.

Housing and renting

It’s an unfortunate reality that vulnerable people are at most risk of settling for an unfair deal on rent, mortgages and standards of living. Let’s see what the main three parties have to say about housing and renting.

The Liberal Democrats emphasise the problems faced in the rental market, stating their intention to ban letting fees for tenants, cap upfront deposits and increase minimum standards in rented accommodation. The yellow party also wants to make three-year tenancies the norm, with an inflation cap on rent increases. Plans are outlined to introduce a Help to Rent scheme, similar to Help to Buy, for young adults looking to get into the rental market. Their policies also cover the issue of homelessness, with plans to increase support for homeless prevention and funding for emergency accommodation.

In this area, the Conservatives place emphasis on securing a better deal for both tenants and landlords, with policies on increasing security for ‘good’ tenants and encouraging landlords to offer longer tenancies.

Similarly to the Liberal Democrats, Labour plan to make three-year tenancies the norm, again with an inflation cap on rent increases. There are also plans to begin the biggest council house building programme in the last 30 years and suspend ‘Right to Buy’ (a scheme which allows council tenants to buy their house at a lower cost). Labour also address homelessness, with a national plan to end rough sleeping.

Local communities

The access, support and facilities people have in their immediate communities is vital, so it’s good to see this discussed in the main party manifestos too.

For the Conservatives, there are policies concerning the power of local government, with plans to hand over many functions of central government and continue to give greater control of the money they raise.

The Liberal Democrats want to remove the need for local referenda on changes to Council Tax and grant new powers to local authorities to limit the number of betting shops on high streets, also capping the maximum amount someone can bet on fixed odds betting terminals at one time to £2.

Labour is looking to give local government extra funding and review Council Tax rates. They also plan to end closure of Post Office branches and set up Post Bank, owned by the Post Office, to provide a full range of banking services in all communities. The manifesto outlines plans to ensure local libraries are updated with WiFi, increasing people’s access to (often essential) online services.

Got something to say on the election? Join the conversation over on Facebook and Twitter using #GE2017

For the future

calendar22 May 2017

Karen Grima's avatar Karen Grima

For the future

Do you know any children? Do you want to see them grow up with the ability to make good financial decisions? So do we! We believe that teaching young people to manage their money well is vitally important – which is why we want to tell you about My Money Week.

My Money Week is a national activity week for primary and secondary schools, brought to you by the Personal Finance Education Group. It provides a fantastic opportunity for young people to gain the skills, knowledge and confidence in money matters to thrive in our society. This year, it's taking place from 12 to 18 June.

Maybe you read our email a few weeks ago about our CAP Money Kids and Youth resources? This would be the perfect opportunity to make the most of running these courses in your local school, or asking someone to run them for you.

Everyone’s going to be talking about money in schools that week, so why not use this opportunity to share our fun, practical and engaging church-run course with the young people in your community?

For more information on our CAP Money Kids and Youth courses, click here or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). If you’re a CAP Money Coach already – go ahead and join the hundreds of others running a course in their local school this June and be an active part of My Money Week.

Martin Lewis, one of CAP’s biggest fans, supports My Money Week. He says, ‘Teaching our young people about how money works is crucial to enable them to have a role in our competitive consumer economy, both understanding how it works from a company’s perspective but crucially being a good consumer too – because being good with money can make your life easier, and being bad impacts far more than people think.’

How will you get involved?

My Money Week is brought to you by the Personal Finance Education Group, which is not affiliated with Christians Against Poverty. CAP runs its own financial education courses for young people through local churches. To find out more about My Money Week, click here.

Offline and shut out

calendar17 May 2017

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Offline and shut out

These days, it’s almost impossible to ignore the internet’s presence.

You’re using the internet to read this sentence, right now.

This sentence is also on the internet.

I don’t want to make you feel too weird about it but… HELLO THERE!

For many, it’s the first thing you look at when you wake up and the last thing you see before you go to bed. Over 41.8 million adults in the UK now use the internet every day. For better or worse, it affects how we see the world. It lets us stay connected to our friends and family, it lets us communicate our thoughts, spread jokes and share our photos. For many of us, it’s the only way we learn about the news and so many other things.

But, there are a lot of people, here in the UK, who can’t get online. More than a fifth of CAP clients have no connection to the internet whatsoever. There are 5.2 million households in the UK who are not using the web and many more whose internet is limited, and it’s here where you can find some really big problems for people struggling with debt. Such a lot of things like price comparison sites, energy deals, banking, jobsites or Universal Credit applications are all online. It can mean many people find themselves shut out of things that could make a difference to their situation.

One way around this problem is to use your local library for internet access. However, it can be complicated. A lot of people aren’t comfortable entering their private information into a public computer. One lady CAP is helping, Rebecca, found the time limits on the library computers and the limited numbers of free computers made it difficult to find work. Volunteers from her CAP Debt Centre have offered her use of their internet, but even though this helped the problem, she was uncomfortable about being seen as taking advantage.

Martine was a CAP client unfamiliar with computers and suffered with severe arthritis, making filling out the online application for Universal Credit a struggle. A volunteer from the local CAP Debt Centre volunteered to help her use a computer at the Jobcentre. It took a couple of trips to collect all the paperwork needed from her home. At this time, she had no income and without this support she wouldn’t have been able to get help from the Jobcentre. It’s easy to see how missing a simple thing like the internet can cause huge problems further along.

Do you know anyone who struggles with these issues? Do you live in an internet black hole? Is there anything you or your church can do to lend a hand?

Organisations and companies need to do more too. Keep Me Posted UK is campaigning for more fairness for those without internet use and for people to be given more choice in how firms maintain contact with them. Certainly, in this growing digital world, it’s an issue that’s not going away any time soon.

Click here to read the full report from CAP.

Five reasons to sort out your will now

calendar16 May 2017

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Five reasons to sort out your will now

Making a will? Leaving a legacy? Isn't that kind of morbid? You're not likely to be alone in asking that question, but honestly, thinking about these things has its perks – not to mention it’s really important. Not only can we find peace of mind in knowing our affairs are in order way ahead of schedule, but we can be sure that our loved ones and the things we care about are secure after we’re gone. You might think there isn't any point in it, especially if you don't have children or any assets of great worth, but it’s so worthwhile – here are our top five reasons why.

  1. Without a will, your estate won't necessarily go to your partner. Everything you own is classed as an asset, from a house to a rug to the family pet, and these make up your ‘estate’. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee your estate will automatically go to your partner, even if you’re married or in a civil partnership, if they aren’t specifically named on your will. Without a will, you run the risk of your estate being shared out in any which way, or indeed going to the government. According to the Money Advice Service, the total value that went to the government last year from people not leaving a will was £8 million!
  2. Unless your will designates guardians of your children, the court may decide who takes care of them. Not only could your estate hang in the balance if you don’t leave a will, but custody of your kids too. That's a pretty horrible thought, isn't it? What’s more, the amount of your estate that your children are entitled to will vary depending on where you live in the UK, meaning they could feasibly end up with little or nothing. Making these important decisions today may seem difficult, but it could remove unnecessary stress for your family after you’re gone.
  3. A will is not just about who gets what, it says who gets to make these important financial decisions too. You wouldn’t want a stranger taking the contents of your bag and sharing them out as they please, so why let this happen to your estate? In your will you’ll be able to name your ‘executor’, which is actually a good thing despite it sounding a bit intimidating! Your executor (which can be one or more people) will be responsible for ensuring your will is stuck to, so you can rest in the knowledge that your affairs will be left in trusted hands.
  4. You can reduce your Inheritance Tax Bill by leaving a charitable legacy in your will. Yes, on top of everything else, leaving a will could actually save you and your loved ones money. If you leave 10% or more of your estate to charity, the government will reduce the rate of inheritance tax on your estate by 10%. Currently, if the value of your estate is worth more than £325,000, you will be taxed 40% on anything above that level. However, the government will reduce the tax rate to 36% for anyone pledging to give 10% or more of their estate's value to charity.
  5. It’s easy to review your will if and when your circumstances change. Some people worry that making a will means these decisions are set in stone, which is understandable in a society that's constantly chopping and changing. However, you can (and should) review your will from time to time to ensure your wishes are still current and there’s no cause for dispute when the time comes.

CAP helps more than 20,000 people across its services every year, with 91% saying it was 'life transforming' or 'a great help'. Would you consider leaving us a legacy in your will? Click here to find out more.

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