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58 new CAP centres to open after biggest training ever!

calendar23 November 2017

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

58 new CAP centres to open after biggest training ever!

This week at CAP HQ we hosted our biggest frontline staff training EVER, with 162 people from across the country training to open or join a CAP service.

As a result of this training, a grand total of 58 new CAP services will now open! This brings our current total to 624 UK centres, bringing hope, light and joy into their communities.

Of these 58, eleven are CAP Debt Centres. These will be opening in Maidenhead, Liverpool South, Oswestry & Ellesmere, Felixstowe, Chesterfield, Esher, Lancaster & Morecombe, East Grinstead, Widnes, Nottingham West Bridgford and Enfield.

13 new CAP Job Clubs will be opening in Harrogate, Enfield Town, Shipley, York North, Matlock, London Victoria Docks, Dartford, Rochester Central, Ballymoney, Killicomaine, York South, Hackney Central and Slough.

Ten of the 58 new services are CAP Release Groups, which will be opening in Deal, Southport, Barnstaple, Lincoln North, Stockton North, Templemore, Milford Haven, Wolverhampton Central, Barrow-in-Furness and Hadfield.

As for CAP Life Skills, a massive 24 new centres will be opening in Stamford, Wallington South, Hedingham, Leicester Braunstone, Monmouth, Bolton Deane, Maldon, North Croydon, Helensburgh, Devizes, Ormeau, Chesham, Leicestershire South West, Ballynahinch, Boulton, Bredbury, Edinburgh, Romsey, Pontypool, Hackney Central, Muswell Hill, Sheffield Endcliffe, Wolverhampton North and Market Drayton.

Do you have links with one of these areas? Don't forget to spread the word and let people know that CAP is now in your town or city. To book an appointment with your local debt centre, please call 0800 328 0006 (free of charge). If you're interested in taking part in one of our group services, you can search for your nearest here.

Could you buy nothing this Black Friday?

calendar20 November 2017

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Could you buy nothing this Black Friday?

Black Friday is a fairly recent addition to the West’s yearly consumerist traditions. It falls on the Friday before Thanksgiving and is recognised as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in America. As far back as 1952, stores began opening early and offering one-day promotions to boost their sales, and in recent years the event has stretched from a day to a weekend to a whole week of sales, not only in America but across the world and here in Britain too.

Black Friday does have its uses – it can of course be a great way of ticking some purchases off your list for a fraction of the cost. So long as you don’t get sucked into unnecessary and impulse spending, it can be really useful.

But, for the most part, it creates a lot of unnecessary pressure. Arguably it endangers smaller businesses that can’t keep up with the price cuts that the larger companies can. And people feel under pressure to spend, whether they can afford to or not, sucked into clever marketing and discount stickers giving the impression of a ‘deal’ you just can't miss.

Cue ‘Buy Nothing Day’ – a campaign on the same day as Black Friday (Friday 24 November this year) whereby people take a day’s break from spending. Partly developed out of protest, if nothing else Buy Nothing Day marks a modicum of peace before the Christmas rush really begins.

Fancy giving it a go? Here are some ideas for adapting your daily routine.

Breakfast (and other meals)
Have a good root around in the back of your kitchen cupboards – have you got any tinned goods or non-perishables that have been sitting there for months or even years? Provided they’re still in date, these could be enough to rustle up a meal or two without spending a penny.

The school run
Could you ditch the car for a day and walk the kids to school instead? The same goes for the commute into work. If it’s too far, why not car share with another family, a neighbour or co-worker? (Presuming they’re not doing Buy Nothing Day too!)

Lunch at work
Easy – swap your usual meal deal or lunch out for a packed lunch from home.

A day at home
Don’t work? There are plenty of ways to keep yourself entertained for a day without spending anything. Why not read that book that’s been sitting on your shelf for ages? Get back to that hobby you’ve been neglecting? Visit your neighbour for a coffee? If nothing else, these are bound to be less stressful than navigating the dreaded Black Friday crowds.

Evening with the kids
If you think you can manage to get the whole family on board with Buy Nothing Day, encourage the kids to ditch the TV for a day and play outside, or why not go old school with a family board game?

Social get-together
You can still spend the evening with friends and have a great social outing. The Buy Nothing Day website suggests organising a free concert, but it could be as simple as having a friendly kick-about in the park or a pamper evening. It’s only one day, after all – make the most of it and try something different!

To find out more about Buy Nothing Day, click here. If you decide to give it a go, don’t forget to share what you have planned on Twitter using #BuyNothingDay. For more ways to spend less, budget your money and save for the future, why not sign up for a CAP Money Course? Click here to search for a course in your area.

#talkmoney

calendar13 November 2017

Kiri Saunders's avatar Kiri Saunders

#talkmoney

This week CAP is joining in the celebration for all that organisations do to increase financial capability across the UK. The week is organised as part of the Financial Capability Strategy for the UK, and its main aim is to get more people talking about money.

What is financial capability?

Financial capability is the combination of skills and knowledge, as well as actions and self-belief, used to make good money management decisions to improve one’s life.

Here at CAP we’re passionate about building financial capability, which is why it has become so integrated into our debt advice service. As people work with us, they’re taught how to stick to a budget and are encouraged to save. What’s more, our other services, such as the CAP Money Course and CAP Life Skills, provide financial education, which builds financial capability.

So now it’s time to #talkmoney.

This year CAP is very much involved in Financial Capability Week. We’ve been able to encourage churches to run a CAP Money Course in the run up to the week, with over 103 courses planned.

CAP’s External Affairs team will be exhibiting at the Financial Capability conference. Here we’ll meet with other organisations in the finance industry, such as financial education providers, debt advisers and charities to share ideas and get people talking about money.

The team is also running a joint workshop with The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) and Relate about emotions and money. This is a great opportunity for us to demonstrate all that we do to help build financial capability across all of our services.

What can you do?

Why not let us know about a CAP Money Course you’re running or have attended? Tweet us @CAPuk using the hashtag #talkmoney. We’d love to hear from you!

Universal Credit: the good, the bad and the ugly

calendar09 November 2017

Kiri Saunders's avatar Kiri Saunders

Universal Credit: the good, the bad and the ugly

It’s been all over the news recently, but what actually is Universal Credit? And why is everyone talking about it?

Universal Credit is a single monthly payment for people both in and out of work. It brings together what are now known as the ‘legacy benefits’, which include Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance. It was designed to bring ‘fairness and simplicity’ to the welfare system and will make things smoother as people move in and out of work.     

The benefit has been in its trial stage since 2013, but now the Government has moved to increase its roll out to 50 new job centres each month from November. Here at CAP we stood alongside other organisations, such as Citizens Advice, in a call to halt the roll out to resolve the problems we’re seeing before this.

But now the roll out is going ahead, what concerns do we have?

When someone makes a claim, it takes six weeks for their first payment to appear in their bank. This long wait is built into the system, because it includes a four-week assessment period and two weeks of processing. The Government expects claimants to live off their savings for this period, or apply for advance payments, which is a loan of 50% of the anticipated monthly payment. At CAP we know that a high proportion of people we help do not have savings to fall back on; in fact, of those seeking help last year, 92% had no savings at all.

Case study: Six-week wait
CAP clients Frank and Celia had been without an income for several weeks before they approached us for help. Frank has mild learning difficulties and Celia has a range of mental health issues including depression. Whilst waiting for their Universal Credit payment they were advised by the local Jobcentre Plus to take an advance payment. Frank and Celia were afraid to do this because they didn’t think they could afford to pay it back. As a result, they’ve been living off foodbanks and relying on other families to feed them. The waiting period has caused great distress to the couple, particularly because Celia believed they would be evicted from their home.

Another problem we have seen is the high level of debt repayments deducted straight from people’s monthly Universal Credit payments. For those who receive an advance payment, it can take months to pay this back and mean living off a reduced income for a long time.

Case study: Deductions
Sally built up over £2,000 of rent arrears as each month her Universal Credit deductions meant she was unable to pay her rent in full. The lack of full payment meant that her landlord is looking to evict her. If the deductions had been less severe, she would have been able to afford her rent.

The application process is also proving to be difficult for people who are digitally excluded or without computer skills. Applications for Universal Credit are made online, but one in five CAP clients don’t have internet access either at home or on a smartphone.

Case study: Online applications
Keith and Janet were told they needed to apply for Universal Credit. As the claims are made online this was difficult because they don’t own a computer and are not computer literate. During their assessment period Janet received an email from the Jobcentre asking her to come for an interview, but she was unable to read the email and consequently didn’t go. As a result, her claim was suspended and she had to restart the application process, meaning the couple had to go even longer without an income.

There has been some positive progress – we were pleased to see the Government promise to make the Universal Credit helpline free, as it had previously cost up to 55p per minute to call. That being said, we want to see the Government take further steps in preventing the hardship that we’re still seeing across Universal Credit full service areas.

Here at CAP we want to highlight the problems we’re seeing across our network. We’re talking to MPs and other influential bodies, presenting evidence and standing alongside other organisations calling for the Government to make changes to Universal Credit. We continue to be a voice for people facing financial hardship, speaking up for those struggling to get by and we hope to see change happen.

Budget recipe binder: Ellie’s risotto con funghi e salsiccia

calendar11 October 2017

Ellie Mackenzie's avatar Ellie Mackenzie

Budget recipe binder: Ellie’s risotto con funghi e salsiccia

Hi! I’m a CAP caseworker, Italian born and bread bred (oops, getting ahead of myself!) and I’m here to talk about food.

When I was thinking about what Italian recipe I should share with you, I realised that it had to be a first course (primo = pasta or rice). So here it is: my risotto con funghi e salsiccia.

I’d love to tell you how pasta is more than just a meal to us Italians; more than sustainment or something quick to put together. Pasta is an institution (and my team at CAP HQ have heard me say this time and time again!) But I won’t get into the details of what makes it such a special thing – today we’re talking about rice!

And don’t worry, the name might sound fancy but the great thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can make my version for less than than 53p per serving.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves: 5 – 6
Total cost: £2.64*

Ingredients
Six sausages (36p – £1.19 per kg)
250g chestnut mushrooms (£1)
500g Risotto Arborio rice (£1 - £2 per kg)
One red onion, finely chopped (21p)
Olive oil (Few pence – £1.50 per 500ml)
One vegetable stock cube (5p – 50p per 10 cubes)
Dash of white wine (optional)
Grated cheese (optional)

Method

  • First let’s prep the ingredients. When I cook pasta or rice with sausages, I always prefer to remove the casing first. I promise this is actually very easy if you use your hands, and it will make the difference! Follow this by breaking the sausages up into small pieces, and put aside.
  • Wash and chop the mushrooms, get your favourite spices out, and then prepare the vegetable stock with a litre of boiling water.
  • Now for the foundation: il soffritto. This is the first stage of most dishes, and it involves lightly frying the onion in lots of olive oil.
  • Once the onions have browned, add the sausages and white wine (if using). When the sausages begin to brown, add the mushrooms and some salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add your rice and give it all a stir.
  • Now the secret to the perfect risotto is in the frequent stirring and stock-adding process. On a medium heat, add enough stock to cover your ingredients, stir, and cover. You’ll need to keep checking on your rice, stirring, and adding more stock to prevent it from burning. This, and the use of Risotto rice, is what’s going to make it creamy. Who needs to add actual cream? (By the way, no one does that. An Italian grandma somewhere misses a beat when someone adds cream to risotto).
  • The whole process should take about 25 minutes and you’ll have to judge the amount of stock needed depending on your rice.
  • When the rice is cooked, it should look lovely and creamy. Take it off the heat, stir in a bit of butter and enjoy it with parmigiano (or any type of grated cheese) if you fancy.

I’d love to know your experience if you try this recipe yourself – drop us a comment below!

*Prices from Tesco, correct at time of publishing

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