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A special Christmas message to all our supporters

calendar21 December 2017

John Kirkby's avatar John Kirkby

A special Christmas message to all our supporters

Hey, CAP supporters - I have a very special Christmas message I'd like to share with you!

Inspired by one of my favourite Christmas films, I decided to head out onto your doorsteps with a big smile and a message filled with love.

Well, after a run-in with a large dog and setting off one too many security alarms, I gave up on that idea – but, thankfully, we did manage to capture one encounter on camera. So hit play to find out exactly what you’ve made happen in thousands of lives this year.

 

As you celebrate Jesus’ birth, all of us at CAP wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Thank you once again for all your support!

John’s highlights of 2017

calendar20 December 2017

John Kirkby's avatar John Kirkby

John’s highlights of 2017

Hey, where has this year gone? It seems like yesterday we were waving goodbye to 2016 and looking ahead to all the amazing things 2017 had in store for us. I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint! The last twelve months have been jam-packed and I thought it’d be fun to take a look back at some of the great things that have gone on.

2017 got off to a great start when CAP was featured on BBC’s Songs of Praise in January. The episode, called ‘Escaping Debt’, featured Naomi and Perry, a couple from Kent whose lives had been turned around after taking control of their debts with CAP’s help. It’s always brilliant when CAP gets publicity like this – not because of fame or anything like that, but because it’s getting the word out to thousands of people who may not have heard about what we do before. It could be the difference between them continuing to struggle or getting the help they really need.

For clients like Naomi and Perry, who went through a Debt Relief Order, becoming debt free only took a few months, so it’s amazing to think that somebody who first heard about us on Songs of Praise in January could now be free from debt, or at the very least working towards it.

In February we were thrilled to sign a referral partnership with the UK’s largest provider of foodbanks, The Trussell Trust. We're always up for working together, especially if it means people who are struggling can find a faster and smoother route to sorting out the causes of their poverty. Now many foodbanks around the country regularly signpost hungry people to our helps for debt, unemployment, addiction or life skills courses. Brilliant!

CAP joined six other charities to call for reform in enforcement agent (bailiff) practice in March. It was part of a campaign called ‘Taking Control’. Dan Kelly from our External Affairs team went along to BBC Breakfast to talk about this on national telly. We’ll continue to see the impact of this campaign into 2018 so watch this space!

April was another landmark month for CAP as we officially launched our newest service, CAP Life Skills. After piloting the initiative over 2016, we knew we’d hit on something good, and I’ve loved watching it blossom since the launch. We’ve now got 93 life skills centres across the UK teaching people new ways to manage on a low income and prevent the poverty associated with it. You can find out more about CAP Life Skills and search for centres in your area here.

Our first ‘crowdfunding for a Discovery Break’ campaign was a big success. I was blown away (yet again) by the generosity of CAP’s supporters. What a heart you have for our clients and to bless them with a break from their daily struggles. The break took place at Pilgrim Hall in East Sussex at the end of May and because of this generosity we were able to take over 100 families away for a well deserved rest.

June was full to bursting! Andrew Bailey, CEO of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) visited CAP HQ and we received authorisation from the body. This really is testament to all of the staff involved in the lengthy process, and it means we can take a leap forward in helping UK families find a solution to their debt and truly transform their lives.

June was also the month we launched our annual client report, which revealed a really concerning stat: one in ten clients didn’t have a bed to sleep on before getting help with their debt. This was the inspiration behind our summer campaign, which featured the incredible testimony of client Chris, who once spent months sleeping on bin bags, along with his two young children, because of debt. The campaign raised a fantastic amount of funds so that we can help to make sure no one is left with this level of need.

In my hometown of Bradford, a brand new centre opened in July at Gateway Christian Centre. Not only that, it was almost immediately fully booked for months in advance. The reason I started CAP back in 1996 was because of the deprivation I saw in and around Bradford, so it’s fantastic to know that a whole load more people in the area (and across the country) will now be getting the help and support they need as they set off on their journey to becoming debt free.

August was the month that saw 100 clients become debt free in the space of a week for the first time ever! I remember a time when we’d be delighted if we reached 100 debt frees in a year, and now we’re seeing so many lives transformed on a weekly basis – it’s just stunning.

September was the month that saw the 1,000th client make a decision for Jesus in 2017! It put the total number of lives transformed through Jesus since the charity began at a staggering 7,000. Wow!

In October we launched our ‘life sentence’ appeal, which aimed to raise the fees for 500 clients to go through a Debt Relief Order (DRO) and become debt free before Christmas. These were clients whose debt was so high it would take them over 600 years to repay it on average. I’m thrilled to say we smashed our target thanks yet again to the generosity of our supporters.

Another highlight for October came from our Public Relations team, who managed to get CAP featured on national telly eight times – more than ever before in the space of a month! Again, more publicity equals more people hearing about CAP and getting the help they need. That’s what it’s all about.

Hey, the highlights didn’t stop there. In November we hosted our biggest fundraising dinner of the year (and ever) at Old Billingsgate in London. It was a fantastic evening, with over 1,000 CAP supporters gathering together to celebrate and sow into the future of this charity. On the night we raised a staggering £1,000,000! This money will go towards opening more UK centres and making sure every person who needs our help can access it, as well as continuing to give the very best service to our clients.

Finally, thanks to our Christmas hamper appeal, our local centres were able to deliver hampers to hundreds of clients in December. After a year of working hard to get out of debt and poverty, these hampers bring such joy and hope to people at Christmas.

Hey, fancy one more hurrah to round off a pretty stunning year? Go on then. This year we’ve seen a record breaking number of families become debt free – more than any year before! To anyone who has helped make this and the rest of this amazing year possible, I have a very special thank you message here. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And here’s to an even better 2018, yeah?

Christmas is saved!

calendar18 December 2017

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Christmas is saved!

Christmas is a notoriously tough time for our bank balances and I don’t know about you but it seems to be getting more expensive year on year. A recent study showed that food for even the cheapest traditional Christmas dinner will be 16% more expensive than in 2016. And that’s before you factor in the cost of presents, decorations and energy to illuminate all those lights.

It can be a stressful time for anyone, especially those in the middle of working flat out to get out of debt.

That why when CAP helps a client organise a Debt Management Plan to repay what they owe to various creditors, as well as budget for their various day-to-day needs, we encourage them to put aside an amount of money every month to save for Christmas and other future needs. For people not used to saving, such as those involved in generational debt, this opens them up to a new way of doing things and helps them to stay debt free long after they’ve finished working with CAP.

Plus, of course, it means that when December comes around, we’re able to send them a super uplifting letter saying how much they’ve saved up. It’s something our clients really value, saying it not only gives them something to look forward to but takes away a lot of the pressure of the festive season too.

Last year, 1,183 CAP clients withdrew money from their savings at Christmas - on average £193 per household. How great it must feel to receive a letter saying there’s nearly £200 waiting for them – and how encouraging to know that they alone have saved every penny of it! In total, our clients saved £196,700 ahead of the festivities, rather than relying on credit.

Not all of our clients are in a position to put aside these savings. For those going through an insolvency option, our main priority is saving for their insolvency fee. Of course, the sooner they raise this fee and are able to submit their application, the closer they are to becoming debt free and an altogether brighter future, so it’s all relative.

For every one of the people working to find a solution to their debts, whether it’s through their savings pot or receiving a treat-filled Christmas hamper, our aim is to lighten the load a little at Christmas and bring back joy into the season.

For more ways to prepare for Christmas on a budget, click here.

What does the Christmas story say about us?

calendar18 December 2017

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

What does the Christmas story say about us?

It’d be an understatement to say the story of Christmas is pretty impressive. There are ancient prophecies being fulfilled, events happening in the stars, merciless kings to heckle and choirs of angels appearing to sing about the birth of God’s son. You can understand why we’ve been putting on nativity plays for hundreds of years!

However, even with all the song and dance in the Christmas story, ultimately the thing it’s all pointing towards is something that, on the surface, looks tiny and insignificant. Not only did God come to earth as a human, he came into the world as a baby: the smallest and most vulnerable kind of human.

The amazing weirdness of God becoming an actual human like us (with all our flaws and icky parts) is talked about in Paul’s letters to the Philippians:

‘[Christ Jesus] who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness’ (Philippians 2:6-7 NIV).

Jesus was born to parents who, apart from their far off lineage, wouldn’t really be considered special. Although Joseph worked hard as a carpenter, they were probably just about keeping their heads above water. As for the people who first paid attention to what was happening, they weren’t rich either. They were shepherds: hard working people who lived on the hills, on the outskirts of town. They were outsiders in every meaning of the word.

In fact, a lot of the people in the Christmas story aren’t actually from Bethlehem. The later arrivals, the Wise Men, came from faraway lands and, although they were presumably rich enough to afford travel, education and the gifts they brought, they had different beliefs to the local people in Bethlehem, because no one noticed the star’s importance.

Joseph and Mary also had to travel far to get to Bethlehem and couldn’t find anywhere to stay when they got there. Chances are, when they arrived, the gossips had got there first. I bet everyone had an opinion about Mary’s pregnancy outside of marriage. No wonder they were cold shouldered everywhere they went, ending up shooed out of sight with the animals.

So, what does all this tell us? It tells us that whatever your situation, if you’re feeling forgotten about, an outsider, unloved or the focus of gossip and criticism, God sees you. He isn’t far away. He is in the middle of what you’re going through and holding your hand through it.

One in seven hiding debt from their partner

calendar29 November 2017

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

One in seven hiding debt from their partner

When you first fall in love, it feels like nothing can go wrong. You’re in love and you have a best friend and an ally to go through life with, that special someone you can talk about anything with. Everything feels like the end of a movie. As time goes on, however, things get more complicated and your relationship has to survive the mundane, difficult and stressful parts of life too. It can seem easier to hide those parts of life rather than face up to them. When it comes to money problems, hiding debt can seem easier than talking about it. Fear of a partner’s reaction, shame about the debt or uncovering incompatible approaches to money can all seem legitimate reasons to keep debt a secret.

Worrying about damaging the relationship if the debt is revealed can seem legitimate but our experience is that not talking about it can prove to be destructive. We’ve talked about ways to deal with The Money Conversation before. The stress of debt, even when the truth comes out, can put a strain on a relationship. If you can find a way to talk it through in a patient, loving and caring environment, it can be a lot easier.

CAP has recently begun working with the UK charity Relate to understand more about the link between debt and relationships. A total of 4,700 people were surveyed. The findings showed that one in seven adult Brits have hidden debt problems from their partner.

So, what are the reasons? More than half say they feel ashamed, 46% were scared of their partner’s reaction. A third felt their partner had a different approach to money.

Helen Webb, CAP's External Affairs Manager, commented, ‘Talking about finances with your partner can be really tough, especially if you feel mistakes have been made on either side. However, at Christians Against Poverty, we help couples look to the future and find solutions rather than dwell on what’s gone wrong. We’re delighted to have worked with Relate on this research that highlights just how vital it is to brave it and tackle money problems together.’

Nicky was living with her husband in Gloucester when they got into debt after remortgaging to pay off credit cards and personal loans.

‘Bringing up our three children was expensive and it was ridiculously easy to get into debt. We found it easier to ignore the debts and carry on spending than confront each other about it. When we eventually did start trying to talk about It, we’d approach it in the wrong way, which meant we’d argue and, ironically, go out and spend more money. We are paying off the debt now but we had a lot of slip ups and it could have destroyed our marriage. Free support around how to talk about the money without blame would have really helped.’

If you are living with problem debt, you can contact CAP here to find your nearest CAP Debt Centre. To find out more about Relate or to seek help from them you can visit their website here.

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