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?