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What could you do with £90?

calendar02 October 2017

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

What could you do with £90?

Imagine someone drowning in debt, skipping meals to feed their children, worrying about being evicted from their home, convinced there's no way out of this desperate situation.

What if you could help them get on track to becoming debt free?

What if all it took was £90?

In reality that’s all it could take. If you’re a supporter of Christians Against Poverty, you’ll have no doubt come across our latest campaign, all about Jason and his journey out of debt with the help of CAP’s Debt Relief Order bursary. If not, here’s what it’s all about.

A Debt Relief Order (DRO) is an insolvency route out of debt. It’s an ideal option for clients who have no chance of ever paying back what they owe, for the poorest people in society. When we did the maths on all of these clients currently on our books, we found it would take them an average of 618 years to repay their debts. Wow. But a DRO is a way out. It means people’s debts can be completely written off, setting them free from a life sentence of poverty.

It costs £90 to apply for a DRO, but for many clients their income is so low that they can’t afford it. That’s why we need you to step in! We’re asking you to consider donating £30, £60 or £90 to help set someone free.

Think about it: what could you buy with £90?

You could buy Mars bars for 150 of your friends (aren’t you popular?)

You could buy your morning coffee for 45 days (or thereabouts).

You could afford several trips to Nando’s, or even ninety £1 ham sandwiches, which you could use to build a Scooby Doo style sandwich tower, if you were so inclined.

You could buy all three Twilight books, all seven Harry Potter books, a copy of Hard Times by Charles Dickens, The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump and What Happened by Hillary Clinton, and still have enough left over to buy a couple of Beatrix Potter classics and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, for an especially eclectic reading list in 2018.

Or you could change a person’s life.

Instead of a short-lived sugar rush for your many friends, you could get a family’s debts entirely written off.

You could go without that morning coffee for less than two months and offer a lifeline to someone drowning in debt.

Eat at home instead of going out (or give the sandwich tower a miss) and you could release a person from a prison they never believed they’d escape.

You get the idea.

CAP helps hundreds of people go through a DRO every year, and we need your help to see another 500 set free by the end of the year.

Click here to donate £30, £60 or 90 (or whatever you can afford to give) and let’s unite to see 500 families become debt free in the next few weeks!

‘I thank God CAP came along to let the light in and help us get debt free.’

calendar13 September 2017

Kylie Carmichael's avatar Kylie Carmichael

‘I thank God CAP came along to let the light in and help us get debt free.’

It was dark. I remember walking about as a shadow of myself. It all started really because I didn’t know how to budget. There were so many bills gathering up and I didn’t know if what was coming in would be enough to pay what we were spending. I started borrowing from doorstep lenders and the pressure just grew and grew.

At the time I had four children, all under the age of six. My partner, Gareth, and I were skipping meals and going without to make sure the kids would have enough.

We argued about money constantly. It put such a lot of strain on our relationship. The debts sent me into depression and anxiety. I was very low, and even though I was surrounded by people, I felt alone. I didn’t talk to anyone about what was going on – I just buried my head in the sand and hoped it would go away. It wasn’t a nice place to be. I remember the sleepless nights and desperately wanting to just disappear under the covers and forget about life.

I was broken. If it wasn’t for the kids, I don’t like to think where I’d be now. I thank God that CAP came along.

I was speaking to a friend in my local church outreach centre and charity shop, and she asked if everything was alright with my finances, if I was in debt. I’d never spoken to anyone about my problems up until that point. It turned out she’d been through the same thing and had become debt free with CAP’s help.

She said they could help me too, but I was reluctant. I wasn’t a Christian at all, and every time I heard 'Christians Against Poverty' I just thought ‘How can they help me? What can they do?’

But they were the loveliest bunch of people! They came to the house and I felt so comfortable with them as they explained that loads of people go through this, but that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Suddenly it wasn’t so stressful.

They told me we wouldn’t lose our house. And there was the reassurance of having someone there if we needed anything. It was such a weight lifted off our shoulders. It eventually became clear that insolvency was the best solution for us, and CAP guided us through the process.

I didn’t think I was good enough to walk with God, but gradually I learned that nobody is better than anyone else and that God accepts everyone if they just choose to let him in. I welcomed him into my life and it’s never been the same!

Our family was invited to go away for a few days on a Discovery Break. Gareth wasn’t a Christian and he was really unsure at first, but at one of the workshops he broke down – there and then he asked God into his heart! It was honestly the happiest day of my life. Being debt free is a bonus!

Nowadays I can manage our budget, I walk about with a smile from ear to ear and my family is so much happier and more settled. I thank God CAP came along to let the light in and help us get debt free.

My advice to anyone else going through what I went through is this: talk about it. Don’t close the door and think that there’s no help out there – there is big help out there!

Kylie is a mum of four from Northern Ireland, whose struggles with mental ill-health and debt are captured in this year’s CAP Sunday film, Still. Click here to watch the full film and to find out more about hosting a CAP Sunday in your church.

You can be heroes!

calendar17 August 2017

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

You can be heroes!

It’s superhero week at Christians Against Poverty and the team here at CAP HQ are getting into the spirit of things, dressing up and celebrating all that’s done to rescue people in debt, here in the UK.

If you’re a CAP Life Changer you’ve probably already received a superhero thank you card from Steph, James, and their daughter Isabella from Leeds, a family helped because of your giving.

Steph writes that if it wasn’t for CAP, she’d still be in the same dark place. After she lost her job, she was going to be evicted from her house. It was hard to deal with because she felt guilty about her debt. But support from CAP has saved her life and made a sad home into a happy home.

There are a lot of ways in which CAP is actually changing and saving the lives of people struggling with a wide range of issues. In many ways, coping with all that life throws at them, they are superheroes too.

One client, Catherine* suffers with anxiety and panic attacks, depression, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel and hypoglycemia and all of this adds to her financial struggles.

Sometimes existing problems are made worse by money troubles. Allan* and Sandra* were having a hard time suffering with mental health, fear and anxiety. They felt bullied by debt collectors knocking on their door and have been feeling too scared to open the curtains.

So, the extra face to face support given by each debt centre is so very valuable, tackling that isolation and providing a solution.

Over on CAP’s Facebook page, we asked people to name their CAP superheroes.

‪Joyce Bloomfield wrote,‪ ‘I cannot pick ONE… My befriender Margaret Woffendin and debt centre manager Sarah Cutts, release coach Sally Martin and two special people who prayed and listened who have moved on – Rose Young and Gillian Fernyhough.’

Carol Anne Wastell‪ wrote, ‘I must say Julie Parker is the best. She will walk to the end of the earth with you. She is amazing. She was there for me and helped me though everything. Even when I was at my lowest, she brought me back alive again and gave me hope. I will never ever be able to repay her.’

The team effort everyone makes for CAP results in a genuine difference in thousands of lives. If you’d like to join CAP’s superhero team, it’s easy! You could challenge yourself to a sponsored event, make a regular donation, or see if you’re the right fit for one of our current job vacancies.

*Names have been changed to protect clients’ identities

Are your supermarket favourites shrinking?

calendar16 August 2017

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Are your supermarket favourites shrinking?

The Office for National Statistics recently confirmed what a lot of us shoppers suspected for a long time: as many as 2,529 products have shrunk in size over the past five years.

Yes, in spite of being sold for the same price, manufacturers have sneakily ensured you get less for your money in a phenomenon called 'shrinkflation'.

It's especially easy for them to do with food products because they won’t last from one week to the next so it's hard to keep track and compare to what you used to have, if they do it gradually.

Toblerones came into the news a while ago when people realised that the gaps between the chocolate triangles were getting wider and wider, meaning there was less chocolate per bar. It's not just chocolate though.

Which? found that 19 sheets from the standard Andrex four-pack toilet roll had gone down the... well... toilet.

There are, however, ways to get around this problem when you’re budgeting, if you’re careful.

Think about what you’re buying.

  • One way that shrinkflation suckers us in is brand loyalty. We stick with the same products week by week because it's easier to shop that way. However, even if you started buying the product because you thought it was a good deal, it might not be so great anymore. Keep checking how much you’re getting for your money.
  • Some price comparison sites allow you to check how much you are buying 'per unit', which means if you’re buying a pack of biscuits you can use the site function to find out the price of a single biscuit, so you know exactly what you’re getting. This is a big benefit of shopping online because you can compare across the board, and very few supermarkets have this information on their price tags. mySupermarket is great for this.
  • Most supermarkets do give you the price by gram or kilogram on the shelf. You can also work it out yourself in your head or with the calculator function on your phone by dividing the price by the weight on the package.
  • You could also learn to make your own food. This helps you get around shrinkflation because you know exactly how much you’re putting into it and how much it costs because you bought the ingredients to make it. Knowledge is power!
  • We've been running CAP Life Skills courses across the UK to help people learn how to budget better in their day to day life. We look at cooking on a budget and making some really delicious meals that the whole family can enjoy. Another really popular session involves a taste test where we ask if members can spot the luxury, brand, own brand and value products, and guess the price. Often there is minimal difference but the price per 100g varies enormously. The course also goes through the techniques that shops use to get you to spend more. It's a science all its own! You can find your nearest CAP Life Skills course here.

Ten years on from the credit crunch: it’s about survival not spending

calendar09 August 2017

Marianne Clough's avatar Marianne Clough

Ten years on from the credit crunch: it’s about survival not spending

It’s not the kind of anniversary that requires a party but ten years ago, following too much borrowing in the US amid soaring interest rates, the first ripples of the credit crunch crossed the pond and the UK began to suffer.

By September 2007, queues were forming outside Northern Rock as we witnessed the first run on a high street bank since the 1860s.

“Financial crisis” became “Credit crunch”, then “economic downturn” and then “recession” – all delivered by the now familiar drawl of TV journalist Robert Peston.

While there have been significant reforms in the banking sector since then – notably the crack down on easily available high cost credit - the FCA and the Bank of England are again concerned that unsustainable levels of consumer borrowing are driving economic growth.

The level of unsecured debt in the UK is now £200.9 billion – the highest since 2008.

Meanwhile, average weekly earnings are stagnant at best and benefits frozen – a problem for so many families with inflation at 2.6%.

Looking back at the last ten years, we’ve seen big changes here at Christians Against Poverty, not least in our network’s growth to meet the need, thanks churches across the UK.

The nature of clients’ debt has substantially altered too.

In 2006, secondary debt (credit cards, store cards and loans) made up 85 per cent of the whole. On average, people had just £1,411 of priority debt (bills, rent or mortgage) of a total £16,260 debt per household.

Figures from 2016 show the amount of priority debt has tripled in the past decade. Arrears on essential household bills now account for 32p in every £1 of debt owed. Average priority debt per household is now £4,582 from a total debt of £14,298.

On top of that, nine in ten CAP clients report that they took out credit to pay for a household bill or serve another debt.

Our concern is this increase in consumer credit is driven by households using credit they can’t afford as they struggle to keep up with essential household costs.

In short, for the people we’re helping, this isn’t about too much shopping - it’s survival.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) says 2.1 million card holders have persistent high levels of credit card debt which they may be struggling to repay, a further 1.6 million are making minimum payments. We have to ask why? What is happening in their lives that is causing this?

Unless we first address the difficulty many face paying for their basic living needs, we will continue to see unsustainable credit use and problem debt grow.

While the credit crunch began with big banks, the impact was felt among families who saw jobs lost, businesses go under, homes repossessed. It's this human cost that must not be forgotten - people's physical and mental health, the relationships that suffer and the children.

New CAP clients are being chased for ten separate debts, on average. That’s ten companies trying to collect in person, or by phone, letter or email. It's a hugely stressful way to live.

The result is stories like that of Pete, who struggled to pay rent, council tax and other debts; hid himself away and, tragically, was beginning to think suicide was his only option.

Thankfully, he was able to contact CAP and rather than being evicted, he was able to keep his home and, supported by his local debt centre, become debt free through a Debt Relief Order.

Pete has now trained to deliver our CAP Money Courses to help others prevent their own personal credit crunch. Let’s hope others can take his lead.

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