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Your church, post pandemic

calendar19 July 2020

Claire Wong's avatar Claire Wong

Your church, post pandemic

How has your church responded to the pandemic?

We couldn’t be prouder of our network of churches for the amazing way they’ve shown care to their local communities. Now, as we look ahead to the longer term impacts of coronavirus, we want to support UK churches as they help people rebuild and get back on track.

That’s why we’ve created Kick Start. Kick Start is our response to the needs we know are going to exist in communities like yours.

It’s a series of bitesize video sessions to help people in your community to move forward in life. 

 

What does it cover?

We’re looking at both the practical needs that are emerging from the pandemic, and also the emotional impact. So you’ll find sessions on:

  • Searching for jobs
  • Living well on a budget
  • Healthy habits
  • Worry
  • Coping with loss

 

How does it work?

Since the start of lockdown, we’ve all seen the huge opportunity that online community provides to the Church. People who would never normally connect have tried out a church service for the first time, from the comfort of their own home. Those who can’t go out easily have been able to attend groups to talk and pray together.

Kick Start makes the most of this new chapter in the UK church’s experience. All the sessions are designed to be run online (or face to face, once that's possible again). We provide short videos that you can share to get conversation sparked. Then it’s over to you to chat through the issues and practical tips raised.

You don’t need to use all nine sessions, just pick the ones most relevant to your community right now.

Our hope is that you’ll come away not only having helped people through some tough challenges, but also having built a lasting supportive community.

 

Can my church run Kick Start?

We’d love for your church to run Kick Start. Even if you’ve never run a CAP service before, you’re welcome to take part in this. We’ve made the whole resource free, so that as many people as possible can access it.

Kick Start will be ready to launch on 20 July. If you’re a church leader, sign up now to have access to all the resources as soon as they go live.

 

Kick Start is a pint-sized powerhouse – succinct yet potent in its ability to help people find their footing in a mid- and post-pandemic world.

Who would have thought?

calendar16 July 2020

Peter Snell's avatar Peter Snell

When I first heard that my dad was doing Facebook live sermons for his church, I have to admit I was slightly sceptical. He only started using text messages recently!

Perhaps, like me, you had your doubts about how churches across the UK would adapt to ‘church online’. Early incidents involving clergy, candles and flammable jumpers certainly gave us a giggle as we began to embrace this new way of meeting together.

However, amidst the shadowy lighting and crackling audio, something pretty incredible has been happening. Since lockdown began:

  • Around 3 million people who had never been to a religious service have tuned in to one digitally (on the radio, live TV, streamed online or on demand)
  • One in 20 UK adults who didn’t pray before have been praying
  • A quarter of UK adults have watched or listened to a religious service (that’s over 52.4 million people!). This is a dramatic increase from the usual 5-7%!

We also asked over 100 churches how they were getting on, and found that an incredible 98% had established some kind of online presence. Many even said their ‘digital congregations’ were much larger than their usual Sunday attendance.

Praise God - what a unique opportunity we have in this season, to share the gospel and show God’s love to our communities in such creative, meaningful and beautiful ways.

You could say that closing our buildings has opened the doors of our churches to a whole new audience. Amidst everything going on, that is something to celebrate!

If you have been involved in church service planning – you’ve done an amazing job!

Why not let us give you a hand over the next few months? CAP is now offering free digital talks (pre-recorded or live streamed) helping your church respond to the impact of COVID-19 on the poorest in our community.

With key scriptures and real-life stories of transformation, your church will be inspired by God's heart for the poor and how they can make a difference.

To access these free resources just fill out this simple form!

Five minutes with… a Life Changer

calendar03 July 2020

Hannah Sanford's avatar Hannah Sanford

Five minutes with… a Life Changer

Did you know that we have an amazing group of over 30,000 people who give to CAP every single month? We call them Life Changers because without their generosity we wouldn't see our clients go debt-free and their lives restored.

What's it like to be a Life Changer, I hear you ask? Look no further. We spoke to Hannah Kunar to find out why and how she has chosen to support CAP.

 

Hi Hannah! Tell us a bit about yourself.

I'm married with two kids, work from home as a Freelance Graphic Designer and I love chocolate and a cup of Yorkshire Tea.

How did you hear about CAP?

I first heard about CAP when my brother-in-law started working for them. He gave me John Kirkby's book, Nevertheless, and I honestly couldn't put it down! I was captivated by his journey that led him to start Christians Against Poverty to help others out of debt.

How long have you been a Life Changer?

I've supported CAP now for over 8 years.

Why did you choose to support CAP?

A few years ago, I had the incredible privilege to work for CAP as a Graphic Designer in their creative media department. During my time at head office, I was given the amazing opportunity to go on a client visit. It opened my eyes to see the devastating effect debt has on a person, and in some cases, their families. To see how CAP's front-line operated was nothing but pure compassion, genuine love and professionalism. I was never the same after that. Over my four years at CAP, I heard countless stories week after week of people whose lives had been forever changed, not just through becoming debt free but also in finding Jesus.. how amazing is that?!

What has your experience of being a Life Changer been like?

I love receiving anything from CAP! I always feel thanked and appreciated for what I give on a monthly basis and the best part is knowing that it's making a real difference through reading stories of lives that have been changed, which is my favourite part of all! It's great to be updated on how many people have become debt free each month and to know where the money goes is really helpful seeing how CAP operates. I also need to say how much I love the design and content of all CAP's communication. It's always so friendly, informative and approachable. Keep up the great work!

 

Like the sound of helping see lives transformed and getting to hear the difference your support is making in people's lives? Why not join our 30,000 other regular givers by becoming a Life Changer today?

Become a Life Changer

Council Tax needs to change.

calendar25 June 2020

Kiri Saunders's avatar Kiri Saunders

Council Tax needs to change.

Council Tax: we’ve got to pay it, but what happens when we can’t afford to? 

Introduced in England, Wales and Scotland in 1993, Council Tax pays for a lot of things, from education and social work to infrastructure, street lighting and even taking our rubbish away. We pay for these services to keep our local communities running, but it doesn’t come cheap. The average band D Council Tax bill in England in 2018/19 cost £1,671 per year.

Paying Council Tax can be a particularly heavy burden for those who are struggling financially.  At Christians Against Poverty (CAP), we saw that Council Tax was the most common priority debt amongst clients in 2019, with almost half (46%) of those coming to us for help having arrears. Priority debts are those that carry the most serious consequences when not paid; for example, your mortgage or rent. 

 

What about COVID-19?

Amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Council Tax still needs to be paid, but many households are living on reduced incomes. The Government tried to pre-empt the risk of arrears by providing councils with a £500 million hardship fund to reduce the bills of those households in receipt of Council Tax support. A good step, but is it enough? Many of the households facing income shocks wouldn’t have been existing benefits claimants and so they would not have been receiving Council Tax support. In these instances, these households wouldn’t be eligible for help from the hardship fund. 

Citizens Advice estimates that two million people have already fallen behind with their Council Tax bill as a result of COVID19. The Local Government Association has also reported that £506 million in Council Tax has gone uncollected in the past three months as people struggle to pay bills during the coronavirus crisis. With the economic landscape growing ever bleaker, and with a fixed end-date for the coronavirus ‘emergency period’ of 23 August in relation to taking control of goods, more needs to be done to protect those who cannot afford to pay.  

 

The problem

This is not a new problem. CAP and others in the debt advice sector have long been raising concerns over how councils collect unpaid Council Tax. CAP clients report that debts owed to government authorities, such as Council Tax, make them feel more powerless than others. It might surprise you to know that banks and mortgage lenders have a better track record when it comes to supporting people in financial difficulty than Council Tax collections. 

As it stands, not paying Council Tax can have some serious consequences. In England in 2020, if you don’t pay your Council Tax you can end up in prison! Thankfully, the number of people convicted is actually low, but many in arrears get letters threatening imprisonment, unsurprisingly creating high levels of anxiety and fear amongst those who can’t make ends meet.

Normally if you miss a Council Tax installment and fail to make it up, you immediately become liable to pay the year’s remaining balance in one go (liability order). Research from the Money Advice Trust (MAT) showed that in 2018/19, over half (54%) of all cases sent to enforcement agents were for Council Tax arrears. For those unable to pay in full, the next step taken by most councils is to obtain a liability order through the Magistrates Court. 

Most councils also want you to pay all the Council Tax the year it’s owed, making it almost impossible to spread the repayment out for longer. This is because Local Authorities are ranked on a league table based on the percentage of payments they collect, which means they have an incentive to collect payments within the same year they were due. CAP is working to influence change in both these areas. 

 

What needs to change?

Simon Clarke, Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government) stated, ‘The Government expects authorities to be sympathetic to those in genuine hardship and proportionate in their use of any enforcement action’. This is exactly what we want, but sadly it is not the current experience. 

At the moment, apart from a temporary hold on collections and the new hardship fund, nothing has really changed. If you fall behind and don’t engage, you may still be visited by enforcement agents, and you may still be threatened with imprisonment (in England), causing many sleepless nights. The number of people with Council Tax arrears is increasing, yet there is no new collections structure. 

We are not sitting still. CAP is joining forces with the other major debt advice agencies to call on the Government to make changes. We want to see change in how arrears have to be paid, with more flexibility and forbearance. We also want to see councils do more to help people through the introduction of a pre-action protocol. This would require councils to take additional steps before seeking a liability order, going to court or sending out enforcement agents, such as setting up an affordable repayment plan. In Scotland, CAP is joining with Money Advice Scotland and StepChange to write a letter to the Scottish Government 

Before enforcement action restarts, we will be living in the calm before the storm. We will continue to stand up for CAP clients and influence change and will keep this blog updated on our progress. If you are interested in reading more, in 2018 CAP released a briefing paper about clients’ experience of debt collection by central and local government, called Powerless people, which you can read here.

The big debate

calendar03 June 2020

Kiri Saunders's avatar Kiri Saunders

The big debate

Yesterday CAP took part in a debate all about poverty, justice and mental health. 

The debate was hosted by Patrick Regan, founder of Kintsugi Hope, a charity striving to make a difference to people's mental wellbeing. Paula Stringer, our CEO, was one of the panelists. 

In this extremely difficult time, widespread issues like poverty and mental ill-health have been exacerbated. Panelists at the debate spoke about the growing levels of anxiety and depression due to the pandemic, as well as those now struggling to get by on low incomes, who may continue to struggle for some time. Action needs to be taken from the Government, society as a whole and individually. We can all play a part to speak out against injustice.  

 

What we know

In our experience, debt and mental health are often found hand-in-hand. Mental ill-health can make managing finances harder, and worrying about money can make someone’s mental health worse. Often you don’t just treat one, but both. To make things harder, the stigma associated with debt and mental health problems can prevent people from seeking help or speaking up about it with friends or family. 

CAP has found that two in five (40%) clients struggle with a mental health issue and three in five (61%) say that debt caused their mental health to deteriorate. We also know that people with a long-term mental health problem are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than those without. Debt can make you feel trapped, with no way out, sadly 34% of CAP clients have considered or attempted suicide in their desperation.

 

Debt, mental ill-health and COVID-19: a perfect storm?

The world we now live in is unrecognisable to that of just a few months ago. Despite sharing the experience of COVID-19 worldwide, we are all faced with individual uncertainties around our finances, social lives and futures. For many, COVID-19 has created a perfect storm of personal and financial crisis. We are seeing heightened levels of anxiety and depression across the nation and one in five households are now struggling to pay their bills.

The lockdown has also had an adverse effect on those who were already struggling with mental health problems by exacerbating preexisting conditions, as seen in the client story below. Existing support to help people struggling with mental ill-health has been stopped due to social distancing measures and so some are receiving support via phone calls. However, others cannot afford phone credit or broadband, leaving them instantly cut off from friends and family, unable to contact anyone to ask for help.

CAP client Sarah said, ‘My mental health has really been affected by this. I’m really finding it hard not seeing my children. 

I think it’s bad that the mental health team hasn't called. I haven't had check-up calls. If we were seeing people weekly, which I was, surely we should be getting a phone call? It’s not just me, it’s a lot of people.’

 

The stigma attached

Both debt and mental ill-health have stigmas attached, which means that people can feel ashamed of their situation or face discrimination from others. It can also mean that people don’t seek the help they need when they need it. Events like The Big Debate help in raising awareness and breaking down stigmas associated with these important topics. 

The good news is that the local Church and CAP are well placed to reach out and support people struggling with their mental health. Even during lockdown, CAP Debt Coaches have been supporting clients through encouraging messages and phone calls and referring clients to CAP’s emergency support line.

‘My CAP Debt Coach messaged me yesterday. I’m not always good at getting back to people but she has messaged throughout.’ - Sarah, CAP Debt Help client

Kintsugi Hope’s mission is to create a world where mental and emotional health is understood and accepted, with safe and supportive communities for everyone to grow and flourish. We can all play our part to check our own attitudes, speak-up about these issues and look out for others who may need support. 

 

To find out more about Kintsugi Hope, and their church Wellbeing Groups visit their website

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