Born into poverty - how can this be fair?

calendar27 August 2019

Crispin Northey's avatar Crispin Northey

Born into poverty - how can this be fair?

Making ends meet is hard at the best of times. Throw in the two-child limit for Child Tax Credits and Universal Credit and suddenly hundreds of thousands more families are thrown in poverty.

 At CAP, we see every day the impossible choices families are forced to make and while mum and dad are trying to cope with the changes to their income, has anyone spared a thought for the children themselves?

Children are not immune from the strain financial worries placed on their families – relationally, practically and emotionally. The number of children already living in poverty in the UK is unacceptable. It is not right that children should bear the brunt of this policy. Like everyone else, they do not choose to be born and deserve the opportunity to flourish.

That is why Christians Against Poverty (CAP), along with 45 other charities, has thrown its full support behind Child Action Poverty Group (CPAG) and the Church of England’s All Kids Count campaign to remove this unjust and unfair rule which penalises those who simply cannot bear any responsibility for their situation the most – the children.

In CAP’s recent Client report, 80% of parents shared they felt debt negatively affected their children and 17% of all our clients went without meals on a daily basis before working with us.

So, what is this all about?

Announced in 2015 and introduced from 6 April 2017, the two-child limit removed entitlement to Child Tax Credits or Universal Credits for third or subsequent children born after this date - worth £2,780 per child per year.

Child Poverty Action Group estimates two million children will be affected in the next four years, half of whom would have been in poverty anyway.

Of the 160,000 families who have been affected so far, the majority (66%) of these are from working families, with potentially 300,000 children being pushed into poverty and one million pushed deeper by 2023/4. 95% of those surveyed said the two-child limit has affected their ability to pay for basic living costs. This is forcing families into debt to try to cover these and naturally the stress is affecting their mental health and relationships.

The Government has said the policy will have positive impact on family stability as it makes parents consider carefully whether to have another child but has supplied no evidence for this to date. We at CAP would challenge the Government to look again at this and end now the suffering they have placed on so many.

Learning to be grateful does you good

calendar03 July 2019

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Learning to be grateful does you good

We’re often told to count our blessings, but what if we took that literally?

What if we made lists of things we’re grateful for and actually counted them? Would it make a difference? 

Well, a lot of studies have looked into it. Scientists found that counting your blessings can help with a lot of things. It’s been found to help people sleep better, improve their empathy and mental health, and even strengthen relationships with their friends and loved ones.

So I got my notebook and started writing things down in whatever order they came into my head. I found it easier to do it this way and pick some of the best ones to think about later. I started off simple: my family, my fiancée, my home and things that keep me alive. And then on to more and more abstract and specific things. For example, hope (in spite of it all), acts of random kindness, lost things found, people who are amazing at niche crafts, the feeling of passing clouds and the continued incompetence of robots are all parts of later lists. I did it for a while and, strange as it seemed, there were a lot of ways it definitely helped.

It helped me discover the things I’m actually grateful for.

‘The internet’ and ‘sneezing’ are both on my list but there are several question marks around that first one. Because I am far more grateful for sneezes than I am for the internet. I don’t know whether that says more about the quality of discourse in my newsfeed or if it's just the fact that my hayfever makes sneezing a normal part of my day, this time of year, but it’s true.

There are a lot of things we do to give ourselves a little bump of happiness that don’t make us very happy or grateful, in the long run. Most of the time I don’t enjoy scrolling through the internet on social media. It’s just, ‘something to do’. So, I should probably cut down on it, right? Is there anything like that in your life?

It makes praying easier.

I don’t know about you but my prayers are usually a complete mess, not clear well-thought-out sentences. My thoughts are, at best, one or two or a few, long meandering streams that are easy to get lost in. So, when I make the effort to write it down, it can feel a lot more solid and organised when I come to pray, than if I just thought about it in passing. 

Also the act of writing was something to be grateful for. This might seem a little obvious, because I’m a person with a writing degree, who volunteers to write blogs every week, but I really like writing. Maybe you should incorporate something you like doing, into your prayer life. If you like singing, sing your prayers. If you like doodling, draw your prayers.

Practised gratefulness becomes instinctive.

The world teaches us not to be grateful in case it comes across as proud or boastful and sometimes because marketing and media is set up to pull us towards the next new thing. So, it takes some practice and unlearning, like any skill. That’s why doing it regularly and making gratefulness part of your routine is important. After a while I found myself finding things that I’m grateful for when I wasn’t sat down with a piece of paper. 

It helps on the days when you don’t feel like you have anything to be grateful for.

As often happens, I sometimes found myself too busy or tired to write something down. And it’s easy to find yourself feeling bad about not doing it and even giving up. However feeling bad about yourself is the complete opposite of what the idea is about. 

And there were days when I just felt sad and didn’t feel like being grateful. However, there were times when rereading my list or going through it in my head genuinely helped.

I hope you can find some things to be grateful for in your life.

There’s usually something to be grateful for. I hope you try to take care of the body and mind you live in. I hope you accept the help of people who care about you. No matter what happens, you are loved.

Finding family

calendar29 June 2019

Paula Walton's avatar Paula Walton

Finding family

I never expected to end up in the situation I did. I’d been married for 15 years. We’d bought a house together and had two kids. I had a steady job working for a building society. Life was great.

One day, my husband left suddenly.

By myself I could no longer afford the house, so I was threatened with being evicted. Within four months I lost both my parents. On top of all this I discovered I had breast cancer and had to undergo a full mastectomy, reconstruction, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I was off work for a year and a half. I began struggling with depression and was put on anti-depressants. I ended up being on them for seven years. Enforcement agents were banging on the door, demanding payment for the debt I owed.

Life became a long list of obstacles. I felt like the whole world was against me. I felt there was no one nice in the world anymore – not one. Sometimes I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.

The day I called CAP, everything began to change.

From that first call the difference was amazing. The lady I spoke to was kind and non-judgemental. Then Jane (CAP Debt Coach) turned up with a big smile on her face. I just felt at ease.

As well as help with debt, I was invited to church. After a couple of months of hearing the stories and feeling like I was being spoken to personally, the church leader said, ‘If you want to give your life to Jesus then come up to the front’. I couldn’t get out of the aisle quick enough – I was stepping on people’s feet and everything!

Church is like having a family. Now I’m surrounded by brothers and sisters. My new partner Calum and I also got baptised together. It has been life-changing. Since finding Jesus and the church, life is just happier. I can truly say now that I’m finding my own identity in Christ and that there is hope.

Calum and I also got married – it was our pastor who asked us about it. Dealing with everything being thrown at us all the time, I didn’t think Calum and I were going to survive, let alone get married. It made us stop and appreciate all we’ve got – what God has given us. It was overwhelming. Jane did the prayers at the wedding, and we even invited Katie, our area manager.

CAP is not just about getting you out of debt, it’s about giving you a way to move forward. The spiritual support - there’s just nothing out there in the market that gives you support like that. My life is no longer a checklist of obstacles I’m facing – today it’s full of reasons to celebrate. I’m debt free, walking with Jesus and doing my bit to bring joy and hope to others.

Paula is now a Debt Coach for her local CAP Debt Centre. She is passionate about sharing the hope she’s found in Jesus, just as her local church and CAP centre shared with her.

On Monday, 132* people will call CAP feeling hopeless and alone, just like Paula. On Tuesday, another 132 will call. The same will happen on Wednesday, and every working day after.

Will you become a Life Changer today and make sure CAP is there to answer every call? Your monthly gift will help provide the level of additional support that our clients so desperately need.

Thank you – you’re about to bring real joy into a situation like Paula’s.

Become a Life Changer today

*Average number of calls to our helpline every working day.

What counts as destitution?

calendar26 June 2019

Marianne Clough's avatar Marianne Clough

What counts as destitution?

Relative poverty, absolute poverty, below the poverty line and now destitution. This subject is so political, so full of finger pointing. For a lot of us, it’s hard to weed out quite what the reality really looks like, aside from the rhetoric.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has helpfully found a benchmark of showing someone in destitution – the most severe form of poverty. They say it means they are going without two or more essentials in a month.

So, the cynic in you is rightly asking, ‘Well, what counts as “essential”?’

Here’s the list:

  • Shelter;
  • Lighting;
  • Heating;
  • Food;
  • Basic toiletries like soap and toothpaste; and
  • Clothing or shoes appropriate for the weather.

So, before we go further, let’s see which two we’d be OK living without in a month.

Going without heating in the summer doesn’t seem too bad, but if that means no hot water either, that’s pretty miserable when you can’t wash yourself or your clothes.

Maybe not having clothes appropriate for the weather isn’t too bad, but then, if you can’t be dry (and let’s remember you don’t have a car and can’t afford public transport) your wellbeing will plummet. Then, there’s not much comfort when you get home, if you have one.

The point is, there just isn’t an acceptable combination.

In a just and compassionate society like ours, is it right that anyone has to live like this?

CAP’s latest report shows that around a third of the people we’re helping are living in destitution. Their suffering is often a private, behind-closed-doors type of poverty.

Now, we’re challenging society and the Government to take a deeper look at UK poverty with the #LookAgain campaign.

Will you help us by signing up here?

Debunking the myths: UK poverty

calendar21 June 2019

Hayley Tearall's avatar Hayley Tearall

Debunking the myths: UK poverty

What does UK poverty look like? Who does it affect?

There are many misconceptions about poverty in this part of the world. If we’re really honest, maybe we’re not even sure how bad things really are. But by debunking some of the common myths around UK poverty, we can get a much better picture of what’s going on behind closed doors and how we can actually help.

Myth #1: Real poverty doesn’t exist in the UK

We live in one of the world’s largest economies. With access to clean water, education and even a free healthcare system, it’s hard to imagine that anyone in the UK could be going without the absolute necessities. It’s easy to conclude that poverty can’t be a huge problem in the UK. But just because we can’t always ‘see’ poverty, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

In reality, we know there are around 1.5 million people living in destitution in the UK right now, and these are just the people we’re aware of because they’ve accessed a support service. It is believed that there are far more people living in destitution but these people are hidden, falling between the cracks.

These people are being forced to choose between heating their homes and feeding their children. They’re going without essentials such as beds and cookers. These people are in your community, on your street – maybe even right next door.

Fear and shame paralyse people, preventing them from reaching out. They struggle behind closed doors, isolated and alone. For many, not even their families know. UK poverty is real and it’s destroying people’s lives.

Myth #2: If people could find jobs it’d solve the problem

Of course, breaking the cycle of unemployment is a key part of helping people out of poverty (that’s why we run CAP Job Clubs). However, unemployment is only the main cause of debt for 6% of CAP clients, with chronic low income proving a much wider problem. A shocking 72% of children in poverty have working parents, meaning that despite record levels of employment, things still (quite literally) aren’t adding up.

Far too often our clients are forced to live without basic essentials. Even for those in paid work, when the wages are low and the hours few, it can be impossible to make ends meet month to month.

Myth #3: People end up in debt and poverty because of their own actions

For many of our clients, money is just the tip of the iceberg, and there’s so much more going on. 87% of CAP clients have struggled with one or more significant difficulties on top of their debt, and half struggled with three or more.

With no buffer to fall back on, those navigating a financial cliff-edge are especially vulnerable to being imprisoned by poverty as soon as crisis hits. Whether it’s ill health forcing them to take time off work, a family member passing away, or a marriage breakdown resulting in single parenthood, those with no access to savings (96%) are extremely vulnerable to falling into debt.

Poverty doesn’t discriminate. That’s why we’re committed to supporting people in our local communities, regardless of age, gender, faith or background. It’s also why we’re so passionate about providing emotional and practical help across many different areas of life, not just Debt Help. Our Job Clubs, Life Skills and Fresh Start groups cover a whole range of topics from finding work, budgeting, cooking, living well on a low income and tackling habitual dependencies.

Myth #4: There’s nothing I can do to help

Maybe it feels overwhelming to imagine the unbearable struggles people in your community are facing, behind closed doors. Maybe you’ve personally been affected by poverty or know someone who has. We might not be able to eradicate UK poverty overnight, but if each of us starts by looking right on our doorstep, we can see thousands of lives transformed like the 24,300 people CAP helped in 2018 (including those interacting with more than one service).

That’s why our rally cry this year is for passionate churches and individuals to dig deeper and look again at the reality of UK poverty in their communities. By opening our eyes to the need around us and taking steps to make a change, we can offer a lifeline to those that need it, reminding them that they’re not alone.

There’s hope and a solution for even the most desperate situations, and that starts with you. You can help build a better future for those living in poverty and destitution in the UK, armed with hope and a way forward. We’re encouraging individuals like you to jump on board as we call on the Government to look again at UK poverty and prioritise solutions - will you join us?

CAP exists because nobody should be held hostage by debt and poverty. By joining 30,000 other passionate individuals with a regular gift to CAP, you’re helping extend a lifeline of hope to the poorest and most vulnerable across the UK. Your support will enable us to provide expert Debt Help and group services tackling poverty and its causes, in partnership with the local Church.

Become a Life Changer today

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