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Room to breathe in a debt crisis

calendar30 October 2018

Marianne Clough's avatar Marianne Clough

Room to breathe in a debt crisis

The Chancellor might not have mentioned it in his speech, but the Budget small print had debt charities nearly panting with excitement at the mention of ‘Breathing Space’.

This long-running campaign, mentioned in both Labour and Conservative manifestos at the last election, has been something the debt advice sector has been calling for and working towards for years.

The idea is to provide space for people so that while they seek debt advice from a charity like CAP or others, creditors legally can’t chase them for money.

Breathing Space was to be six weeks (or 42 days) and has been extended, thanks to the Chancellor, to 60 days.

CAP warmly welcomes this positive step forward as long as this includes public sector debt – and that doesn’t appear to be specifically spelled out, as yet.

A whopping 68% of CAP clients are in arrears with a household bill when they call us for help (43% Council Tax). We know from our own research that this kind of debt can be the most frightening to deal with.

What sort of breathing space would it be if some of the creditors went quiet while the others were still coming to the door and calling several times a day?

So, when all types of debt, both priority and non-priority, are explicitly included with Breathing Space, you could say we really will sigh with relief!

Our clients often have complex lives with multiple difficulties – and it’s good to remember what life can look like for them.

For instance, Mark, who was full of anxiety. All interest in life had gone. He was living in a dirty studio flat with broken furniture and a faulty boiler. He slept on the floor feeling increasingly isolated and, while debts stacked up, he worried he’d be evicted. The times he’d asked for help, he’d felt rejection as he didn’t fit the criteria, and he started to think he’d have to commit a crime so he could go to jail.

Turning things around for Mark was never going to be a quick fix (although, thankfully with the help of some wonderful referrers, caring church volunteers, co-operative creditors and CAP head office determination, that did happen).

So, when we answer the Government’s latest consultation on Breathing Space, we will be reminding them that simply advertising a service for our client demographic won’t be enough.

Most people in debt have a series of emotional barriers which prevent them asking for help. Often they don’t believe it exists or feel they don’t deserve it. No wonder so many take years to call us.

Also, will 60 days be enough space to make the moves that would help someone like Mark? What flexibility will be built in for those complex cases where people, bruised and battered by their situation, just aren’t responding as we’d like, or thinking rationally?

We are really delighted to see in the Budget that people receiving NHS help for a mental health crisis will now no longer have to endure creditor activity while they are unwell.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, from Martin Lewis, has been campaigning hard for this and we’re delighted to see such progress. When compassion and understanding land up in the Budget, it really is genuine cause for celebration.

So, what about those who are suffering anxiety and depression, and are on tablets from their GP? They might not be a mental health patient, but will they get the respite? We’ll be looking closely at the practical detail, as you’d expect.

We're determined that Breathing Space will revolutionise the experience of some of the poorest and most struggling debt ridden UK households, if done right. We’re grateful to be in the conversation with Government decision-makers so that we can continue to reflect clients’ experiences and help this happen.

Keep up to date with our work on policy and government here.

Maisie’s top heat saving hacks

calendar17 October 2018

Maisie Pollard's avatar Maisie Pollard

Maisie’s top heat saving hacks

The long, summer days now feel like a distant memory as temperatures begin to drop and winter approaches. Saving money can be tough; Christmas is only a few months away and heating bills can soar, making the season feel all the more expensive. Here are some tips to help you save cash and to put your mind at ease.

  • The Energy Saving Trust says there’s a misconception that it’s cheaper to leave the heating on all day. To save money, it’s better to just turn it on when you need. If you can, turn off the radiators in the rooms you’re not using to save energy. However, the price comparison service uSwitch recommends that if you have gas central heating, one room that you shouldn’t turn off is the radiator where the thermostat is fitted. This is because it can interfere with the temperature regulation of the central heating.
  • There are several free ways you can maximise the temperature in your house. One handy tip is to rearrange your furniture in your living or dining room. If you move your sofa or furniture away from the radiators, you’ll be avoiding unnecessary heating and the room will warm up faster.
  • You can also leave the bathroom door open as you run a bath or shower. This should allow the steam to move through to other rooms and heat them up too. Another hack is to leave the oven door open after you’ve used it. Even though you’ll have turned it off, it’ll help to heat up the kitchen too.
  • One really easy change that you can make is turning off appliances at the wall after you’ve used them. It might never have crossed your mind before, but it could save you around £80 a year on energy costs!
  • Draught proofing your home will come in handy over the winter months as it’ll reduce the amount of heat lost. Did you know that your home can lose up to 10% of its heat through the windows? Here’s a nifty alternative to double glazing: use a sheet of clear plastic film and stretch it over the window. This will help to reduce any wasted energy and will be much cheaper to fit.
  • You could even make your own draught excluders for your doors. Why not get a pillowcase and fill it with socks or dried rice? Tie it together and place it by your door. You could also try using letterbox and keyhole covers.

Want to see your money go further, find ways to save money, and have more time and less hassle in your day to day life? CAP Life Skills is a popular, community-based course, designed to equip you with the skills to live better on a low income or tight budget.

Find a CAP Life Skills group near you.

Four things we’ve learned from saying ‘yes’ to a documentary

calendar08 October 2018

Marianne Clough's avatar Marianne Clough

Four things we’ve learned from saying ‘yes’ to a documentary

One: We are what it says on the tin but turns out not everyone likes what’s in the tin.

Even though we are Christians Against Poverty, a name that explicitly spells out who we are and what we do, people still question who we are and what we do. Is CAP legit? Ask the FCA, the LSE (capuk.org/neverjustanumber) , listen to Martin Lewis, hear from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Better still, talk to our clients. We won't win everyone over, of course, but we know the church brings another layer of care which is unique to CAP.

There are lots of good debt agencies out there and we are all needed because sadly, there are a lot of people in debt crisis.

Two: It wasn’t a perfect representation of CAP but still worth doing.

Of course, there are frustrations that the documentary didn’t show all we wanted but viewers aren’t daft. They see through it. The clients’ transformation from the start to the end of the programme shone through. We hear that Ronnie is feeling more 'pukka' than ever, by the way, and long may that continue.

Three: We also felt the love.

A team of us were kept busy on social media through Friday night and #TheDebtSaviours was trending. Across the weekend it never stopped. We even had one church offering John Kirkby a spot on their worship team which made us laugh a whole lot. People took time to encourage our staff in their various congregations on Sunday, saying how uplifting it was to see the church in action on TV and that they'd been very moved. Supporters and clients had some very kind words for us and told us some eye-opening stories. One contact in the finance industry wrote in especially to describe CAP as 'a national treasure' (thank you!). Then there were the calls… oh the calls!

Four: The response was immediate.

We had extra teams volunteering to keep special phone lines open during the broadcast and those in need didn't wait until the end of the show. In the first few minutes of The Debt Saviours, the calls began. Website hits went through the roof as people Googled us and how to get help and we were glad of so many planning meetings! People in need recognised themselves in the lives of Ronnie and Holly and wanted the same freedom from debt and isolation. A million people in the UK are in outright destitution right now - and they didn't need a second invitation. The Monday after broadcast was our highest ever on record for booking people for that first home visit.

What can you do? Click here to find out more.

BBC Two’s The Debt Saviours: Behind the scenes

calendar27 September 2018

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

BBC Two’s The Debt Saviours: Behind the scenes

Watch The Debt Saviours on BBC iPlayer.

 

On Friday 5 October, CAP is to feature in a BBC Two documentary called The Debt Saviours. It’s a rare and incredible opportunity for any charity – a one hour, prime time slot on national TV. But it’s not something that happens overnight. It’s months of planning, careful risk assessment, discussion, and that’s before the filming and editing process even kicks off.

It all began back in September 2017, when a BBC film maker approached us with plans to create a one hour documentary focusing on the level of destitution in the UK. Keen to meet our staff and hear more about what we do, a crew travelled to Bradford to visit our head office. So inspired, by the time they sat down on the train home they’d decided that they wanted the documentary to take a different angle, focusing on how CAP specifically tackles destitution and poverty.

You can imagine that offer gave us much to chew over. No editorial control, but a chance to let people in on what the amazing Church in the UK is doing. With us as a growing charity hoping to reach both new supporters and those in need, as well as encourage the wider Church, the potential was huge – so we said yes!

We got to know the crew, Phillip and Orlando, as they filmed with us for sixteen weeks between January and June 2018. Naturally, they spent a lot of time with Founder John Kirkby in the hope of getting an insight into the motivation behind what we do.

Serious kudos to John whose life was largely taken over by cameras, filming him during interviews, conferences and fundraising dinners. Of course, John’s own experience of personal debt crisis and how the church came to his rescue become the model for the way we’ve done things for the past 22 years.

Also featured heavily in The Debt Saviours is Gareth Thompson, who was once a debt client and is now our Bradford Central Debt Centre Manager. Gareth’s courage in opening up about his past, and his ability to forgive, provides one of the most emotional parts of the documentary. We’re sure you’ll be equally inspired when you hear his story. Like John, Gareth took part in a lot of filming, all while planning his wedding!

Phillip and Orlando spent a lot of time with us at head office, and also out on the frontline meeting our centre staff and, of course, some of our brilliant clients. Overall the crew spoke to dozens of clients from across England and we were naturally protective of them, as you’d expect. Their Centre Manager spoke to each of them in depth to see if they would mind contact with the film makers before allowing them into their homes. They were only contacted if they were 100% happy to go ahead.

We know from experience that people with debt problems can often feel invisible to society and, on the whole, we found that the clients contacted appreciated being listened to. That said, many of the clients contacted were deemed too vulnerable to feature by both CAP and the BBC, who have a strict duty of care just like we do.

Perhaps the most encouraging takeaway from The Debt Saviours is the attitude of the clients featured. These are people facing incredibly distressing and difficult circumstances and yet, I’m sure you’ll agree, there’s a heart warming positivity about them all.

Their personalities shine through in some wonderful moments, like Ronnie declaring that he’s feeling ‘pukka!’, Holly pocketing the free tea bags or Mick insisting he’ll keep his emotions in check even though his wobbly chin gives him away.

It’s the perfect reflection of the people we help here at CAP and their spirit to keep going, to keep fighting, despite the enormous stress of their circumstances – it’s that ‘nevertheless spirit’ that got CAP going in the first place.

From the start to the end of the documentary, there’s a visible change in the people who have sought help. Through working with CAP, they’re all clearly progressing and their circumstances are looking altogether less hopeless – isn’t that a wonderful message to be sending out on BBC Two in a prime time slot? There IS a way out of debt. There IS always hope. It DOES get better.

We’re glad that the documentary also showed that sometimes clients want to find out more about Christianity too, finding greater perspective and purpose in their lives as well as help with finances.

And it’s all possible because of local churches. Let’s be honest, the UK Church gets a pretty bad rep in the mainstream media, and there’s so much in The Debt Saviours that shouts of the amazing work being done – the life changing work – parish by parish, congregation by congregation. It shows just how underrated the Church is, quietly standing at the forefront of the fight against UK poverty. Through local churches, thousands of CAP clients are finding community, the power of which is rarely shown better than in stories like Holly and Ronnie’s.

There’s no doubt about it, the documentary was always a risk – never before has CAP experienced this level of public scrutiny. But it was a very carefully considered risk, and one that we feel on the whole has paid off. Our prayer is that it reaches people in need and encourages them to seek support. If just one life is radically transformed off the back of it, it’ll be worth it.

A massive thank you to John, Gareth, Holly, Danielle, Mick, Ronnie, Neil, Helen, Phillip, Orlando and everyone else involved in the filming and production of The Debt Saviours.

Read more about CAP on the BBC.

Hand in hand with the local Church

calendar24 August 2018

Hayley Tearall's avatar Hayley Tearall

Hand in hand with the local Church

From the beginning, the Church has been God’s great idea. Humans are created for community and by working in partnership with local churches, this's what both Tearfund and CAP are building. Through churches, we reach into local communities across the world to show the love of Jesus and to rescue people from the darkness of their circumstances.

Tearfund’s primary focus is helping people who are worst affected by poverty around the world. CAP concentrates on those affected by poverty on our doorstep in the UK. However, our mission is the same. We’re both committed to releasing people from the grip of poverty because God has told us to reach out to those in desperate need. He says that ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (Matt 25:40).

Because of our shared mission to ‘speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy’ (Prov 31:9), we equip local churches to be beacons of hope within their communities. When we work through the local Church, we see the body of Christ truly shine. Lives are impacted by the gospel and people are set free, all the while showing poverty who’s boss.

Globally, as we stand with the Church, we have the incredible opportunity to raise up those struggling in the pit of poverty through the resources we have. If it weren’t for the local Church, many people wouldn’t be able to access our help. The material things are so important as our mission is to see people rescued from the physical grips of poverty - and that’s why we’ve developed our specialist services.

But we don’t stop there, because we’ve got good news to share. We're passionate about releasing people from material and spiritual poverty and empowering them to step into the fullness of joy God has for them. With churches committed to journeying with those in their local area, the impact we have is massive – we create authentic, long-lasting change that creates a ripple effect and transforms whole communities.

As a movement of passionate Christians, we are unstoppable. We are devoted to praying for, encouraging and supporting our neighbours way beyond their journey to financial stability. Through the Church, we're equipping people with the tools they need to turn their situation around. Psalm 68:6 says, ‘God sets the lonely in families’ and we find that by introducing people to the love of Jesus, the Church is a family, ready and waiting. Millions across the globe are finding healing from the fear, loneliness and isolation that come from poverty.

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