On a dark grey evening in a warm burgundy-walled church meeting room, a community of jobseekers and volunteers gather for their weekly CAP Job Club, one of 156 currently running across the UK. This week, I’m joining them.
The group are from a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Most are unemployed, but some are simply seeking more sustainable employment, like David and Mark*. They both work for the same security firm and are seeking more long term employment, working on nightclub doors or guarding building sites overnight.
Like most Christian gatherings, since the early Church, a good portion of the meeting is devoted to making sure everyone was properly fed. Volunteers and members connect over plates of pie and mash, or pizza. There’s even a large chocolate cake for someone’s birthday.
‘It’s always a laugh coming here,’ David says, ‘It’s great meeting new people and helping each other. The staff are excellent so when you need help, help’s there.’
Balwinder* is living on Universal Credit. He heard about the job club through his CAP Debt Coach. For him the sense of community is essential. As a single guy, being part of a weekly group of like-minded people gives him the friends and support network he needs. He comes along to the job club every week because there’s always something new.
‘Gaz is brilliant,’ he says, ‘He explains everything properly. I think it’s one of the best job clubs in the world. CAP’s changed my life.’
After the meal, everyone splits into groups and work booklets are handed out. Gaz talks everyone through filling out long-winded applications forms and how to write a standout cover letter. The atmosphere is cheerful and many of the members are happy to keep the conversation flowing and add to the discussion.
On my table is John*, a gas engineer who also runs his own business. He volunteers as a greeter at the job club and at the church’s food bank, signposting people to the different help that’s on offer.
He explains that he started to volunteer at the club because he wanted to make a difference and help the poor.
‘I enjoy it,’ John shares. ‘I believe it’s a reflection of God’s heart to the poor. Setting up a CAP Job Club is an important ministry. You need to find the right people, people who have a heart and a drive to genuinely listen and be there to offer advice. People who will go for it!’
After the meeting is over, Gaz explains why he thinks starting a job club is one of the best decisions you could make.
‘It’s a great way to release people and bring them into community. It’s more than just helping people find work. I’ve seen people written off by society, written off by job centres, written off by themselves, and yet I’ve seen how the work we do changes lives. That gives me hope.’
* Names have been changed to protect their privacy.