What were you doing way back in 1996? How old were you? Were you even born? Well, that year Bradford boy John Kirkby was busy bringing an idea to life – an idea to tackle the crippling debt he was seeing in his home community, and had experienced in his own world. In 1996, Christians Against Poverty was born.
From his spare room in Great Horton, Bradford, armed with nothing but a £10 donation and a passion to see the poor set free, John set about helping families who, like him, had been through crushing financial difficulties.
Today, CAP helps more than 21,500 people every year from all over the UK, but CAP HQ still lives in Bradford, in a restored paper box mill called Jubilee Mill. It’s something we’re very proud of.
So, as 1 August marks Yorkshire Day, we thought we’d celebrate all the great things going on through CAP in this fabulous county.
CAP has 19 debt centres across Yorkshire – all run through local churches, of course.
We couldn’t do it without them! Each of these centres has a team of wonderful local Christians and volunteer befrienders who go out to see clients in their homes, often armed with a packet of biscuits and some tea, because that’s how we roll! In the majority of cases we see, debt is rarely just debt alone. It’s debt and mental ill-health, physical illness, bereavement, domestic abuse, fuel poverty, skipping meals… the list goes on. That’s why the holistic element of the CAP service is so important – these clients need more than just practical help with their money, they need a hand to hold and someone to reassure them that there’s a way out.
Alison*, a single mum from Wakefield, got into debt when she had to leave her job due to problems with her mental health. She suffered with depression and, at the worst point, considered ending her life. Thankfully, she contacted CAP and got the support she needed, practically and emotionally.
She says, ‘Sarah [Wakefield CAP Debt Coach] was so lovely and supportive and really wanted to help me. It was just knowing that someone was there who could help me, who was reaching out to me. I was just overwhelmed by the love and support to be honest. When Sarah said, “I’ll take all your papers”, I said, “What?! You can’t take all my mess!” I felt guilty almost that someone was taking on that burden. But it was a huge pressure taken off me. It was incredible. It really lifted me, someone saying, “Right, let’s get this sorted”.’
As well as our debt centres, there are six CAP Job Clubs in the Bradford area alone – 18 in Yorkshire in total.
These are designed to give people seeking employment a place to open up about their experiences with others who are in the same boat, get one-to-one coaching and practical guidance with CVs and application forms, share ideas, practise interviews, and gain useful networking contacts. It’s always satisfying when we get a call from a member to say, ‘I can’t make it to job club tonight – I’ve started a new job!’ That’s what it’s all about!
Greg* had been unemployed for four years when he started coming to a job club in Bradford.
He says, ‘I was applying for 20 jobs a week or more. I became depressed and found it very isolating. After joining the CAP Job Club I got a job more or less straight away! I’m now working as a bin man and love being outdoors and talking to people – it’s pulling me out of lots of dark places.’
Having officially launched earlier this year, there are already eight CAP Life Skills groups open across Yorkshire.
Over an eight-week period, CAP Life Skills members learn new ways to live for a brighter future, whether it’s through practical money management skills, ways to shop and cook for less, help to maintain healthy relationships or advice on good decision-making. It’s the stuff everyone wished they’d been taught at school! As with all of CAP’s group services, the coaching and community elements are key, giving members one-to-one time with an expert coach and the chance to meet new friends.
One in eight of the UK’s CAP Release Groups are based in churches in Yorkshire too.
CAP Release Groups is all about helping people who are struggling with life controlling habits, such as smoking, drinking and gambling. The groups are a safe and confidential place to tackle the issue right at the core to break free and stay free.
Alan* from Barnsley joined his local CAP Release Group in a bid to quit smoking, a habit that had gripped him for 24 years!
He says, ‘The CAP Release Group taught me lots, including about changing my habits. In the morning I would have a coffee which I associated with cigarettes, now instead I have tea which I associate with biscuits! Since I quit smoking, my health is better, my budgeting is better, and the money I’m saving is going towards getting my own place.’
To read more about how Christians Against Poverty became what it is today, order your free copy of John Kirkby’s Nevertheless here
*Names have been changed to protect identities