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calendar28 November 2019

Author: Claire Wong

Five minutes with… Justine Barnes

Five minutes with… Justine Barnes

Hi Justine! What’s it like being Head of People Operations at CAP?

It’s great! I oversee recruiting new staff at our head office and selecting our frontline staff too, along with everything HR-related.

What drew you to CAP in the first place?

It was my own experiences of debt that brought me to CAP. My first husband struggled with drug addiction and unfortunately our relationship broke down. When we separated, I found that he had taken out loans in my name and I was left with about £50,000 of debt. I was a single mum by this point and couldn’t afford to pay the debt, I had bailiffs calling regularly and so I took myself through bankruptcy and allowed my house to be repossessed.

A year later (2012), I saw that CAP was looking to recruit a Debt Advisor. I immediately felt drawn to the role as I had my own practical experience of putting together a financial statement and working with creditors to draw from as well as an understanding of how it felt for CAP clients.

By this time I'd come out the other side, but I remembered what it was like to hide bills under the breadbin and ignore the door when somebody knocked. As soon as I heard my application was successful, I decided that I would always talk openly with clients about my experience. There can be such a stigma attached to bankruptcy and people really responded to hearing my story. One of my old clients found me years later and said, “Thank you so much for sharing your story about bankruptcy. We decided to do it because of you and now we’re out of debt.”

Why did you make the switch from Debt Advisor to People Operations?

While I was on maternity leave, I learned that they needed someone to join the team. I’d never thought about doing HR until that moment, and I really feel it was a God moment that I suddenly thought ‘maybe I could do that!’ So I applied to this new role for when I came back from mat leave.

What’s the best thing about your job?

My favourite part of working in People Operations is making sure we look after our staff well, I love to find new ways to invest in our staff team. We recently put in place a new Reward and Wellbeing programme, taking care of our employees physical and mental health whilst trying to provide a great work life balance. We provide flexible working, an Employee Assistance Programme, long service awards, mental Health Days, a learning library, staff conferences and revive days - amongst other things!

What does flexible working mean for you?

Flexible working is brilliant for my family. I started out working 9 to 5, but since having a second child I needed to do things differently. I was able to change my hours to work full time but over four days. I work in the evenings and this means I’m available to drop my kids off at school and I can go to school assemblies and sports days. I can work from home when I need to. I really value that I can put my family first without my work taking a hit.

What’s it like to work at a Christian organisation like CAP?

What I love about it is that people genuinely want to look after each other. It’s not just about your work and performance, we take a holistic view of each person – what’s going on at home, where do they want to go next in their career, what are they passionate about? We’re family friendly. You can work part time and have a senior role. My story is that I’ve been so invested in by CAP and now I get to invest in others.

Like the sound of working at CAP? Find out about available roles at

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