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calendar22 November 2013

Author: Phill Holdsworth

Giving a voice to the voiceless

As Head of External Affairs at CAP, it is my job to stay up-to-date with developments in the credit industry and get involved with discussions about how to improve poverty and debt relief on a national scale. But I also have first hand experience of debt. Both as a youngster growing up in a broken family environment, and as an adult coping with a spate of redundancies and trying to provide for my family. I fully understand the emotional trauma that accompanies financial strains, and it is my personal experience which has made me so passionate about speaking up for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Although I don’t directly support vulnerable clients one-on-one, I ensure that CAP has a say on industry matters that impact them. My role is to liaise with the policy-writers and decision-makers who are in a position to influence change that will benefit our clients now and in the future.

For example, I recently had the opportunity to input into a key report on personal debt in the UK. As a member of the Serious Personal Debt Working Group for the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), I was asked to contribute to their research into how debt is impacting people in our nation. Through our own case studies, we were able to tell stories of our clients that include the concerns of some of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. These stories represent thousands more that are still hidden behind closed doors, so to be able to give a voice to them is invaluable. They get to be heard by the people who have the power to change their lives.

The report, Maxed Out, was published this week by the CSJ, a social policy think tank which is right at the heart of getting social justice onto the political agenda. The report stresses the need for proactive steps to be taken to address the root causes of debt, and makes policy recommendations to they key decision makers. Many reports published by the CSJ have already shaped and informed government policy and influenced opposition parties. We hope this will do the same.

Maxed Out has already made headlines, leading to further opportunities to speak up about poverty through national media. Several of our clients were able to share what debt was really like for them on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme and on BBC Five Live. We are working to give our clients a platform to speak out nationally and, through the media, we are able to reach others who are still struggling to tell them that there is hope and a solution to their debt problems.

This is just one of the many ways in which I am building the profile of Christians Against Poverty to be recognised as a key stakeholder in the credit industry. Our opinion matters. There are so many other important events connected with debt management and the credit industry, which I am attending over the next few weeks – too many to mention all together here. But what it all says is that CAP has a clear and resolute voice in this industry. Government departments like the DWP and specific members of Parliament are listening to us and taking note of the work we’re doing. They are keen to help us bring about positive change. These are the signals of a new forecast – the winds of change.

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