‘If you’d asked me where a hug came on my list of priorities, I’d have said bottom. Turned out, it was top.’
Imagine somebody has been involved in an accident and is taken to hospital. A broken leg will be put in a cast to give it time to heal, medication administered, wounds stitched up. But is that it? Usually the patient won’t simply be sent on their way. There may be mental health check-ups on account of the trauma experienced, physiotherapy to help them get back to normal, lots of people around to support them in their recovery. The healing process is about much more than the broken bones and the stitched up wounds. And they almost certainly wouldn’t be expected to do it alone.
It’s the same with CAP’s service. One key characteristic is the holistic approach to debt counselling. As well as having expert caseworkers working to find an appropriate, practical solution to the client’s debt, create a manageable budget for them and negotiate with creditors, we offer emotional support that goes deeper than the maths equation.
Every client is visited at home by a local debt coach and befriender. They help them to understand any paperwork and the process of becoming debt free. Wherever possible, they help with immediate needs, such as a food shop or topping up the electricity meter.
Beyond these home visits, our volunteer befrienders continue to keep in touch with the client. This may come in the form of inviting them out for a coffee or simply being on the end of the phone when times get tough.
For the kinds of people that come to CAP for help, many of whom are vulnerable and have multiple complex needs, this approach is vital. Debt can be stressful, frightening and isolating, and that’s before you factor in the other issues they’re facing at the same time – mental and physical ill-health, bereavement, relationship breakdown to name a few.
Another advantage is that it allows us the opportunity to share our faith with clients, offering prayer or extending an invitation to church (where appropriate). A local church offers a ready-made community and a support network that lasts long after the journey with CAP has concluded, and it’s here that lots of clients report finding family and a sense of belonging. When it comes to a holistic approach, we look not only at the person’s present situation, but their future too.
CAP client Leigh Walton recently shared her story with the Sussex Express, recalling that she had always suffered from depression but found it increasingly hard to cope when her mother sadly passed away. This quickly led to her falling into debt.
‘I developed a worsening spending habit, even though I was on a very low income,’ says Leigh. ‘I was filling an emotional hole. I was defensive, bitter and angry.’
‘I was becoming agoraphobic and spent hours sitting on the stairs, pretending I wasn’t in, with people shouting through the letterbox and banging on the windows.’
It wasn’t until Michelle from CAP arrived on her doorstep that Leigh realised the extent of her isolation. ‘If you’d asked me where a hug came on my list of priorities, I’d have said bottom. Turned out, it was top. I needed to feel like I was talking to a real person about me, not automated advice or advice online or over the phone.’
Stories like Leigh’s, who is now debt free and visiting other CAP clients as a befriender herself, are a testament to the importance of a face-to-face service that looks at the whole person and their wider circumstances.
What’s more, CAP is committed to tackling the underlying issues that lead to debt and poverty: unemployment, addiction, a lack of life skills and poor money management. Through Job Clubs, Fresh Start, Life Skills and the CAP Money Course, we’re delving deeper into the person’s circumstances in the hope of offering an all-round brighter future.
This is why we work through local churches. Without them, we wouldn’t have the teams to carry out the home visits and run group services or befrienders to provide ongoing support. We wouldn’t be able to look people like Leigh in the eye and say, ‘It’s going to get better’.
Sadly, there are still lots of people in the UK that we can’t reach because we don’t have a CAP centre in their area. We vitally need more churches to partner with us and bring hope to their communities. Click below to find out more or pass on the message to your church leader.
Find out more about partnering with CAP.
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