For 25 years, CAP has been providing a free debt help service. But what does that actually involve? What does it mean to run a CAP Debt Centre? We sat down with two of our brilliant centre managers to find out more about the life-transforming work they do.
Thanks for taking the time to tell us about your jobs. Let’s start by introducing you to our readers!
Rachel: I’m Rachel Ryan, Debt Centre Manager at the Darlington Debt Centre, which opened during lockdown.
Maria: And I’m Maria Baker; I started out as a Debt Centre Manager in Chippenham last March.
Tell us a bit about what a day in the life of a Debt Centre Manager looks like.
Rachel: My actual day to day job is hard to define – I think most Debt Centre Managers will tell you that no day is the same as the next! Some weeks my time is spent doing client-based work – going to visit clients in their homes, following up on things they are struggling with, whether that be getting them food parcels, dealing with paperwork they can’t organise, helping them access various services. Then there is the element of building up their trust, getting to know them better, introducing them to befrienders etc.
Other weeks find me involved in much more admin-based tasks. This week for example, my focus is on chasing up people who have expressed interest in volunteering or referring clients to us – giving them a nudge to remind them of previous conversations we’ve had! I will also spend time in updating our centre entry on our church’s website, preparing a talk for a local church who have asked me to explain my work to their congregation, (in the hopes they will offer support – both volunteer and financial!) and preparing a presentation for a local Cancer Support group who want to make their members aware of our services and how we can help them. I’m also needing to liaise with some local church leaders about using their town centre space for client meetings, for occasions when the home environment is not appropriate.
Maria: Since our Debt Centre opened in May I have been supporting seven different individuals or families, and have found this incredibly rewarding and also varied. Definitely no two days are the same. It has involved going school uniform shopping with a family who have four school-aged children, and providing £100 towards the cost. On another occasion I helped by feeding a client’s cat so that he was able to do a work trial away from home. He successfully got the job, which is fantastic news. We helped another family move house: they had no transport and couldn’t afford to pay for a removal company.
You both became Debt Centre Managers during the pandemic. What was that like?
Maria: It has been an exciting new adventure, and time and again I have seen God’s provision and perfect timing. My previous job was helping people into work and learning mainly at the job centre, and during the pandemic I spoke to so many people struggling financially, due to redundancy and reduction in income. I always wanted to do more to practically support those in need. And being able to pray with clients and bring hope is amazing. I was able to complete my training online during Covid-19 and found the variety of learning and content was excellent.
Rachel: Training as a Debt Centre Manager and opening a Debt Centre during lockdown also meant I have had a very different initial experience to most of my more established colleagues.
The first nine months were spent running the debt centre exclusively online, via email or on the phone! I worked from a corner of my living room, alongside my Labrador, (who’d occasionally join in with meetings) my pyjama clad teenagers (who would waft through in search of food in the kitchen) and taking my tea breaks with my husband who was working from our dining room! This was very different from my previous job, working in a primary school, where I rarely sat at a desk at all.
It sounds like it’s never a dull moment at your Debt Centres! What have been some of the highlights this year?
Rachel: Highlights so far for me have been getting our first debt free client via a Debt Relief Order – someone who had come to know about us through our own church food bank. Also there has been the delight of a client joining me and a befriender in prayer for her situation and another client asking to come along to church with me. Every time I get the opportunity to say to clients that there is ‘always hope’, I’m filled again with the knowledge of how privileged I am to do this job.
Maria: Some of my highlights to date include doing a sponsored cycle ride for CAP with the children from our church; we raised over £1,500 and had such a great time! At our CAP launch service, we had lots of visitors from other churches and also our local MP, it was so great to share how we can support our local community through CAP. And we raised money via Acts 435 for a fridge freezer and washing machine for a family in need. The family were blown away with the help they received.
If you’re struck by how Rachel and Maria go above and beyond to care for others, you’d be absolutely right. Our frontline workers are unsung heroes, and we hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into the life of a CAP Debt Centre Manager.