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Debt free success story: My James 2:18 moment

client image smiling
Pelena Cosme

Digital Content Producer

Jim shares his experience of debt, illness and how he became debt free 

Shockingly one in five adults in the UK find themselves in poverty. Here at CAP, our research has shown that long-term illness is a contributing factor when it comes to debt. Of those who turn to CAP for support, 23% experience mental ill-health, 11% relationship breakdown and 9% long term ill-health (2023 data from CAP’s latest client report).

Meet Jim, who after an almost two decade long career within IT found himself with significant health problems that led to him drowning in debt. But following a coach from the job centre recommending he contact CAP for debt help, Jim is now debt free and living life beyond debt and disappointment.

Read Jim’s story in his own words as he revisits the battle for his health, his family and his finances.

How illness played a major part in getting into debt

It all started when a successful 18-year career as a technical support engineer came to an abrupt end. I started having persistent back pain and it got so bad that I ended up in hospital for a long period of time, meaning I couldn’t work and keep on top of the bills. During that time, our family home was repossessed and I was left desperately searching for a council property to move into, all while coping with ongoing health problems. The stress of the situation became so overwhelming that my marriage crumbled, and my wife chose to leave, taking our youngest child with her.

Everything about that time was distressing. I had so much fear, it was palpable. I’d freeze in panic at the sound of a letter coming through the letterbox, knowing that it was only going to be more bad news, more threatening letters and more demands for money that I simply didn’t have. 

Since the house had been repossessed, my two older children had taken their own paths – one found their own place to live and the other joined the army. With my wife and all of my children having left, I was on my own. To go from a lively, bustling family home to small, unsuitable emergency accommodation, from a healthy bank balance to tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt – it affected my mental health massively. I felt that I had no one to turn to. I just wanted to draw the curtains and hide away in the dark. Frankly, I was a wreck.

I’d freeze in panic at the sound of a letter coming through the letterbox. 

Jim, CAP client 

Journey out of debt and defeat

By this point, I was receiving Universal Credit, and one of the coaches mentioned CAP. I took the phone number home and called them later that day. I remember being surprised that I didn’t have to wait very long for someone to answer the call, and the person on the other end spoke very calmly and reassuringly – exactly what I needed. That phone call alone lifted a weight off my shoulders. I finally felt able to explain what was going on and the trouble I was in. The operator booked me an appointment with Ruth, my local CAP Debt Centre Manager.

Before that first visit, I felt very tense. For one, I didn’t understand why anyone would want to come and visit me in that tiny flat, and I was also expecting the whole How did you get here? What were you thinking?’ spiel. I couldn’t have been more mistaken. Ruth wasn’t bothered at all about my accommodation, and she came across as empathetic and professional. She said to me, From this day forward, you are not alone’ – and that one sentence lifted another chunk of weight off me. For the first time, I felt that someone understood how I was feeling. Together, we started gathering all the mail that I’d been so afraid of opening. From then on, I could send the demanding letters straight on to CAP to deal with, and if the creditors called I could simply say, I’m working with CAP’ and they’d back off.

The following day, Ruth called me – not to chase anything up, but just to see how I was feeling after the visit. I didn’t want to put the phone down! It felt like CAP was a hand that had been extended towards me, reaching out to me to help me and comfort me.

client with debt manager

Glimmer of hope and new beginnings

And so the journey began. Because I was still off work sick with no wage, just the Universal Credit, and I had no assets, Ruth explained the benefits and consequences of going through a Debt Relief Order, which CAP had deemed the best option for me. I was comfortable with what it meant, and six months later it came through.

When an advisor from CAP called me to confirm that I was now debt free, it felt surreal. I couldn’t believe I’d been given this opportunity to start again. All of that fear, worry and shame had gone.

From this day forward, you are not alone. 

Ruth, CAP Debt Centre Manager 

Following the DRO, I also decided to attend CAP’s money coaching course. I wish I’d known this stuff years ago, because it felt like I was back in control, empowered. It was just what I needed. Because I’m still relying on Universal Credit and living costs are high, my finances are still on a knife edge despite being debt free, and so it makes a big difference to have these tools to draw on. They help me manage my money as best I can.

And even after all of that, CAP never abandoned me. Ruth invited me to her church – Grace Church Brockley – and after years of not wanting anything to do with God or faith, I started going to services and loved it. I tell everyone I’m living my James 2:18 moment’ because I think that verse sums it up: Show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith with works’. For me, the best thing to have come out of my time with CAP is the community and support network that I’ve gained, and the confidence to welcome other people in too.

Show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith with works. 

James 2:18

Alongside a group of others who have been through the debt journey with CAP, we have a social group that meets up every Wednesday to talk, read scripture and encourage one another. Sometimes we invite people who know nothing about CAP and some have gone on to seek debt help themselves. It’s so important to have that community of people who understand the challenges you’ve faced and can walk alongside you, especially when money is still a struggle. I’ve gone from being surrounded by family, to completely alone, to surrounded by a different kind of family – and CAP has been a huge part of that.’

Get help today

Like Jim, with a phone call you can start your journey to receiving support from CAP by contacting our helpline on 0800 328 0006 or visit capuk.org/debthelp.

You can help empower Debt Coaches like Ruth to reach out to those who need help by donating today. Be part of the community making a difference

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Ruth holding a sign that reads 'There is so much need. I'm at my limit.'
Ruth, Co-Debt Centre Manager

We urgently need your support to reach every person in poverty.

Ruth holding a sign that reads 'There is so much need. I'm at my limit.'