By working with Christians Against Poverty volunteers across the UK,
11 people every working day, have their lives transformed
by becoming debt free!
Poverty is destroying lives across the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A report, by national debt counselling charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP), has revealed heart breaking statistics. Their clients were asked about their lives before they got debt help.
- 28% considered or attempted suicide before seeking debt help
- 37% sacrificed meals because they couldn’t afford to eat
- 58% felt trapped in poverty with nobody to turn to when they had a problem
Money expert, Martyn Lewis is a friend of CAP, and he endorsed the work of the charity on ITV’s This Morning | YouTube 1minute 59seconds
This report also shows the average peak household debt in 2020 was £17,917. The average CAP client household income (after housing costs) sits at just £12,845, that’s compared to the national average (after housing costs) of £24,900. The two main reasons stated for people falling into debt were low income (20%) and mental health (18%).
CAP only work through churches and this month’s Spotlight falls on Perth’s branch of Christians Against Poverty, with their Centre Manager, Bryan Gordon answering our questions.
It is too early in our journey to produce meaningful statistics, but we have several clients who have become debt-free and others on route. In the last 18 months we have seen clients who presented with:
- Attempted suicide
- Substance abuse
- Lack of basic household appliances most of us take for granted
- Poor health
- Poor mental health, including those prescribed medication
- Relationship difficulties caused or exacerbated by debt
It is common for people to show more than one of these problems.
There are 7 churches supporting the Perth Debt Centre. Perth Baptist Church is the lead church in the project and is supported by:
- King’s House Perth
- Kinnoull Parish Church
- Perth North Church
- Perth Riverside Church
- Tayside Christian Fellowship
- Perth Elim Church
CAP currently provides two ministries in Perth:
1. The CAP Money Course is a short course (typically three sessions) aimed at those who want help to budget and manage their money. It is there to help prevent a downward spiral of debt. In normal times, the course is held in the Baptist Church building but has also taken place in a modified form in a college or even a client’s home. In pandemic times, the course can be undertaken by video call.
2. Debt Help is available to anyone who has debt which is out of their control. The amount may be small or large but, in every case, we aim to help people to become debt free and to stay that way. The service in Perth is in its second year and in normal times, meetings would be conducted in the client’s home. Other arrangements can be made if that is not suitable.
We could not continue to offer face to face meetings and have operated by phone and video calls. The Scottish and UK governments have helped significantly by relaxing some of the paperwork requirements and waiving some of their fees. (CAP do not charge for our services). One of the unique things about CAP is the personal service and friendship we offer. This aspect has been much more difficult to achieve but we hope to be back to normal soon. 2020 was very quiet, but referrals are growing steadily now that government support is ending, and we are expecting a busy few years to come.
The Money Course is suitable for all ages from school students to senior citizens. Debt Help is available to anyone with personal (not business) debt. We help regardless of gender, faith, race, or any other reason. We are open to anyone who needs our help.
For more information on the Money Course, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The best way to access Debt Help is through the CAP website where you can find more information and watch a few videos of other people who have been helped. The Freephone number is 0800 328 0006. To get an appointment with a Debt Coach you will need to call this number.
Some say that there are 5 stages to debt and anyone who has been through the journey out of debt may recognise most or all of these:
- Denial – failing to recognise or turning a blind eye to debt
- Realisation – that a real problem exists and that it is going to get worse if ignored
- Depression – not everyone experiences depression, but it is common
- Take Action – when a person decides to take action and ask for help, perseverance is needed to see it through. Many quickly begin to feel a lifting of weight at this point
- Joy – there is often an overwhelming sense of freedom when a person is told that they are debt free.
The most important warning sign is worry. If you are starting to feel anxious about your debt or losing sleep or just feeling out of control, it is time to seek help. Most people struggle on for 2 to 3 years before seeking help, sometimes longer. During that time anxiety mounts and the situation gets worse. It is far better to act at an earlier stage when it is easier to sort things out.
In one word, no! Even if you think it has become too difficult, our experts can help.
Yes. We adhere strictly to the guidelines and rules set out by the Financial Conduct Authority and the rules of GDPR (data protection) are observed. A client’s case will not be discussed with anyone without their explicit consent, subject to the normal safeguarding rules and legal requirements.
It is common for people to need support and we can deal with creditors directly on your behalf. We can also help with phone calls to other agencies such as Welfare Rights or banks. It is normal to feel anxiety when a letter comes through the door to the point where some people just put them straight in the bin without opening them. We can deal with all that correspondence with your creditors on your behalf. You can pop them in a freepost envelope to us and let us take the strain. It is common for people to be harassed by telephone. We give advice on what to say to pass creditors on to us. You don’t have to do this by yourself.
We will provide a volunteer who will be there for you throughout the process. They are there to provide flexible support. They are not debt advisors, just normal people who will show care for you and your family. That may mean anything from a social chat to someone to listen to your story or concerns and they may be able to signpost you to sources of help. They may be the person who helps you with phone calls, emails, or letters. Befrienders will normally come with a Debt Coach to any meeting in your home.
Prayer is the key to unlocking situations. Please pray for:
- A good return to face-to-face meetings which gives us a better opportunity to form lasting relationships and share our faith in Jesus
- Knowledge of our services. That they would continue to spread in Perth and the other Debt Centres nearby (Strathearn and Highland Perthshire) so that we can reach more people. Social services could be a great help. This may also include office space in a central location
- For volunteers to befriend or help in any way (especially those who are available during some office hours). If you think you might be able to help, my email address is email@example.com
- Wisdom as we explore options for a second Debt Coach in the Perth Debt Centre
- Finance is needed nationally and locally. We have had some support from the Scottish Government, but most funds come through charitable giving. This is vital to be able to make the service free at the point of need. If you would like to support in this way, please contact me by email or Gordy MacKay at Gordy@perthbaptistchurch.org.uk . Gordy is one of the Pastors at Perth Baptist Church. All enquiries are dealt with confidentiality.
“A young woman I will refer to as N, living in central Perth, found us through a Google search for help.
She had suffered with poor mental health for years and found all agencies she was involved with impossible to work with because she had come into conflict with all of them.
She became debt-free with CAP over a period of months and wrote to us to say, ‘we helped her when no-one else would.’
N has now attended college and re-engaged with health services and is making her way in life for the first time in many years. There is hope in her voice now.