Marianne Clough from Christians Against Poverty writes, following the announcement last week that Archbishop Justin Welby has become the charity’s patron.
The first faltering words come: “Hello. Can I speak to someone about my debts”.
Every syllable is loaded with the grief of a situation we’ve seen thousands of times at Christians Against Poverty.
We know, from the people we help, that it often takes more than three years to pluck up the courage to make that call.
Three years into debt misery there are sleepless nights; rows at home; hunger and a phone that just won’t stop ringing. In a third of cases, thoughts of suicide creep in..
We’ve seen empty fridges and cold homes. We’ve seen people literally living in the dark, behind closed curtains for fear of bailiffs.
One man memorably rang us after jumping off a bridge in London. It turned out he was rescued, taken to a food bank and someone there told him about our service!
Debt problems seem huge but experience tells us they can be overcome through
Christians Against Poverty’s financial expertise partnered with the care of the local church.
After that first phone call, if we have a local church CAP centre in their area, a trained person is sent out to the client in their home.
For several hours they will listened to, without judgement, and the service is explained.
All the bills and creditors’ letters are gathered up to be sent to CAP’s head office in Bradford.
Then a very special thing happens: the centre manager offers prayer. It is an offer, people can say ‘no’ but almost everyone wants all the help we can bring and clients describe a much-needed feeling of peace that comes.
Every creditors’ letter is answered by our teams at CAP HQ and we begin to discover what the person owes, who they owe money to and what their income is.
Uniquely, CAP takes on the whole problem, draws up a budget and suggests the best route out of debt. For most people that is repayment over several years, while others with a comparably small income can opt for insolvency.
Our aim is to tailor the very best, most in-depth service to those with the least.
There are different debt agencies offering a free service, like we do, but because of the Church, we can go the extra mile.
Firstly, we are happy to tackle all of the debts: priority debts like rent and utilities alongside credit card debt and loans. Not everyone does that.
Tackling the isolation debt can bring, the local CAP centre’s church each has a team of befrienders providing a ready cheer squad to encourage people on the hard journey of paying back what they owe.
We find that many people in debt are struggling with joblessness, ill health or relationship breakdown. CAP’s hand-holding service buys them space to begin to address these situations.
Some clients are even recommended by the local CAP Centre Manager for a much-needed break, manned by staff volunteers.
With long-term relationships formed with Christians, we celebrate many clients coming to Christ and enjoying playing their part in the local church.
In fact, last year alone, 792 people made a commitment of this kind and started life afresh with Jesus as well as a sure financial future.
If you support CAP’s work in any way, thank you.