UK poverty is real – but there’s always hope

‘My husband passed away. I was left to pay everything by myself and the debts started to build up. I had to borrow money to pay the bills and get loans to pay off other loans.’

Life had thrown Francella a devastating curveball. Like thousands of clients helped by Christians Against Poverty (CAP) every year, she had been suddenly and unexpectedly plunged into poverty.

Francella found herself plunged into poverty after the death of her husband. Image copyright CARE

‘I couldn’t afford the things my kids needed. There were times when I couldn’t afford to feed them properly. They’d come home asking about school trips – what choice did I have but to say no? Sometimes I’d use the rent money so they wouldn’t miss out.

‘There was one Christmas I had no money for presents, dinner, decorations, or anything like that for the kids. All their friends were opening presents and they had none. You have to explain to them why you can’t give them certain things. As a mother, it’s hard.’

UK poverty is real

Like Francella, around 1.5 million people are living in destitution in the UK right now (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Destitution in the UK 2018). That’s one in every 50 people living without basic needs like heating, light, food or even a bed to sleep on. One in 50 of our neighbours, people in our communities, on our streets, next door.

But this isn’t the end of the story. At CAP, our strapline is ‘always hope’ because we genuinely believe that no situation is impossible to turn around.

Dr John Kirkby CBE founded the charity back in 1996, driven by his own experience of debt and a passion to see people discover the good news of Jesus. Since then, thanks to the support of passionate Christians and local churches across the UK, CAP has restored hope in tens of thousands of destitute lives.

A practical solution

Having heard about CAP through a friend at church, Francella called our helpline and we got to work figuring out an appropriate, practical solution to her debt. Debt Advisors at our Bradford head office negotiated with her creditors and created a manageable budget for her, allowing Francella and her family to live comfortably while gradually repaying what they owed, as well as teaching them key money management skills that will have a lifelong impact.

‘I was on a Debt Management Plan. It was easy paying in every month – CAP took into consideration what was coming in, what was going out and what we needed as a family. I even had money left over to put into savings in case anything came up.It didn’t even take one year to pay everything off. With help from CAP, I sat down and looked at how to manage my everyday life.’

A debt management plan helped Francella to regain control of her finances. Image copyright CARE

A holistic approach

As well as the material implications, debt and poverty can have an enormous impact on a person’s mental health and wellbeing. Four in five CAP clients say their mental health deteriorated because of debt worries, with more than a third having considered or attempted suicide as a way out.

‘It was very stressful. It was weighing me down,’ Francella recalls. ‘I didn’t know if I would ever get out of that situation.’

Debt can be stressful, frightening and isolating, and that’s before factoring in the other issues these people are facing at the same time. That’s why our approach to debt counselling is inherently holistic. It’s what sets us apart from other similar organisations. As well as receiving expert debt counselling, every client is visited at home by a local debt coach and befriender from a local partner church, who offer emotional support and companionship that goes deeper than the maths equation.

The hope of Jesus

Because we meet our clients face-to-face, we’re in a unique position to share the gospel. We offer prayer. We invite people to join the local church community. We introduce the lost and the broken to the redeeming power and extraordinary love of their heavenly Father. Through the work of CAP, more than 8,000 clients have come to know Jesus since the charity began. As Christians, this is a huge cause for celebration, because we know that the love, hope and peace of Jesus will go with them long after their journey with CAP has concluded. For Francella, the Christ-centric nature of CAP’s work was key.

‘I’d had a bad experience with a debt management company, so I was wary of CAP at first. When I was offered prayer during the first visit, I started to get that bit of confidence. It was such an encouragement. I’ve been going to church since I was small and my faith is something I believe in strongly. I’m debt free now and I know that in the trials I faced the Lord has brought me through. I know there are miracles still.’

My faith is something I believe in strongly. Image copyright CARE

A brighter future

‘CAP and the Debt Management Plan have had a big impact on my life. I used to worry when I saw a letter come through my door. Now I don’t have people chasing me. I don’t have to get up thinking about debt every day and wondering whether I have enough money in my account to feed my children.

‘We can afford plenty of food and I can make sure the kids are comfortable. My son is in secondary school now – I can pay for him to go on school trips sometimes. There’s one coming up soon and I’m so grateful that he can go. I’m able to put money aside for them too; to save for their future. I’m happy now! My kids are happy.’

So, what’s next for Francella?

‘I’d love to save up and visit my family in Jamaica. It’s been 15 years since I’ve been back home. If it wasn’t for CAP I’d still be paying my debts and it wouldn’t even be a possibility.’

Help change lives like Francella’s

This year, we’re on a mission to raise £32,250 to see 150 families like Francella’s go through a Debt Management Plan and head towards a life free from debt.

To take one family through a Debt Management Plan, it costs CAP £215. Will you give £28 to fund the first part of someone’s journey, including setting up their case? Perhaps you can give £110 to fund the second part, including creating a bespoke budgeting plan. Or would you stretch to cover the cost of their entire journey to debt freedom with a gift of £215? However much you can give, you’ll make a huge difference for a family like Francella’s. Visit capuk.org/keepthefaith to donate. Thank you.

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is a UK charity with over 600 services across the country delivering debt counselling, job clubs, life skills groups and support for people with life-controlling habits. Visit capuk.org to find out more.

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