There is always hope

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Over four years ago Rushmere Christian Fellowship decided to focus their finances on resourcing a CAP (Christians Against Poverty) centre in Ipswich.

As the Church celebrates its 50th anniversary, Network Suffolk met with their CAP Manager, Jayne Green, to learn more about what goes in to making a local CAP centre work, some of the highlights over the past four years, and her hopes of how the Churches in Ipswich can work more closer together to help change more lives.

In separate articles ‘CAP stories’ we hear from David and Tracy about how the work of CAP in Ipswich has affected their lives

Network Suffolk: So Jayne, how did you first get to hear about CAP and how did you end up becoming paid by the Church to run a local scheme?

Jayne Green: My dad started working for CAP over 18 years ago, first as a centre manager in Blackburn, and then moving to work in their Head Office, so I had known about CAP and what they do for some time. Initially I did some fund raising for them, and after sharing about the work with my local Church (RCF), they became supporters, including starting to run Money Courses. I used to speak about, “wouldn’t it be great to run a CAP centre?”, but never thought it would be possible. Then one day I was watching a film ‘Amazing Grace’, about the work of William Wilberforce and I asked God, “Where are the people doing these things today?”, and God said, “It’s people like CAP and I want you to do it in Ipswich”. I spoke to my Church Leaders about it all, expecting them to say no, but they said yes, it takes a whole church to get behind the Debt centre to provide volunteers and a church family to welcome people in to, and here we are now!

NS: What is the commitment for a Church to support a CAP centre?

JG: There is a financial commitment as it costs CAP a lot to support a centre and also to ensure the CAP Centre Manager has the time to fulfil their role, but there is also the need for volunteer ‘befrienders’ to go with the Manager to offer support to people where they want it. Some people need support and some are very isolated. Befrienders offer friendship and show God’s love to them.

NS: What are the initial arrangements?

JG: The CAP Manager and the befriender go and meet with the client three times together.  We take away their paperwork and demand letters and Head Office create a budget and negotiate with creditors.  We support the client until they are debt free whether that’s through a repayment plan or another route.  We have just seen our 30th client become debt free! Some clients may want just the practical help in debt management, but many find through the befriender support and friendship they didn’t have.

“The most amazing thing is that you walk in to someone’s home, not knowing the situation, but knowing that CAP works! No matter how big the problem is there is always hope and we work tirelessly to find a solution to their debt problems.”

NS: If I were to become a befriender, what is my commitment?

JG: Three initial visits over 6 weeks with me (Jayne). After that it is up to the befriender and the client. If they click, they could arrange to meet up, or it could just be to help bring to events, or occasional text messages. It has to work both ways.

NS: What support is there to be a befriender?

JG: Training is provided over one evening – run approximately once a year. There are things you can and can’t do as a befriender! I try to keep up with befrienders to see how they are getting on.  My team of volunteers are amazing and have really seen their own faiths grow as they have seen God work in amazing ways in the lives of our clients.

NS: Do befrienders come only from your Church?

JG: Mainly at the moment yes, but ideally they would live in the same community as the client, where they could invite them to get involved in their local church. I would love to be able to work with people across the town in this respect.

NS: How do I become a befriender?

JG: Contact me for a chat! There are references required and the training to attend.

NS: What have been some of your highlights over the last four years?

JG: The most amazing thing is that you walk in to someone’s home, not knowing the situation, but knowing that CAP works! No matter how big the problem is there is always hope and we work tirelessly to find a solution to their debt problems. It is also a highlight when clients become Christians or recommit their lives to Jesus – 18 so far! See David’s story as an example!

NS: Has there been any situation you couldn’t help?

JG: No, although obviously things don’t always go to plan.  Sometimes there are tough decisions for clients to make and sometimes they aren’t ready to take them. CAP’s poorest clients, those in the lowest income brackets – face an average of 618 years to get out of debt if they tried repayments (source: CAP) – so in those situations debt relief orders and insolvency can be the only solution.

There are lots of reasons why people find themselves in debt and often it is due to situations out of their control. There was a client living on ESA (Employment & Support Allowance) – and he had his payments sanctioned (withheld) because he missed one appointment due to mental health problems. He let the benefits agency know he couldn’t make the appointment, and they arranged a new appointment for him, but as it was outside the allotted period between appointments, he received nothing for a number of weeks until he could appeal. However, during that period because his housing benefit didn’t cover his rent and he had no savings, he went overdrawn which incurred bank charges, and had to rely on loans which incurred interest. The reinstatement of ESA doesn’t cover those costs! How do you not get in to debt in that situation? And you can imagine how amazing it is to find out there is a local church and an award winning charity who are able to help you in that desperate situation by loving you, providing you with a weekly shop and negotiating with your creditors on your behalf without judgement and completely free!

“To see everyone in Ipswich able to access the life transforming services CAP provide, run by local churches all working together to glorify God by serving the poor and saving the lost.”

NS: What area do you cover?

JG: All of Ipswich (postcodes IP1-5) and outside if not too far. Further away means it’s not so easy to practically support.  Since January there is now a  CAP Debt Centre in Felixstowe and soon there will be a centre in Saxmundham, covering surrounding areas.

NS: How many clients do you take on?

JG: 3 a month – the maximum I’m able to do to provide the long term, holistic support they need .

NS: Is the demand greater?

JG: Currently it meets the need – there is a 6 week wait in Ipswich.

NS: Apart from debt management, I understand that CAP provides other complimentary services.

JG: Yes, there is the CAP money course, a budgeting course that everyone should do – no matter what your financial situation. It looks at controlling your money and not letting money control you. This isn’t run only by us at RCF, but other churches in Ipswich too.

Then there is the CAP Life Skills course; aimed at people on low incomes – teaching on budgeting, shopping, being healthy, having good relationships – it’s a brilliant course! We look at the pressure to spend money – how shops try to encourage us to spend more, how to save money and to spend wisely, and how to cook on a budget! Our Life Skills course is on hold at the moment as our manager took on extra hours at work so isn’t available to run it.

NS: Where next? What’s your vision and dreams for the future?

JG: To develop what we could offer along with other Churches to provide complimentary services. To see a Job Club, Life Skills and Fresh Start Group in Ipswich – run by different churches. To see everyone in Ipswich able to access the life transforming services CAP provide, run by local churches all working together to glorify God by serving the poor and saving the lost.

The Job club is an 8 week course covering skills in interviews, CV writing, building confidence, etc. It’s a great way for meeting the need in the local community and telling people about Jesus!

Fresh Start Groups address issues around addictions, especially those that can lead someone in to debt problems.

NS: How can other Churches be involved?

JG: We are doing as much as we can in our Church – and so we would love to work closer with other Churches who are already involved or would like to be involved.

CAP offers ready made resources, so it can be easy to do – it’s there on a plate and all the training is provided! There are different levels at which a Church can be involved. Crucially a Church needs someone who is passionate about being part of this and is then ready to support them, and to be encouraging to others who may want to be involved. CAP won’t operate without the support of the local Church, you can’t do this on your own and besides, you need a local Church community to invite people to!

NS: And how do you tell people about Jesus in all this?

JG: It’s in the title! We are clear about it in all we do. I always offer to pray for people at every visit, and share about why we do what we do – to be open about Jesus being in the centre of it all. We invite clients to church and put on evangelistic events. But you don’t need to be a Christian to receive CAP’s help.

For more information and national stories visit www.capuk.org

To contact Jayne – jaynegreen@capuk.org