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It’s time to talk about money

calendar12 November 2018

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

It’s time to talk about money

Money affects almost every part of our lives. It impacts where we live, what we eat, and even has a knock on effect on our relationships. Yet, despite the power money has to pretty much determine how our lives pan out, many of us still feel uncomfortable talking about it, even with the people we love.

There are many reasons people may find it difficult to talk about their finances. It can be an incredibly personal topic for a lot of people. They might worry about being judged for not knowing something or for having money trouble. The reality is that no matter how much we know about money and how much we earn, debt can easily be caused by circumstances that would’ve been impossible to predict or prevent.

Sadly, in the culture we live in, wealth is paired with status and opportunity, whereas money troubles come with shame. This is something we need to change; one in three of our clients have waited more than three years before seeking help with CAP, and they often spend those months feeling more and more isolated, fearful and hopeless. Imagine how different things could have been if those people had found help when they first needed it.

That’s why we’re joining in with Talk Money Week this November. The campaign urges financial charities and organisations to talk with each other about how to make their services even better. It’s also aimed at breaking the stigma attached to our finances, getting people talking about their money in their own life, with their friends and family.

Why not use this week as a chance to open up to someone about your financial struggles? Why not start a conversation about it with your friends and family? It’s often hard to know if someone could do with a little help managing their money, so what better opportunity than this week to simply ask?

We’ve all picked up tools and wisdom along our own journey that would hugely benefit someone else. When we come together we can help each other out. You could also help provide the emotional support that someone desperately needs. Debt can be so isolating; 37% of our clients said that their debts made them afraid to leave the house. Offering a listening ear could make a huge difference.

Don’t forget to let your friends know about CAP. We exist to rescue people from the grip of poverty, across the UK, in partnership with the local Church. Our free debt counselling service exists to help those struggling with debt, no matter their age, background or faith. Thanks to our amazing debt centres across the country, we’re seeing people not just find financial freedom but their whole life transformed by the holistic support of a loving community.

‘I rang up and told them the situation. I felt quite ashamed. The woman on the other end of the phone was absolutely amazing. She didn’t judge me even though I judged myself. She said we can help, it’s okay. I left it in her hands.’ – CAP Debt Help client

As well as providing our life changing debt counselling service that sees thousands of people find hope every year, we also offer the CAP Money Course. This award winning course empowers individuals to take back control of their finances, with a bunch of practical tools such as how to budget, spend and save in a way that allows people to plan for the future.

I hope you’re feeling encouraged to talk to someone about your finances, knowing that as you break the silence you could be extending a lifeline to someone you love.

If you or someone you know needs CAP’s help, give us a call on 0800 328 0006 or click here to start the conversation today.

Five reasons why you should apply for a job at CAP

calendar05 November 2018

Justine Barnes's avatar Justine Barnes

Five reasons why you should apply for a job at CAP

There are so many reasons to love working at CAP. I arrived nearly seven years ago as a caseworker. My decision to apply came after my own struggle with severe debt, one that lead to bankruptcy and saw my home repossessed. I wanted to help others in the same position and loved doing that for a long time. Now I manage our HR team and I’m passionate about looking after our staff well.

One of the most popular questions we get asked by candidates as interviews draw to a close is, ‘What do you love most about working at CAP?’ As we are in an exciting season of being able to recruit a number of people into CAP, I thought it would be fun to share our top five answers with you…

1. We get to share Jesus at work

Many people find this both remarkable and exciting – a workplace where we can pray together, share our faith with clients and supporters, and openly put Jesus first. In fact, being Christ-centred is one of our core values and this will never change. If you want to come into work and celebrate all that God is doing in your life, we will celebrate with you. If you’re having a hard day, we will pray for you. The recent BBC documentary was certainly proof that we don’t hide our faith!

2. We are a family

Our culture is one where we support each other, enjoy working together and have lots of fun in the process. At CAP HQ we have a social space, which was recently refurbished, where we can build friendships and get to know new people every single day. We also have team days out, department lunches and staff conferences – all great opportunities to strengthen our friendships and be inspired during our working day.

3. We get to see lives transformed on a daily basis

What a privilege! Our client stories are truly inspiring. Every week we take time out to hear how they became debt free, met goals through our group services and even how some have started their walk with Jesus. We are well known for the bell we ring when someone makes a commitment to Jesus and our debt free harmonica celebrations – reminders of lives transformed through everything we do each day.

4. We are professional

I have lost count of the amount of people who tour our Bradford offices and express surprise at how big we are. Some expect just a couple of offices and a photocopier! We employ over 300 people and our facilities are excellent, including an extensive IT team, over 60 well trained managers, a staff team that are fully committed to their roles and a very comfortable working environment. To stay professional, providing the best for our clients whilst stewarding our income well, we provide excellent training to help all staff thrive in their roles. Those who may struggle to meet performance standards are treated with fairness and compassion.

5. We are committed to looking after our employees well

In fact, we’ve won awards for it! We have a great rewards and benefits programme including a competitive pay structure, an Employee Assistance Programme with Health Assured, generous pension contributions, long service awards, a season ticket loan scheme, an extensive Learning and Development programme and many other benefits.

Are we perfect? No. But every day we do our best to recruit amazing people and look after them well. Many of our applicants want to make a difference, and that is probably what I love most about working at CAP.

Now that you know a little bit more about CAP as an employer, head over to our jobs page and have a look at all the roles we have available at the moment – you may just find something that’s perfect for you.

View all the roles we have on offer.

The true face of UK food poverty

calendar01 November 2018

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

The true face of UK food poverty

When I say poverty – or more precisely, food poverty – what picture comes to your mind? Do you see someone emaciated and malnourished? You’re not alone.

The media feeds us a certain image of poverty. Starving children in Africa, ribs visible, wasting away. All of this is a terrible truth of the developing world, but the reality we see here at CAP in households across the UK is very different and very real.

Every week we meet people in situations where their income is so low that food stops being about enjoyment and nutrition, and becomes about staying alive and keeping their family alive. 67% of CAP’s clients say they had missed meals due to poverty.

Costly staples like fruit, veg and fish become a luxury, and inexpensive refined carbohydrates that fill you up become the norm. A study by the Food Foundation thinktank found that 14.4 million households are unable to afford the diet that is nutritionally recommended by the Government.

Indeed, for the price of one cabbage from Tesco (79p), you could buy a loaf of budget range bread (36p) and two tins of Everyday Value spaghetti hoops (21p each) – several meals, carb-heavy and filling, but with next to no nutritional value.

Similarly, for less than the price of one loose pepper (55p) you could buy a 1kg bag of budget range white rice (45p) that could last you a week or more.

Think about it. You have £1 in your pocket. You haven’t eaten in days. You need to feed your kids. What are you going to do? Well, that’s the problem – you don’t have a choice.

On top of the severe lack of nutritional value, there’s the matter of the amount of saturated fat, sugar, salt and various other nasties in the kinds of foods the poorest have no choice but to rely on.

For example, a bag of oven chips in Asda’s budget range costs 60p per kilogram, but contains two times the fat and 25% more salt than their standard range, which costs more than twice as much, at £1.25 per kilogram.

What does all of this lead to? It’s a depressing pathway to a multitude of health problems including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and, you guessed it, obesity.

Suddenly, that picture of food poverty with which you’re so familiar starts to look very different. You start to realise that food poverty in our culture isn’t necessarily about the quantity of food you can afford, but more often it’s the quality and the poor nourishment it provides.

With food bank usage in the UK hitting an all-time high earlier this year, and low income being the most common motivator, this is a crisis that’s far from over. Heartbreakingly, it’s on the rise.

The need is being recognised – food banks are doing incredible work, schools are hosting kids’ clubs in the morning and during the holidays to make sure children aren’t going hungry – but there’s so much more to be done. It’s time we raised our voices to turn judgement based on body size into compassion based on understanding what UK food poverty really looks like.

Room to breathe in a debt crisis

calendar30 October 2018

Marianne Clough's avatar Marianne Clough

Room to breathe in a debt crisis

The Chancellor might not have mentioned it in his speech, but the Budget small print had debt charities nearly panting with excitement at the mention of ‘Breathing Space’.

This long-running campaign, mentioned in both Labour and Conservative manifestos at the last election, has been something the debt advice sector has been calling for and working towards for years.

The idea is to provide space for people so that while they seek debt advice from a charity like CAP or others, creditors legally can’t chase them for money.

Breathing Space was to be six weeks (or 42 days) and has been extended, thanks to the Chancellor, to 60 days.

CAP warmly welcomes this positive step forward as long as this includes public sector debt – and that doesn’t appear to be specifically spelled out, as yet.

A whopping 68% of CAP clients are in arrears with a household bill when they call us for help (43% Council Tax). We know from our own research that this kind of debt can be the most frightening to deal with.

What sort of breathing space would it be if some of the creditors went quiet while the others were still coming to the door and calling several times a day?

So, when all types of debt, both priority and non-priority, are explicitly included with Breathing Space, you could say we really will sigh with relief!

Our clients often have complex lives with multiple difficulties – and it’s good to remember what life can look like for them.

For instance, Mark, who was full of anxiety. All interest in life had gone. He was living in a dirty studio flat with broken furniture and a faulty boiler. He slept on the floor feeling increasingly isolated and, while debts stacked up, he worried he’d be evicted. The times he’d asked for help, he’d felt rejection as he didn’t fit the criteria, and he started to think he’d have to commit a crime so he could go to jail.

Turning things around for Mark was never going to be a quick fix (although, thankfully with the help of some wonderful referrers, caring church volunteers, co-operative creditors and CAP head office determination, that did happen).

So, when we answer the Government’s latest consultation on Breathing Space, we will be reminding them that simply advertising a service for our client demographic won’t be enough.

Most people in debt have a series of emotional barriers which prevent them asking for help. Often they don’t believe it exists or feel they don’t deserve it. No wonder so many take years to call us.

Also, will 60 days be enough space to make the moves that would help someone like Mark? What flexibility will be built in for those complex cases where people, bruised and battered by their situation, just aren’t responding as we’d like, or thinking rationally?

We are really delighted to see in the Budget that people receiving NHS help for a mental health crisis will now no longer have to endure creditor activity while they are unwell.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, from Martin Lewis, has been campaigning hard for this and we’re delighted to see such progress. When compassion and understanding land up in the Budget, it really is genuine cause for celebration.

So, what about those who are suffering anxiety and depression, and are on tablets from their GP? They might not be a mental health patient, but will they get the respite? We’ll be looking closely at the practical detail, as you’d expect.

We're determined that Breathing Space will revolutionise the experience of some of the poorest and most struggling debt ridden UK households, if done right. We’re grateful to be in the conversation with Government decision-makers so that we can continue to reflect clients’ experiences and help this happen.

Keep up to date with our work on policy and government here.

Maisie’s top heat saving hacks

calendar17 October 2018

Maisie Pollard's avatar Maisie Pollard

Maisie’s top heat saving hacks

The long, summer days now feel like a distant memory as temperatures begin to drop and winter approaches. Saving money can be tough; Christmas is only a few months away and heating bills can soar, making the season feel all the more expensive. Here are some tips to help you save cash and to put your mind at ease.

  • The Energy Saving Trust says there’s a misconception that it’s cheaper to leave the heating on all day. To save money, it’s better to just turn it on when you need. If you can, turn off the radiators in the rooms you’re not using to save energy. However, the price comparison service uSwitch recommends that if you have gas central heating, one room that you shouldn’t turn off is the radiator where the thermostat is fitted. This is because it can interfere with the temperature regulation of the central heating.
  • There are several free ways you can maximise the temperature in your house. One handy tip is to rearrange your furniture in your living or dining room. If you move your sofa or furniture away from the radiators, you’ll be avoiding unnecessary heating and the room will warm up faster.
  • You can also leave the bathroom door open as you run a bath or shower. This should allow the steam to move through to other rooms and heat them up too. Another hack is to leave the oven door open after you’ve used it. Even though you’ll have turned it off, it’ll help to heat up the kitchen too.
  • One really easy change that you can make is turning off appliances at the wall after you’ve used them. It might never have crossed your mind before, but it could save you around £80 a year on energy costs!
  • Draught proofing your home will come in handy over the winter months as it’ll reduce the amount of heat lost. Did you know that your home can lose up to 10% of its heat through the windows? Here’s a nifty alternative to double glazing: use a sheet of clear plastic film and stretch it over the window. This will help to reduce any wasted energy and will be much cheaper to fit.
  • You could even make your own draught excluders for your doors. Why not get a pillowcase and fill it with socks or dried rice? Tie it together and place it by your door. You could also try using letterbox and keyhole covers.

Want to see your money go further, find ways to save money, and have more time and less hassle in your day to day life? CAP Life Skills is a popular, community-based course, designed to equip you with the skills to live better on a low income or tight budget.

Find a CAP Life Skills group near you.

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