The latest statistics* on UK personal debt are staggering.
- People in the UK owed £1.629 TRILLION at the end of January 2019
- The average total household debt in the UK was £59,409, including mortgages, in December 2018
- An average credit card debt on the average interest would take 26 years and 5 months to repay, if making only minimum monthly repayments
- 371 people a day were declared insolvent or bankrupt in October to December 2018. This is equivalent to one person every 3 minutes and 53 seconds
- 12 properties were repossessed every day in the 4th quarter of 2018, or one every 2 hours
The primary reason given for 70% of all couples breaking up is money worries and a quarter of all those in debt are receiving treatment from their GP for stress, depression and anxiety.
Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is a Christian organisation dedicated to helping local people work with what they have to get themselves out of debt. CAP does not pay their debts for them; they examine their debts and their income and expenditure and produce a realistic budget to pay off what they owe. Since 1996, when the charity was started, staff have established good relations with utilities companies and the finance industry so that they are in a good position to negotiate and stop interest charges, reducing repayments to an affordable level. In this way, CAP can instantly remove the threat of eviction or disconnection of services from worried families. Unlike many of the debt management companies you will see advertised, CAP makes no charge for the ongoing service and support provided.
It is very easy to dismiss those caught in the debt trap as being self-indulgent, careless or just plain irresponsible, but the reality is that debt is a very easy trap to fall into. At age 18 our young people are inundated with offers of credit cards, bank accounts, overdraft facilities, store cards etc and through lack of experience in managing credit, many of them run up debts of several hundred, or even thousand, pounds. Even families who have managed their finances in the past are at risk. It takes only a short period of illness without sick pay to put a mortgage or rent account into arrears. A sudden bereavement, the break-up of a marriage or the loss of a job can plunge a family into serious debt.
So, where does the church come in? The church actually has a huge part to play in this work. Firstly, with prayer: CAP’s research shows that the few centres that close down are generally those not supported by a team of volunteers dedicated to backing the work with prayer. If we are serious about our commitment to the poor and reaching out to the community, and we should be because God is, as we see throughout the Bible, then we must make full use of the most effective weapon our Lord has given us. Jesus said, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Secondly, the church provides a network of volunteers to support our Debt Centre in visiting and befriending the clients who come to us for help. Finally, even those who don’t have the time or the opportunity to form part of a prayer or befriender team can help by becoming Life Changers and supporting the work with the commitment of a monthly donation to CAP.
Some time ago, our PCC, together with all churches in the Diocese, was asked to draw up a Mission Action Plan, which we have done. We stated 2 priorities in our MAP: firstly, to preach Christ and to worship Him and, secondly, to reach out to the community with the love of God. The first of those priorities is ongoing and our partnership with CAP is a wonderful opportunity to fulfil the second.
Working with CAP, we can help people just like our friends, families or neighbours, climb out of debt. We can draw people into a loving relationship with Jesus. We can save marriages. We can prevent suicides. We can keep families together. We can give mums the chance to feed their children and we can release people from the worry of eviction. God has a heart for the poor. We must heed His command to be open-handed towards our neighbours and towards the poor and needy in our community.
Christians Against Poverty receives no funding from the government, but relies on God’s provision through voluntary donations. The charity works to release people from debt by teaching them how to manage their money. We also seek to draw them into a saving relationship with Jesus by befriending them and welcoming them into the fellowship of local churches.
Please support CAP with prayer and seek God’s guidance as to what you can do to ensure the success of this much needed joint venture. I shall be happy to answer any questions you might have about CAP.
Sheila Fielding – Blackburn CAP Debt Centre Manager
*The Money Charity – March 2019