THE charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) was the vision of
one man, who found himself deep in debt after borrowing to keep up
his businesses and his lavish lifestyle. Owing £76,000, John Kirkby
was forced to rent out his only asset, his home, to a Norwegian
pastor, who invited him to come to his church.
Mr Kirkby became a Christian; but his fortunes did not
immediately turn around. His marriage of 12 years failed, and he
was left camping out in a friend's bedroom, struggling to feed his
two daughters when they came to visit. He found work again in the
financial services industry, but, after two years, felt that God
was calling him to give up his career and use his knowledge of
financial services to help the poor.
Armed with just a meagre donation, he set up CAP in a back room
in his home town of Bradford, in 1996. Nineteen years later, the
charity has opened 280 debt centres; expanded into Australia, New
Zealand, and Canada; has a staff of 260 in its head office, and
thousands more volunteers; and provides debt help for almost 16,000
people a year.
The Church of England is very involved: more than 20 per cent of
CAP debt-centres are in Anglican churches; other churches run CAP
job-clubs; and hundreds more have been trained to provide CAP
courses on money. The charity is run entirely on donations from its
26,000 regular supporters. This year, the Archbishop of Canterbury
became its first patron.
THE story of the hunger gap in Britain remains hidden behind
closed doors, writes Kieran Dodds, illustrated
only by neat stacks of tins and pasta. These images show the impact
of emergency food aid - three days of three square meals - in the
homes of those who have experienced the need and the shame of
asking for assistance.
Stories of personal sacrifice are common among foodbank users.
Parents going hungry to keep their children fed, or people having
to choose between eating a third meal or keeping the heating on.
Almost every week, foodbanks spring up in village halls and church
centres to meet the growing demand. Although difficult to quantify,
the largest network of foodbanks in the UK, the Trussell Trust, fed
nearly one million people in 2013/14 - more than double the year
before, and a huge leap from only 25,000 five years previously.
Food prices in the UK have continued to increase, rising by 43.5
per cent over the eight years to July 2013. Fuel and accommodation
has become more expensive as well, despite a recent drop in oil
prices; and wages have not kept up with these rises. Many foodbank
users report that one of the main reasons for their trouble is
delayed welfare payments. But there is no "typical" foodbank user.
As prices rise and the gap between rich and poor widens, more and
more people find themselves caught in a vicious circle of
Susan is married to Robin and they have
three children, who have all now left home, and four
I HAD to stop work because of my health, and then my husband
lost his job due to illness; so we were both out of work. Robin had
a back problem, and suffered from depression. We had been used to
having good money, and we had nice cars, and everything we needed;
but then we lost all that money we'd been used to, and had to
survive on benefits. The debts began building up, and it became
overwhelming for us both. On some of our loans, we had to pay huge
amounts of interest.
We were renting a property from the council, and my husband was
so worried about the debts that he became suicidal: he attempted to
take his own life twice. At the worst of it, we owed £14,000.
We came across the number for CAP - I can't now remember if
someone gave it to us, or I found it - and approached them to make
an appointment; but then we cancelled it. We just couldn't go
through with it. But, a couple of months later, we had a good talk
and decided to try again, and we made another appointment.
Angela came round to see us at home. She looked at all the
paperwork, and said we needed to give back the car, which was on
HP. Angela asked us if she could pray, and my husband said: "No
way. You are not praying in my house."
So the car went back, and all the TV packages like Sky went
back; and, at first, my husband felt even worse. He felt as if
everything was being taken away from him. He blamed God for it -
and everybody else.
But when Angela came a second time, he started to calm down; and
when she asked again if she could pray, he said yes. She told us
how we could pay off our debts, and she brought round some food. We
were both in tears - not of sadness, but of happiness.
Neither of us had had anything to do with church, but Angela
invited us to a CAP client meeting in the church building. There
was a talk, and then we met other people; and then Angela said we
could stay, if we wanted to, for the church meeting. My husband was
quite content to stay; so we did. We watched the church service,
and felt so comfortable and happy there that we haven't been away
since, and that was two years ago.
Six months later, we were debt-free. My husband still can't
work; I'm his carer, but I also volunteer at church, and with CAP.
We're still on benefits, but we manage so much better now. As soon
as we get our money, we go and buy our food and pay the bills.
We were baptised last month, and we are so happy; we feel like
we've come home.
We are happy to share our story with others, to try to help
them. We've spoken to several people already to say to them: "We
know what you are going through," and to tell them where they can
Robin is so much better these days. He's a lot stronger in
himself: more communicative, and open with everybody. Someone told
me recently that he glows! The church has helped us so much; it has
given me confidence to stand up and get involved.
Mandy is married to John, and
they have two teenage boys
WE FELL into debt through ill health and depression. I'm an
insulin-dependent diabetic, and suffer from fibromyalgia. My
husband worked, but he didn't earn a lot of money as a manual
worker and we had two boys to feed.
We'd got into trouble through taking out doorstep loans. People
come to the door with money in their hands, at times when you are
especially vulnerable, like Christmas. They have the cash there and
then, and you just don't look at the small print. And then you are
tempted to take out another loan, to pay off the earlier debts. And
then you find you're going round and round in circles. You feel
like you are on your own in when you are in the middle of a
situation like this.
Now, what I want to do is to talk to other people and tell my
story, so that other people know they're not the only ones going
through something like this.
At the worst point, we weren't really eating. My husband would
do a full day's hard work, and I'd only be able to give him beans
on toast in the evening. I don't know how he didn't fall ill
himself; I think now that God was sustaining him. None of us were
I was volunteering at my local church when one of the ladies
there mentioned CAP. I was struggling with depression and with
debt, but I made a conscious decision that I needed to try and find
some answers to my problems.
I started going to church regularly, and enjoyed it; and I
eventually plucked up the courage to phone CAP. Janet and Elizabeth
came round to see me. Janet asked me if she could pray with me, and
I said yes. It took them about three weeks to come up with a
solution and a budget plan. They worked out that it would take us
27½ years to pay off all our debts, as we owed about £60,000, and
they told us to file for bankruptcy.
My husband and I had thought about it before, but we didn't have
the money we needed to file: it cost £1400 as a couple. But,
through CAP, a wonderful company came up with the money for us. It
was an answer to prayer, as we just couldn't find the money to do
In August 2013, we filed for bankruptcy. A year later, we were
discharged after we'd stayed debt-free for 12 months. Throughout it
all, CAP were wonderful. They didn't say, "How did you get yourself
into this mess?", but they listened, and helped us practically.
They said things like: "We are all guilty of spending too much";
and that, if you can pay your bills and put food on the table, you
are blessed. They didn't make us feel demeaned.
After that first visit, CAP brought round six bags of food. It
was amazing. We couldn't believe at first that people wanted to do
things for us, without charging us anything. They are such nice
people, and they are doing it all for God. I have never looked back
since I became a Christian. But CAP don't mind if you choose not to
go to church, or explore your faith. They will help you whatever;
they won't abandon you.
My faith has given me such strength. It helps me to cope with
the pain of my condition. John comes with me to church, and my
eldest boy does, too, but the youngest hasn't made his mind up
CAP lifted such a weight from my shoulders. They were a gift
from God for us.
Neville is married to Karen, and they
have three children. Both Neville and Karen are unable to work
because of ill health
WITHOUT CAP, I wouldn't be here now. Things got so bad for me
that I tried to take my own life, and I was sectioned to a
psychiatric ward. The amount of debt we'd got into was so much that
I thought taking my life was the only way out. I now know that,
even if I'd done that, the debt wouldn't have gone.
We fell into debt from trying to make the house nicer. I bought
a television, and it went on from there, buying other things for
the house, until we owed £5000. I ordered too many things, and it
was only when the repayments started coming in that I realised I
didn't have the money to pay them.
I started going to friends and asking them to lend me money to
buy things - essentials - but then I had to pay them back, and so I
had no money left to meet the repayments. I was frantic, and
really, really scared. There was no food in the house. I couldn't
face putting my family through any more pain.
I tried to take my life; and ended up in a psychiatric ward. I
stayed there for nine weeks. It was when I came out that I saw a
leaflet for CAP, and I thought: They are Christians, I'll try them
- anything to stop me from going back into hospital again.
They were great on the phone, and then Sally came round, and she
gave me all the forms I needed. She and her husband are wonderful:
they are still friends to us today.
Sally helped us to budget, and showed how we could pay off the
debts. CAP also gave us food, and helped us to find some furniture.
It took us a quite a while to pay off our debts, but we've now been
debt-free for a year.
We had a letter inviting us to a dinner dance at CAP, and John
Kirkby came up to us and told us we'd won the "Overcomers Award"
for getting over our debts. We've been given a night away in a
hotel anywhere we like; it's our silver anniversary next year, so
we are saving it for that.
Neither Karen or I have been able to work because of ill health,
but I am seeing an adviser next week, because I want to do
something. I hope to get some part-time work. I don't want people
to think I'm just sitting back, claiming off the Government. I want
to do something with my time.
And, if I can do anything for CAP, I will. Without them, I
wouldn't be here. John Kirkby has done a fantastic thing in setting
it up, and helped so many people. And, because he's been there
himself, he knows what it's like for those who are still in the
middle of it.
I USED the foodbank [twice] last week, and first used it on 23
September last year. I was sanctioned at the time.
I had never heard about it until last year. I've been sanctioned
a couple of times. If you miss one appointment, they can sanction
you for six weeks. I've known people to get sanctioned for months.
I was due to be paid on Wednesday, but wasn't paid; so went to the
Citizens Advice Bureau.
I've got a bad back, and suffer from depression. It's an old
motorbike injury from when I was a teenager. My back is away. Eight
or nine years ago, I did landscape gardening part-time, 16 to 30
hours a week. I ended up losing my house through rent arrears. I
ended up homeless, on the streets. That was the hardest time in my
Foodbank is a blessing for people like myself. I can't take
medication [for depression] without food. I have seen people up
there with little children. People look at foodbankers like they're
old junkies, but it's normal people like myself who have got no
choice. You can't afford to live these days. The cost of living has
gone up, but what the Government gives you is going nowhere.
Doesn't cover the electricity and gas bills.
I've been depressed for years, since my mum passed away 25 years
ago. We were really close. I would like the Government to actually
be a bit more considerate for people like us. Jobs are very hard to
find these days. I feel happy for the help, but I feel kind of
embarrassed, sometimes. I've always been independent.
Kevin and Angela Chatham,
WE WERE putting all our money on the electricity and gas. If
there was food in the house, I made sure the other three were
eating, and starved myself, which, according to my consultant, was
not a good move.
I spoke to the school, and they said go to the foodbank. For two
months, I wouldn't go. I won't go cap-in-hand. I'm already sponging
off society, in my eyes.
And she said, not with what you've got: you banged your head,
you've got to take your handouts.
I've had epilepsy since 1985, when I had a push-bike accident,
and wasn't wearing a helmet. It got really bad; so I had to go
We only went the once [to the foodbank], about a month ago. It
put pressure on us: the wife and I were arguing.
About a year ago, I had a heart attack; then I had another one -
then I had another one. Then I had another one; then I had one
while in hospital. Five heart attacks!
Just after using the foodbank, I felt: I have let the family
down. I know what it's like to starve. I know what it's like to
starve for three days. Every week. Sometimes it was five days. Even
now, I have just a sandwich. I used to be a chef back in the 1990s
My youngest son, Scott, loves his food now. He was tiny when he
was born three months premature. He is partially deaf, he's got
microcephaly, and he's got a foot problem, and asthma.
I was nervous - even when I got to the foodbank, very nervous.
The wife said: "There's nothing to be frightened of. We'll go in
I WORK part-time in Halfords as a sales adviser. My husband,
Sergio, started working in TK Maxx this month. Before, it was just
me [supporting us financially], but I am on maternity. My husband
changed his job to support me when I was in hospital for
Sergio is asthmatic: he can't stay in this place, so lives with
a friend in east London - one day here, one day there - because of
the damp. I was spending £200 on painting to clean the house. I was
getting unwell from the damp. It's really strong, the smell, and I
had to go every week with [my son] Samuel to the GP, because he was
really cold, and had the flu. He couldn't eat. I felt stressed, and
was on medication, which I finished three weeks ago.
I was nervous, because I didn't know how it was, but then people
from church were talking to me very nicely to make me feel calm. I
feel better now.
From the beginning, I felt very embarrassed about using the
foodbank, but I met the ladies, who were very nice. I have been
since November till now, every Monday, to get nappies and food. I
was in front of the church, and thought shall I go or not?
Sometimes, I had to go without eating for a weekend. I had to be
strong because of my daughter Samara; I can't show her how I was
She asks when she is going to have a room so she can invite her
friends. Samara is going to secondary school in September, and this
is a two-bedroom flat. She doesn't have space. We are still waiting
for an answer from social housing [about the new flat]; it's been a
month; we are still waiting.