THE number of people overwhelmed by debt has continued to rise over the past 12 months — as has the amount of money they owe, the charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) said in its annual findings, published this week.
The charity worked with 12,812 people in debt last year: a rise of four per cent on the previous year. More of its clients became debt-free in 2015 — a fifth of all those it helped.
Research by CAP has shown that, despite the low average income of their clients, 96 per cent of them managed to remain debt-free after working with the organisation. The average debt of those coming to CAP for help has increased to about £14,000, six per cent more than in 2014.
The charity, which works with churches to give debt advice and other help, now has 529 church centres and 6000 volunteers around the country.
Its annual report said that congregations were “going the extra mile to bring hope to people in desperate hardship”. Volunteers at Preston North debt centre topped up a pre-payment meter so that a mother could bathe her baby in warm water for the first time in two weeks; volunteers in south Manchester drove a mother and her four children to the supermarket once a week for eight months until they could afford to run their car again; and, in Hemel Hempstead, a man with mental-health problems had his home cleaned for the first time in 18 years by a team from his local CAP centre.
The chief executive of CAP, Matt Barlow, said: “We see terrible levels of poverty, as some of these stories show, and we really wonder what would happen were it not for the love and dedication of the local church, with whom we work.
“It is our privilege to take these findings and make them public. We owe it to the people who suffer with poverty, unemployment, addiction, and all their associated problems. We need to keep reminding ourselves of the daily realities they face — and our responsibility as a society to make those connections, bring them hope, and provide prevention where possible.”
In their feedback, 93 per cent of debt clients described the service offered by CAP debt-centres as “life-transforming”.
CAP also runs 145 job clubs, and the majority of its clients are people who have been unemployed for more than a year. Its newest initiative, Release Groups, works with those with addictions such as smoking, gambling, or drinking. There are now 58 release groups around the country.
Owing to the level of demand, CAP expects to extend all its services further in the next 12 months.