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Interview: Jayne Green, Ipswich Centre Manager, Christians Against Poverty

07 October 2016

‘Many people in debt feel that there is no way out, no hope’

There isn’t really a typical day in the life of a CAP-centre manager, which is one of the things I love about the role.


I always wanted to be a teacher, so went to Reading University and did a teaching degree for four years. I then moved to Ipswich a year after graduating, and taught in a primary school, and shared a house with my best mate from uni. I met my husband at the church we still attend, and we have been married 14 years. We have three children, aged 11, nine, and seven. And I now teach in a primary school two days, and work for CAP two-and-a-half days.


Once I’ve seen the children off to school, I’ll check my emails and get myself ready for visiting a client. I’ll pick up my befriender, who’s normally a volunteer from my church, and we will drive to the client’s house. Before we go in, we will pray for the visit and the client.


The visit will involve explaining CAP’s service, collecting paperwork, finding out about the client’s financial situation, or going through the budget created by head office and looking at the options out of debt. We offer to pray for the client before we leave, and most people want this.


Other things I may be involved in during the day would be: catching up with clients over coffee, speaking to clients to check how they are doing with their budget, doing a food shop for a client who is struggling, or giving a CAP presentation to a referral agency explaining how CAP works and how to refer clients.


It’s a pretty universal pattern all over the country, although comparing clients’ debt to income shows that people in Northern Ireland, the South West, and Scotland would be paying back crazy amounts of debt for decades if it wasn’t for debt/insolvency options.


There isn’t a typical client. They come from all walks of life, and have been affected by debt in lots of different ways. Some of them are on low incomes, and making ends meet can be a real struggle; some have lost their job and used credit to keep up with the bills. What’s common with all clients is that the debt is affecting their sleep, their quality of life, and, often, their health. Many feel, when they first get in touch, that there is no way out and no hope. It’s an amazing privilege to see that sense of hope return.


The Centre for Social Justice identified five pathways to poverty. Unsurprisingly, debt is one of them. CAP has broadened its remit in the past few years to tackle these causes of debt, which include joblessness, addiction, and lack of money education.


There are many good free agencies who help people with debt: StepChange, and the Citizens Advice Bureau, for example. CAP is unique in the way we negotiate with creditors on the client’s behalf, which is perfect for people who need that extra level of help. Our service is tailored to people who are vulnerable and need that face-to-face support that the Church is brilliant at. Most other agencies don’t do home visits, whereas almost all our interactions are in the client’s home.


Our faith isn’t just our motivation to help: we also offer prayer and aim to connect with them and their family personally, as we give them as much support as they need. As well as wanting them to be debt-free, we do also want to give them every opportunity to know and respond to the love of Jesus.


My family’s been involved in CAP for many years. My dad became a centre manager in Blackburn 17 years ago, and has worked in head office for the past eight or nine years. My sister and her husband went out to New Zealand nine years ago and helped set up CAP New Zealand, and so I’ve always supported CAP because of them.


After watching Amazing Grace, the film about William Wilberforce, four years ago, I was struck by the need to help, and God prompted me to open a CAP centre in Ipswich. What I love about CAP is that it works. If the client sticks to and works with us, they’ll be debt-free within five years. CAP is seeing lives transformed, and I wanted to be a part of that.


We’ve seen 14 clients become debt-free over the past three years in Ipswich, and each one has given me satisfaction. There was a lady who was under enormous amounts of pressure, who had no hope, and has now turned her life around. She is debt-free, coming to church, and describes church as her “new family”. She’s gained in confidence, and even told her story in front of everyone at church at our last CAP Sunday — something she never thought she’d be able to do.


We obviously don’t force people to do anything they don’t want to do. Prayer is just something we offer if they are interested. We help people from other religions: we’ll work with anyone. The title “Christians Against Poverty” just describes our motivation, and why we do it.


Our solution depends very much on the client. I collect all their paperwork and send it to head office, and they create a budget for the client, with options for a route out of debt. Normally the client pays a certain amount each week or month to CAP, which is paid to their creditors. If it would take longer than five years to clear their debts, we consider bankruptcy or other options like Individual Voluntary Arrangements, which are accepted by creditors. We’ve known some creditors write off debts with amazing generosity when they’ve heard that we’re working with someone who owes them money — but obviously that doesn’t happen all the time.


I’ve been surprised by the desperate situations some people are living in, but also how amazing it is to be able to walk into those situations and bring hope and a solution.


I became a Christian when I was seven. I still remember brushing my teeth after a children’s meeting on a Monday night, and knowing, at that moment, that I wanted to give my life to Jesus. Life didn’t change dramatically, as I was brought up in a Christian family, but I’ve never looked back.


I’m the oldest of four, and was born and grew up in Blackburn. My dad worked for a bank, and my mum was a swimming teacher. For many years we went to Southwold, in Suffolk, for family holidays at a Saltmine holiday camp. They were brilliant, and I learnt so much about my faith there.


Someone in our church told us about the Southwold beach mission, and we thought we’d give it a go this year as a family, and really enjoyed it. The children loved it: they had a really good time, and got a lot out of it. I didn’t feel like I was teaching, but it was hard work. I was shattered when I got home. But it was worth it.


I love music, I play piano and violin, and I love having worship songs on really loud in the house or in the car.


My favourite book is Francine Rivers’s A Lineage of Grace. I have read it over and over, and it challenges me every time about how God used ordinary women to change the world.


I don’t remember the last time I got angry. I get annoyed at the kids a lot, but I think I’m fairly chilled. My husband might disagree.


I’m at my happiest when I’m reading a good book with a bit of chocolate.


I pray for my kids and my clients, that they would know Jesus.


If I was locked in a church for a few hours, and could choose anyone to be my companion? One of the women from Jesus’s family tree: so Ruth, Tamar, Mary, Rahab, or Bathsheba.


Jayne Green was talking to Terence Handley MacMath. www.capuk.org

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