A Guildford debt counselling service, in conjunction with Christians Against Poverty (CAP), has marked its tenth anniversary with a service of celebration and thanks. Held at Westborough United Reformed Church on Sunday, May 8, people who work and volunteer for and support the service from Guildford churches attended.
Westborough Church’s minister, Graham Hoslett, said that in 2008 the church set up CAP Money courses to help people manage their money better. In 2010, the then Guildford town chaplain recognised that some local churches were giving debt help, but on an ad hoc basis. An idea emerged to open a debt advice centre in Guildford and the UK-wide charity CAP was chosen to work with those churches. Eighteen Guildford churches became partners in the scheme and in 2012 Jane Seals (an Elder at Westborough Church) took on the role of the Guildford CAP Centre manager.
Now, not only can people get help if they are in debt, but Guildford CAP hosts a job club and offers life skills courses.
Jane Seals gave details of just how much the debt counselling service has helped people over the past 10 years with some impressive statistics.
From the people the service has helped, £817,930.66 of debt has either been repaid or written off. She said this has taken the weight off a good number of previously worried people. The service has received 404 referrals in the last decade and a total of 73 households have become debt-free due to the help they have received.
For many people in debt, reaching out for help is difficult. Jane said it takes people a lot of courage to get in contact, but the service they provide is always non-judgmental. Jane added that in the help that is given, there is no “hard sell” of the gospel, while, as Christians, there is no attempt to hide the fact that Christian faith is what motivates them. The debt coaches often pray for their clients, but it is fine if people say no to prayers. But the help that has been given means that some people have moved towards faith, Jane added.
Above the congregation were strung hundreds of paper figures – green representing households helped with debt issues, red representing people who have attended the Job Club, and pink, people who have been on the Life Skills courses.
The CAP Job Club in Guildford has helped around 70 people to step confidently into employment. 30 people have attended the Life Skills courses. Life Skills courses are friendly groups where people can discover the budgeting and life skills needed to make their money go further.
One person who has been helped told her story. She had come to Guildford with her children to start a new life after experiencing domestic abuse. She was in debt and felt very isolated. She said she phoned CAP and was relieved by what she was told by the debt coach (Suzanne Hoslett) who she spoke to and who was kind and trustworthy. She subsequently attended both the Job Club and Life Skills courses, which were a great help. The person is now making good progress in her life and has become a Christian.
A husband and wife also told their story how they have benefitted from the help and support given by the CAP Job Club that meets at Guildford Baptist Church in Millmead. They both said they felt good from going to the club, meeting many people and having a good time socially. The club has helped both of them spiritually and the wife is soon to start a new job with an airline.
After the service, Jane Seals added: “Looking back, we knew that there was a need in the area, we were just blown away by how much we were needed when the credit crunch hit because since that time the Guildford CAP Debt Centre has helped over 400 people, with many relationships saved from breakdown and lives saved from suicide.
She added that she and her team of volunteers have been giving a unique, free, face-to-face service in the community, backed up by financial experts at CAP’s head office.
Jane said: “For me, it’s an amazing position to be in and sometimes very challenging too. We see people often at the lowest point but then we get to see that burden taken away and so many other issues addressed along the way and that is a great joy.
“There are still many more people to help though, so while we’re thrilled to be able to celebrate each and every person who has made it to the other side of debt we want everyone else who may still be struggling to know that we are here to help them completely free of charge too.”