Liz Camp – Bringing Hope – Christians Against Poverty
Sometimes ‘life’ happens. Illness, job loss, family breakdown, a failed business, and a host of other reasons, can lead to a loss of income and sometimes insurmountable debt. And it can happen to anyone. The stress, despair and even shame that follows can be overwhelming as we become prisoners of our circumstance. But there is hope.
Christians Against Poverty (CAP), a charity that grew from the heart of its founder, John Kirkby, believes that nobody should have to struggle alone against crippling debt. John sacrificed his career in finance and put to good use his knowledge of the industry to help those in need.
The charity, originally started in Bradford, now has centres all over the country, including Exeter. Partnering with a local church (Exeter Network Church in this case) to provide funding and support, the charity reaches out to all, irrespective of faith or belief.
Liz Camp, the Exeter Centre Manager for CAP, together with a colleague, opened the Exeter branch back in 2009 with little more than a couple of mobile phones and a kitchen table.
Previous work in Social Services, going into people’s homes, and seeing first-hand, how many were in need of hope, paved the way for her current role. She said,
‘In hindsight, I was being prepared for the next stage in my journey, I just didn’t know this at the time’.
She’d been aware of CAP for some time before she got the opportunity to work there. It was on moving to Exeter Network Church and chatting to church leader, Jo Soper, that things started to fall into place. She said,
‘The first conversation that I had with Jo was that they wanted to go and have a look see at CAP in Bradford. My antenna went up, and I thought, I want to go with them to Bradford!’
So, she did.
Setting the Exeter branch up from scratch was a journey that involved finding the right people to work with. Liz now works with places like Age UK, Sanctuary Supported Living, Exeter Foodbank and Exeter City Council, but said,
‘Getting in with the agencies who were already working with clients trying to bring about change was helpful. Loads of people are in debt but not everybody is at a stage where they are ready to do anything about it. Forty-five per cent of our referrals these days are word of mouth, from clients who have already worked with us.”
The Exeter branch recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, having worked with a total of 495 clients, to help get them out of debt, and with over two hundred families who are now debt free. What a great stat!
The support offered to people is extraordinary, with the charity visiting people in their homes. Liz said,
‘People are often embarrassed about their debt and don’t want to queue or be seen in public sorting out their debts. We gather all the information that we need to help them during the visit. Generally, people are nervous when we first get there but by the end of the meeting, we’re normally all feeling as though we are friends, which is quite amazing, considering that I’ve been there asking some difficult questions.’
Liz says that they form a bond with the people they are helping, by showing that they care about the family and taking interest in their lives. During the visit, enough information and paperwork is gathered, to meet the necessary requirements (CAP is governed by the Financial Conduct Authority) and Liz and the team will offer assistance needed to help gather this. By the second visit, all info and paperwork should be in place to fill in an online form, which is then all sent off to Bradford for the number crunching to begin, as all debt advice is from our head office. Liz said,
‘I’m so pleased when I press that button and put that pack in the post!’
CAP has two weeks to turn that around and come back with an advice letter and a financial statement, which Liz then presents to the client, as their way to get out of debt. Liz said,
‘At this stage, they are still in the driver’s seat, it is not being done to them. I’m always really clear with that, it’s going to be them who decide if that’s what they want.’
If the client then decides to proceed and work with CAP, a CAP Plan is created, whereby, the client pays one monthly payment to CAP, which is then divided up amongst the people who they owe money to. Or if the solution is insolvency, they start saving for the fee in their CAP plan. Essentially, this simplifies the transaction, allowing the client to concentrate on making that one payment.
Liz and her team offer more than just financial advice or solutions. They offer a light in the darkness and a lifeline of hope to people who have found themselves in desperate and vulnerable circumstances, giving them a chance to break the shackles and begin again.
Truly powerful and inspiring stuff if you ask me.
To find out more about the amazing work of CAP or to confidentially enquire about them helping with your debt-related issues, email Liz on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interviewed by Joff Alexander-Frye
Written by Stella Nicholls
Photos of Liz by Joff Alexander-Frye