Jacqui Robb

CAP - COVID Update

Update on how CAP Carrickfergus has been managing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Christians Against Poverty (CAP), our mission is to serve the poor and reach the lost, with the church, across our land.  Through our debt counselling service, we work to bring hope to people whose situation seemed hopeless, to lift from them the burden of debt, while sharing the good news of the Gospel.  We also work to tackle the main causes of UK poverty - debt, unemployment, life affecting habits or a lack of life skills through our group services. 

All our services are delivered in partnership with the local church and very much relied on face to face delivery - whether one to one with a debt client in the privacy and security of their own home, or, for our groups, in a small group with community at its core.  While this face to face delivery was a major part of our heart for those in need, it has all had to change as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While we worked, internally and with the regulator, to devise alternative delivery methods which were safe - for clients and our frontline workers - as well as accessible and compliant, our heart for people in need remained. 

We recognised that there was still great need, among our clients and the wider community.

People who may not have needed help before now needed assistance.  One in five adults in the UK has less than £100 in savings.  At the beginning of the Covid crisis around 1.8 million new claims were made for Universal Credit.  Many people who may have thought they were okay are now vulnerable.

People needed basics - food, help with energy costs and, especially we found, help with mobile phone top ups.  Phones are a lifeline to many at this time, not only for calls to doctors, government departments or agencies, but also for contact with family and friends.  This contact is crucial to so many, for mental health and the sense of connectedness which is so important to us all.  CAP therefore established an Emergency Response Fund to help people with these basic needs and to ensure that debt advice was available longer term as we get through this immediate crisis period.

While this was going on at national level, our local debt centres were also working right in their local communities to meet need.  Our Carrickfergus Debt Centre, based at Greenisland Baptist Church, is a great example of a local, community based, partnership response.  They received donations of food, not just from their own church but other churches in the area, as well as financial donations which allowed them to buy food.  Their local council was making money available by way of grant. The ongoing partnership with Neighbourly https://www.neighbourly.com/ and Fareshare https://fareshare.org.uk/fareshare-centres/northern-ireland/ enabled them to continue to receive numerous food donations from a number of the larger supermarkets in the area. 

We have started to place some items at the front door of the church for local people to help themselves to whatever we have received from Neighbourly and Fareshare so that nothing goes to waste, as some of these products often have a short use by date.

An army of volunteers, working within proper safety guidelines, then prepare food hampers which are distributed by volunteers to vulnerable people in the community.  Recipients are not just CAP clients but people who have been referred by local Social Services, churches and local people who are active and aware of need in their local area.  

Peoples’ spiritual needs are also met, with gospel literature or other resources in every hamper and prayer offered over the phone when needed.  There have been many who have asked for prayer, including people who have had to attend hospital on their own because of the restrictions, who have been supported before their appointments by prayer.

All of this is a wonderful example of how we, the church, can meet the needs of our communities at this time, but also longer term.  This joined up approach - working with others, be it different fellowships or congregations, the local community, the wider charity sector or local and central government - should and must continue.  Peoples’ needs will not disappear immediately after lockdown is lifted.  Many in our communities will continue to have or want to shield for health reasons.  Jobs may be lost. Families will continue to be under pressure.  As people come out of lockdown, having survived the immediate threat, they will then start to address the financial implications and the need for debt advice will increase.  We, the church can, with others, play our part in continuing to meet these needs and to reach out to our communities in a practical way, while bringing freedom and the good news to those around us.

If you would like to donate financially to your local CAP Centre, our details are as follows:

Greenisland Baptist (CAP Account)
Sort Code: 950611 Account No: 70087017