Churches partner up to launch debt advice centre

SEVEN churches have joined forces to open a new advice centre to provide free help to people struggling with overwhelming debt.

St Leonard’s Baptist Church, St Matthew’s Church, King’s Church, Calvert Methodist Church, The Salvation Army in Hastings, St Helen’s Church and Wellington Square Baptist Church, have partnered up with charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) to make the service available.

The Hastings and St Leonards CAP centre is one of 19 to open in the last month and will join three others in the area, in Bexhill, Hailsham, and Brighton.

The personalised service is not a drop-in centre, but will see the debt centre manager and a volunteer befriender visit each client in their home to devise an action plan.

Once the CAP centre takes on the case, the charity does all the negotiating with creditors and local volunteers offer support to each person face-to-face until the day they are debt free.

If insolvency is the only option, help will also be offered with this.

The centre’s official launch was on June 9, and six clients have been helped already.

Centre manager Nick Warren said: “The Church has always been about offering hope and we’re really pleased to be able to give a tried and tested route out of debt alongside other great free debt advice in the area like Citizens Advice.

“In our society, a lot of poverty is debt-related so our congregations have been working hard to open a CAP centre to help get people back on track.”

Nick added: “Typically, debts can build up when a relationship breaks down, or someone loses their job, or through bereavement – so often when people are least able to cope with a financial headache.

“We’re just so pleased to be able to partner the care of our churches with the financial expertise of CAP’s head office in Bradford.”

There are links between the new debt advice centre and the Hastings foodbank, which operates from King’s Church, and a number of referrals have been made already.

Natalie Williams, communications and community engagement manager at King’s Church, said: “The debt advice centre combines local support and care with national experts.

“Debt leads to so many problems, and from the churches’ perspective, we just want to help people when they reach rock bottom.”

CAP has 233 centres around the UK.

Anyone in need of debt advice and support can call the free helpline on 0800 328 0006.