Christians against Poverty (C.A.P.)

Rachel Ryan Darlington CAP Centre Manager                             Email:

Information regarding Darlington Christians Against Poverty Debt Centre

Thank you for your invitation to explain a little more about our newly established Darlington Christians Against Poverty (CAP) Debt Centre and the opportunity to share ways in which you may help to ensure its ongoing viability.
I will briefly give you some context to the project so far. I began my role as Debt Centre Manager for Darlington’s CAP Debt Centre at the beginning of August 2020, after completing approximately 40hrs worth of online training delivered from CAP Head Office, based in Bradford. I am employed for 16hrs a week, and I am currently working Monday and Tuesdays from 9am to 5pm, although there is some flexibility within this. So far, (to end of January 2021) I have worked with 8 clients, discussing their finances and identifying ways CAP may be able to ease their situation and ultimately help them become debt free.
The establishment of the Centre was made possible with grants from Durham Community Foundation, The Cinnamon Trust, Together Durham (Lord Crewe Grant) and Awards for All/Community Fund, plus a few donations from individuals. Current funding has secured the existence of the centre for at least its first year, however we will need to seek ongoing funds if we are to consider this as a long-term commitment. Essential ongoing funding is needed for the monthly payment of £600 to CAP Head office who provide, amongst other things, ongoing training for myself and volunteers, publicity materials and top-level financial expertise, accredited by the Financial Conduct Authority. Should you be able to commit any financial support to this on-going cost, that would be most welcome.
Additional costs currently include the payment of the Centre Manager and administrative costs, including publicity materials. We also have established a budget to be able to assist clients with immediate needs – food, heating vouchers, warm clothes, clothes for interviews etc. Whilst CAP do not ‘pay off’ any debts, we see this ‘Client Blessing’ as an essential part of our service.
Although termed a ‘Debt Centre’, we do not have a permanent building or space to call a centre! This is not currently an issue as a good deal of my work is able to be carried out from my home, with the aid of a designated CAP laptop and mobile phone – part of the administrative costs mentioned earlier. Even in a time when Covid restrictions are eased, a more accurate description may be a ‘Debt Help Service’, as meetings with clients are ideally done within their own home situation where they are potentially more relaxed and have easier access to the paperwork needed.
Our service operates in the following way. Potential clients initially self-refer to CAP Head Office, by calling the freephone number, 0800 3280006, to discuss their situation. Clients come to know about CAP from a wide variety of sources, from the personal recommendations of family and friends, to information received from DWP, Social Services, charities such as AGE UK, Samaritans, from health care professionals and schools to name but a few. Foodbanks within Darlington have also done a great job in directing clients to us.
After this initial enquiry phone call, HO then arranges a meeting between the client and the Debt Centre Manager to talk through how CAP can help, then a 2nd appointment is arranged, which collates financial information and paperwork. This information is then sent to HO who devise a route out of debt, whether this is insolvency, debt management plan etc. (I don’t have to do the financial wizardry, thank goodness!) A 3rd appointment is made for the Debt Centre Manager to present the option to the client. On each occasion the client is offered prayer – but with the understanding they don’t have to accept or participate in it but will still receive the same level of service. Clients are then supported as they follow their plans, until they are debt free.
In ‘normal times’ the appointments would all be done by the DCM visiting the client in their home, always taking a volunteer ‘befriender’ with them. In addition to the issue of safeguarding for both client and DCM on visits, the idea of the befriender that they are someone who can develop a relationship with the client to support them practically, socially and also spiritually – being their connection to church, inviting them to church events etc. Obviously, this is not the case currently whilst appointments are being done over the phone and is tricky when we have little ‘church’ activity to signpost them too! At present, I have given my existing befrienders specific clients to pray for, so at least I can let each client know that there is someone doing that for them.
It is in this area of ‘Befriending’ that I would particularly welcome help from other churches. It is vital for the continuation of the service that we recruit people to fulfil this role, both to enable appointments to take place in clients’ homes, (when circumstances allow) and to provide the necessary links to the local churches and helping clients explore the Christian faith. CAP provides a helpful ‘Role Description’ for potential Befrienders, which I will attach to this report. I am also more than willing for people to contact me should anyone be interested in finding out more. CAP provide training materials for Befrienders and currently I am able to run these online, via Zoom. There is a small amount of paperwork to be completed by volunteers & their church leaders, plus, if not already in place, we would need to obtain DBS paperwork which covers working with potentially vulnerable adults.
In addition to the befriender role, there are other opportunities to assist the ministry of the Debt Centre – as a General Volunteer and as a Prayer partner. CAP has also devised some ‘role descriptions’ for these, which I can provide should anyone be interested. These roles are not exclusive – it may be that you have (or know others who have) connections, ideas and skills which you think can be used to help. For example, you may be able to think of additional avenues to get word out about the Centre or be skilled in fund raising. We also hold a monthly prayer meeting on the last Tuesday of every month at 7.15 via Zoom and in addition, I email Prayer notes to those who commit to pray at other times. Should you wish to participate in any of this, please do let me know.
Finally, I’d like to share with you part of CAP’s mission statement,
“…to serve the poor, save the lost, working in partnership with local churches throughout the nation.”
It would be wonderful to have input from all of our Darlington churches, working together sharing in this mission. Thank you for taking the time to understand more about how you and your church can help to achieve this.

Kind Regards, Rachel Ryan.

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