DEBT is one of those sensitive subjects people are often afraid of talking about.
Whether you have fallen behind on payments, found yourself struggling to cope with the cost of living or just simply do not earn enough money, for some the very word evokes feelings of shame.
But there is no need to worry, free help is on hand. In the last five years financially-troubled people or families in the LA9, LA8 and LA7 postcodes have turned to the church, which is run in partnership with Bradford-based Christians Against Poverty (CAP), for advice.
“People feel embarrased so don’t always speak up,” said centre manager Amanda Conner, who took over the role in September last year.
“If you don’t have savings you find yourself in a spiral of paying off interest and charges.
“And if people don’t act to address the problem and put their head in the sand it can get out of control very quickly.”
With 259 centres across the country, award-winning CAP has plucked thousands from the misery of living with debt since it launched in 1996.
Parr Street has saved 26 clients from being in the red either through a stringently-planned repayment programme or by guiding them through insolvency.
“Debt isn’t just about the lack of money someone has. It’s about what it does to a person, often when they are already feeling stressed from a job loss, relationship breakdown or illness,” added Amanda.
“The great pleasure of doing this job is to see the rapid change that comes about when people have that burden lifted and they see order restored. Hope creeps in again and that is a great joy to see.”
She added: “We never cold call people. Some people just aren’t ready to face their debts, live on a budget and turn their life around.
“For those with children there is a pressure on parents to provide birthday parties and everything they need.
“Some live off just bread and cheese so they can pay their bills.”
After making contact through the freephone number, a debt coach and befriender will visit clients in their own homes and take details on incomings and outgoings. CAP’S trained debt counsellors will then work out a realistic budget that prioritises essential bills.
Debt coaches will then visit clients again to explain the budget, any options or choices to work a way out of debt, and what payments will need to be made.
CAP will then negotiate affordable payments with each creditor and stop unfair interest and charges where possible.
A debt management plan will then be set up where clients can make weekly, bi-weekly or monthly payments.
“Debt just doesn’t affect one person,” said Amanda.
“It’s their friends and family also so if you are worried please get in touch.”
This weekend the congregation, including South Lakes MP Tim Farron and many of the service’s clients, marked the occasion with a lunch to celebrate the many families who have benefited from CAP.
“It showed clients there are other people like them. It can happen to anybody so I would encourage anyone who finds themselves in difficulties to just ask for help,” said Amanda.
To find out more about CAP visit www.capuk.org or call 0800 328 0006.