High Sheriff of Cumbria Meets CAP Whitehaven Posse
Following a grant from the Cumbria Community Foundation and Cumberland Building Society, CAP Whitehaven were honoured by a visit from Cumbria’s High Sheriff, Julie Barton. The High Sheriff is keen to find out more about the projects that are funded through the foundation and so made the trip to Whitehaven on Tuesday 13 October where the CAP Whitehaven team were joined by representatives from CAP Carlisle as well as CAP Eden & District, who have also benefitted from the fund. Also in attendance were two CAP clients as well as befrienders and a variety of CAP volunteers. Julie Routledge from the Whitehaven Job Centre Plus was also able to support the meeting, giving the referral agency’s experience of working with CAP.
Jonathan Berry, CAP Whitehaven centre manager, started with a prayer and made a few introductions, describing the clients who bravely attended as “the real stars of the show.” He outlined the CAP process and how Covid-19 has impacted the service as it is now mainly phone-based. Julie Routledge from JCP Whitehaven described how their systems had changed overnight, with staff focussing on processing the thousands of Universal Credit applications. “People were so grateful – it felt good to be doing that work, especially for those who’d never had that sort of support before,” she declared.
The High Sheriff complimented the CAP centres on how well she thought they were adapting to their very different circumstances. She spoke about the pressure of debt that is building throughout the UK, describing it as “a dam-burst ahead”, with so many being made redundant and finding themselves in arrears. She wanted to know how the CAP centres are preparing for the likely “deluge of clients”. CAP Whitehaven are looking to take on a second debt coach, in order to help cope with the increased capacity, while the other two centres represented already have an employee in place.
Jon Cook, from CAP Eden & District, mentioned the importance of “working with clients long enough for them to gain the money skills so that they’re no longer reliant on credit.” Meanwhile Jonathan Berry described a situation where he met with a client “who lived in darkness, curtains closed, fearful of the next letter, the next phone call.” He went on to say that when CAP works with the client’s creditors, and a plan is in place, “it’s great to see light coming back into their homes and lives.”
The High Sheriff asked about the isolation that debt can bring to people’s situations. One of the clients present said, “I didn’t want to tell my family what debt I was in, but when I started with CAP I felt so encouraged by the team – I never felt judged.” She concluded, “I gained the confidence to deal with the whole situation and I began to get my life back again.” She is now debt-free.
The final word went to Julie Routledge of Whitehaven JCP who had seen “the weight lifting off clients” when they engage with CAP. She went on to praise the service: “CAP’s always had a good reputation in the town – it’s a brilliant scheme that does its job in a different way to other debt counselling agencies and it’s very much needed.”