Churches Together in King’s Lynn
Open meeting on poverty in King’s Lynn Wednesday 4th June 2014.
Chris Lindley spoke about his recent concern that poverty is on the increase in King’s Lynn. His attention had been drawn to this by the increasing numbers of people requiring support from Foodbank and some articles in the Lynn News recently had raised similar concerns. In November 2013 Chris approached the Purfleet Trust, Shelter and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in King’s Lynn to ask about the numbers of people affected and why this apparent increase in poverty has recently occurred. After several months of data collection Chris has written a leaflet entitled ‘Benefit Changes Cause Suffering in King’s Lynn and West Norfolk’. The main findings show an increase in Foodbank usage from 1180 adults in 2012 to 2156 in 2013 and a projection of 2600 adults requiring the service in 2014 (based on figures for the first quarter of the year). 68% of people attending Foodbank have been subjected to delays in payment of their benefits and this is a sanction for non-compliance with rules relating to job seeking. Between October 2012 and June 2013, 80 people per month were sanctioned and temporarily lost their job seeker’s allowance. A local charity called the West Norfolk Disability Information Service has undertaken appeals on behalf of claimants to ATOS (the company charged by the government with making the sanctioning decisions) and 90% of these appeals have been successful. On the bedroom tax Chris had found that 1000 people locally were losing £10-25 per week in housing benefit while many have no option to move to accommodation with fewer bedrooms. An estimated 3750 people on low incomes now have to pay some of their Council tax.
John Graver then spoke about the charity Christians Against Poverty. John Kirkby founded the charity Christians Against Poverty in Bradford in 1996 to address the problems of the poor and those in spiralling debt. He started in an old abandoned woollen mill (Jubilee Mill, North St. Bradford, BD14EW) with just a phone, a computer and 17 years of experience working in the consumer finance industry. Now the charity has 266 debt centres in the UK and it is estimated that this number will rise to 300 by the end of this year and 500 by the end of next year. Staff and volunteers visit those in debt after they have been referred by local services. All their bills are removed from the client and the charity workers or volunteers negotiate with debtors and prepare a plan for the client who then agrees to stick to a budget which will eventually rid them of debt. 200 people now work at Jubilee Mill and the charity has expanded to Australia, New Zealand and Canada. This expansion of need is a poor reflection on our society in which increasing numbers of vulnerable people can’t pay their rent, bills or council tax or are forced onto the use of ‘pay day loan’ services. Christians Against Poverty run money management courses in 1370 churches in the UK to help people manage their money. The charity has negotiated with job centres and gained their support because the job centre workers find that the charity reduced their workload.
The Gospel clearly tells us to help the poor for example in Matthew 25. John Graver first came across Christians Against Poverty when he was pastoring a church in Bingley Yorkshire. Since then he has moved to Lancashire, Exmouth in Devon and is now CAP debt services manager for mid Norfolk where a centre has just been launched.
John recalled a woman he was asked to visit in Honiton. Her husband had left her with 2 children and she had virtually no food. Because of an anonymous donation to the charity there is a facility called ‘client aid’ which means that John could take this woman to the supermarket and buy her a supply of food. Another typical example of a client visit was to a man called Billy in Darwin Lancashire. When John knocked on this man’s door there was silence in spite of the fact that Billy was in the house. Finally Billy opened the door an inch but kept the door chain on. These people, who are in debt, live in fear of going out or the knock on the door by the debt collector. Christians
Against Poverty can release people from that terrible way of life. These people are given free debt counselling and all their bills are removed to the debt centre for negotiation with their debtors. This is a mission to show the poor that God loves them. During the work of this mission there are many opportunities to share the Gospels. Over 2000 people became debt free in 2013 and there have been many more salvations where people come to see Jesus as their Saviour.
John has been asked to run money management courses for children in schools and, through CAP, you can organise a course in your church. Ian Duncan-Smith who is the minister in charge of the current benefit changes has praised the 8 week CAP money course which also helps people to correctly fill in forms and understand the benefit system. This system is complex and even John has to attend training courses to keep up to date. If people in King’s Lynn want to start a debt centre the system is similar to the starting of the Foodbank. An annual fee is paid to CAP as the parent charity and CAP provide manuals and training to start local people to run the local centre. It needs a person with the heart to take on the initial work of setting up the local branch.
The whole charity is underpinned with prayer. You can join and receive the magazine called ‘Lifted’ which gives you topics to pray for. You can also make a regular donation to support the work which is all run by ordinary people. The average donation is £12 per month. There is a postcard which you can fill in to apply.
P. Coates 7.6.14