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CAP - Christians Against Poverty

CAP is a debt-relief charity, started in 1996 by John Kirkby, and which has since risen to be one of the most-respected in the UK. It has almost 300 debt centres based at local churches right across the UK, with a vision to open a total of 500 to reach the entire nation.  It empowers local churches to reach out to their neighbourhood with practical debt help and the love of Jesus.  It also helps people to learn budgeting skills through its CAP Money Course, running in over 1000 churches, and it recently started CAP Job Clubs to help people back into work.

Whitehaven’s CAP Centre opened in May 2013, the third one in the county.  The centre is based at Cornerstone Christian bookshop in town, but is run by St John's which has partnered with four other local churches to offer support and help to those in the grip of debt in the Whitehaven area.  The CAP Whitehaven Church Partnership Group includes:

  • St. John’s, Hensingham
  • St. Andrew’s, Mirehouse
  • St. Bridget’s, Moresby
  • Emmanuel Church, Moor Row
  • Woodbank Community Church, Woodhouse
  • New Life Church, Whitehaven

The aim of the group is to support the CAP Centre, through prayer, finance and practical assistance. The Centre Manager is Julian Berkeley who, with the help of a team of Befrienders, visits clients in their home to discuss their situation, communicating with CAP headquarters in Bradford who negotiate with creditors and who set up a CAP account for clients to pay money into, ensuring that there is enough left over for day-to-day living expenses. According to their situation, the clients will be given a timescale to becoming debt-free (usually within 5 years) as long as they stick to the plan. The Befrienders stay in contact with clients, helping and supporting them through the time it takes to reach debt-freedom.

How good is CAP’s service?

  • 94% of clients described the service as 'life transforming' or 'a great help'
  • 20,000 people are helped to become debt-free EACH YEAR!
  • Every year 10,000 people learn how to budget more effectively for their household through the CAP Money Course
  • 500 people each year find a new life in Christ
  • Martin Lewis (of Money Saving describes CAP’s service as “the best in the UK”.


  • Do I have to be a Christian?
    No, CAP’s industry-leading service is available to everybody, no matter what their religious beliefs.
  • Does it cost anything?
    No, CAP’s service is completely free for clients, although you may be so delighted with it that you’d like to see other families being helped in the same way by giving a donation (there is no obligation to do this).

News logo

Puppets tell the Christmas story

The Christmas CAP Client party took place at the Woodbank Community Church at the end of November. The place was heaving with loads of families bringing excited children who were quickly taken in hand by Ruth Henry who organised a series of fun games.

Puppets Christmas story

Of course, the adults couldn't let the kids have all the fun and there were loads of flying arms and legs as everyone hokey-cokeyed! What a selection of amazing goodies there were to feast our eyes upon - once again the volunteers in the CAP social team and our partner churches surpassed themselves and everyone was soon tucking into some scrumptious Christmas grub.

Meanwhile, the NISCU team had set up their stage and once everyone was ready they launched into a terrific series of songs and sketches feathuring a cast of wonderful puppets. They outlined the significance of the Christmas story, from a shepherd's point of view, and why that gift is so important to each of us, reminding us that we have nothing to offer the God who gave us His Son ... except ourselves. Barry Beecham introduced the songs and sketches and the whole thing was woven together brilliantly.

The evening was rounded off by some enthusiastic singing of Christmas carols followed by a farewell prayer from John Campbell, pastor of Woodbank Community Church, rounding off a lively and thoroughly enjoyable evening.

FareShare abroad in West Cumbria

The equipment Paul used during his marathon run

National charity, FareShare, helps to distribute excess supermarket food to families and individuals who are in need. Earlier in the year Copeland BC asked CAP Whitehaven whether we would like to be involved in the local network they were setting up with FareShare. Mildred Lanstead took up the challenge of working with the Copeland team to deliver FareShare food to CAP clients.

The first delivery took place on October 3rd when the van arrived at Cleator Moor library (having braved the wilds of Cold Fell on its journey from Preston!). Mildred and her team took boxes of grapes and other fruit, fridge items as well as boxed food out to clients who were really grateful. One client texted, "Thank you Mildred, Jenny and CAP for the food .... your work in organising and distributing it is much appreciated." Food deliveries take place every fortnight.

CAP Sunday hits the right spot

St. John's held its annual CAP Sunday on 15th October, a day when it focuses on the work of the charity locally and nationally. A packed church heard about the quest for the next CAP centre manager and about the importance of the church family and the volunteers in the actual running of the centre and the support through prayer. We also watched a moving video of how a CAP Christmas hamper had made such a very great difference to a family in real despair. And it didn't all end after the service as everyone had brought their delicious lunch to share with others at the bring-and-share lunch in the hall!

In amongst curries, chow mein, lasagne and sausage rolls we heard about the national work from Jackie Wilkinson, trained CAP speaker and member of partner church St. Andrew's. The talk and video was topped off with trifle, cake and coffee and everyone departed, having a very real sense of what God has been up to, our in our town and surrounding area, taking the Gospel and expert debt-counselling to family after family.

Lives transformed in the sunshine!

The summer CAP client lunch event was held on a gloriously sunny day in the convivial surroundings of Phil and Dave Sisson's garden in Midgey and what a happy event it was! Lots of CAP clients were invited, there was terrific support from the wonderful CAP team of volunteers and we had the honour of entertaining the CAP evangelism team leader, Wendy Parkinson, who had been invited to talk to the gathering.

Meeting in garden

We sat round, cold drinks in hand, chatting away and after the first course Wendy told us about her early life, the abuse she had suffered and how dirty she felt as a result. But, wonderfully, she had discovered that Jesus Christ could make her clean - she didn't have to be clean before she came to Jesus - and that the moment she had asked Him into her life, everything had changed: she felt whole, she was clean and she was loved!

This was a powerful story but, best of all for those gathered in the sunshine, we heard that this offer of wholeness was for everyone and upon hearing this there were three clients who asked Jesus into their lives, to begin his life-transforming work within them!

We sat and prayed with them and later one of those new Christians texted "Thank you so much for today - I feel so much better"! The puddings tasted even better after that!