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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 five 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

CAP Whitehaven has a new Centre Manager

After more than 5 years as Centre Manager Julian Berkeley has now handed over the reins to Jonathan Berry. Julian was instrumental in the developing of CAP Whitehaven well before he took over the role of Centre Manager in May 2013 and during this time he has worked with well over 150 people struggling with debt.

On Saturday 3rd March 2018 many clients and their families, volunteers and partner agencies met at St. John’s Hensingham to thank Julian for the love and commitment and to wish him well in his future and also to welcome Jonathan.

As well as supporting many families and individuals to become debt free Julian and his team of over 30 CAP volunteers have also supported them by providing emergency food shops, Christmas hampers and blessing them with items such as washing machines, carpets, furniture, clothes etc.

Julian has also built up good relationships with many partner referral agencies. Julian’s passion and love has truly changed lives. Those volunteers, from across the partner churches, are involved in a variety of roles such as befriending, the prayer team, arranging social events and more recently the development of CAP Fareshare and much more.

Jonathan, and his wife Iris, are working towards taking the work to a new and exciting level, building on the firm foundations laid down by Julian, leading clients towards a relationship with Jesus and welcoming them into our partnership churches.

Community has a Flipping Marvellous time!

On the Saturday before Shrove Tuesday a Flipping Marvellous Pancake Party took place in the St. John's Church hall. It was organised as a fundraiser for Christians Against Poverty and folks arrived to find the church hall beautifully laid out and decorated in green (that's the CAP balloons and paraphernalia then!). The CAP team led by Phil Sisson and Sue Pearson had sorted the hall out and set out a cooking area and a play area. The cooking itself was marshalled by Sarah Edwards of the Workers Educational Association. The wonderful Sarah had arrived with numerous induction hobs (amazingly they cook food brilliantly but as soon as the pan is taken away they go cold, so kids can use them safely). She also brought all the pancake ingredients together with lots of yummy fillings and (most importantly) the risk assessments!

Pancakes being flipped

Once all was ready, the floodgates were opened and the cooking teams rolled in - well, lots of families and folks from Hensingham and beyond who had heard of the Pancake Party (it was even in the Whitehaven News!). Sarah made sure that everyone knew what was where and what to do and in no time mums, dads, kids and Uncle Tom Cobbly was stuck into stirring batter and choosing toppings. Then it was time to test out the flipping skills (no battle hats available here) and lots of laughter ensued as cooks tried, failed and succeeded in getting their creations rotated through 180 degrees! Whatever they ended up looking like, they tasted yummy!

After two hours folks had come, eaten and gone (fuller and happier) and it was time to pack away and count up the funds raised, which totalled £142!

Thanks must go to the amazing CAP team but especially to Sarah Edwards of the WEA without whom the Flipping Marvellous Pancake Party would have been a whole load more difficult!

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.