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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 services (debt, Job Club, Fresh Start, etc.) 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 also runs CAP Job Clubs to help people back into work as well as Fresh Start to help people with life-controlling addictions.

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
  • Woodbank Community Church, Woodhouse
  • New Life Church, Whitehaven
  • Emmanuel Church, Moor Row

The aim of the group is to support the CAP Centre, through prayer, finance and practical assistance. The Centre Manager is Jonathan Berry 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'
  • In 2018 over 2500 clients were helped to debt freedom!
  • In 2018 nearly 6000 people learn how to budget more effectively for their household through the CAP Money Course
  • In 2018, wonderfully, 885 people found a new life in Christ after working with one of CAP’s services.
  • 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

Prestigious award handed to CAP Whitehaven for their life-changing work

High Sheriff Presents Award

The High Sheriff of Cumbria, Julie Barton, has given Whitehaven’s Christians Against Poverty Debt Centre a Cumbrian charity award in recognition of the centre’s efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

She said, “The organisation stood out for its excellent work and I am very pleased that CAP Whitehaven is among a small number of charities across Cumbria whom I have selected to receive a High Sheriff Award this year.”

At an online meeting for those receiving awards as a celebration of her year in office, she also recognised the “amazing response to the COVID-19 crisis”.

The High Sheriff paid a special tribute to CAP Whitehaven for their “dedication, hard work and flexibility at tackling social isolation and loneliness”. In addition to the certificate awarded, the centre will also receive a grant of £500.

CAP Whitehaven’s Centre Manager, Jonathan Berry, responded to the award by saying how much it meant to all the volunteers; “It really puts the wind in our sails,” he said, as he also thanked the Cumbria Community Foundation, the Cumberland Building Society and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust who are supporting the charity’s work.

The High Sheriff spoke of how well she feels the free local debtcounselling charity are adapting to very different circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic and hoped that the award would help CAP Whitehaven to “tackle family breakdowns and suicide” and how the debt charity’s work “empowers people to break free from the chains of debt.”

Jonathan Berry, CAP Whitehaven’s Centre Manager, outlined the CAP process and how COVID-19 has impacted the service. “We have always been a face to face service but because of the pandemic we currently operate mostly via phone.” He also 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 had previously visited Whitehaven’s CAP Centre last year where she asked about the isolation that debt can bring to people’s situations. One of the CAP clients told her, “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 went on to say, “I gained the confidence to deal with the whole situation and I began to get my life back again”. She is now debt free.

High Sheriff of Cumbria Meets CAP Whitehaven Posse

CAP day Hensingham

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.”

CAP Whitehaven's work supported by 2 funds

The value of our debt-counselling work has been recognised by two grant-funding bodies in 2020. The Coalfields Regeneration Trust supports local work which is seeking to improve the lives of those residents of former coalfields areas. In April we received the news that CAP Whitehaven had been granted £10,000 to enable us to provide the award-winning service that has now been available in Copeland since 2013. This money is extremely welcome and secures the future of the centre for a further year, giving continued hope to those suffering the crushing despair of debt.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a severe effect upon CAP Whitehaven's work, which is holistic and face-to-face, and CAP headquarters have been working hard to find ways in which we can continue to carry out our debt-counselling in a socially-distanced way, something that is more difficult when many of our clients do not have access to good internet access and thus precludes their use of video-conferencing technologies like Zoom. Of course, the same restrictions on our former lives have simply compounded the problems that CAP Whitehaven's clients face, and many more people will be facing financial meltdown as the effects of this pandemic continue.

For this reason, CAP Whitehaven is hoping to employ a second part-time debt coach to work alongside Jonathan in order to be able to support more people. We put in a joint bid to Cumbria Community Foundation , together with CAP Carlisle and CAP Eden & District, all needing funding for an additional debt coach. The great news is that the CCF , together with the Cumberland Building Society's community fund have granted our three centres a total of £10,000 to be able to provide that extra capacity.

We are enormously grateful to these grant-funding bodies for the faith that they have placed in our work and we will be making effective use of every penny to help find routes out of debt for our clients and hope in a new life going forward.

Local band Eden Restored release CD, raising funds for CAP Whitehaven

Eden Restored is a Whitehaven band, drawn from two churches, that writes and plays its own Christian/gospel music. In December 2019 they released their first 5-track EP, “The Road”, which was an instant success on the church circuit, with a rush of initial sales. Band members Jonathan Berry (CAP Whitehaven’s centre manager), Dave Holburt, Tim Naylor and Hedd Fletcher recorded the CD at Tom Tyson’s Music Farm Studios in Egremont.

The public response has been terrific: “We are truly humbled by all your comments about the music and the messages in the songs,” was how the band commented on their Facebook page.

As well as the sales of the CDs (which are still available), the songs are also available on all the usual streaming/downloading sites (Spotify, i tunes, Google play, Deezer, YouTube). Any downloads from these sites will also boost the funds going to CAP Whitehaven.

Since the release of the EP in December, the tracks have been played over 30 times on the Cornerstone Christian Radio station, based in Blackpool, who transmit around the world.

The band are thrilled to announce that sales of the CDs have already surpassed the £500 mark, which “exceeded all our expectations.” The band were especially keen to point out that the songs are not simply aimed at a Christian audience but that the powerful lyrics offer great support for non-Christians as well, which has led people to enquire about the work that CAP Whitehaven is doing in its community.

Dave Holburt pointed out that “we have been truly humbled by all the sales and the wonderful comments we have had on the music and the messages in the songs”. Dave went on to say, “we are exploring other opportunities to raise more funds which will be handed over to support the wonderful work of CAP centre Whitehaven.”