Tue, 04 Dec 2018
A DEBT centre could be resurrected in Newbury due to a “huge problem” in the area.
Churches in Newbury are teaming up to open a Christians Against Poverty (CAP) debt centre to serve Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford and the surrounding areas.
The move follows CAP identifying Newbury as being in the top five per cent of enquiries to its call centre for unreached areas of the UK.
Calculations from Bridge Church Newbury show that approximately 19,500 people in the district are over-indebted; meaning that people have either fallen behind with their bills in at least three of the last six months or feel that their debts are a heavy burden.
Around 2,400 are foodbank debt-related clients.
The pastor at Bridge Church Newbury, Mark Landreth-Smith, said this demand along with council cuts to Citizens Advice West Berkshire had led the churches to take action.
He said that discussions with charities such as Loose Ends and West Berkshire Homeless had provided an insight into West Berkshire’s debt situation and “how we could together create and sustain a debt centre in Newbury”.
Mr Landreth-Smith said: “I discovered there was one [a debt centre] in Newbury before, but it had to close due to a lack of funding and volunteers.
“How can we not just resurrect this, but also learn from the previous experiences of a debt centre in Newbury and create a new one on a better foundation and with a longer-term future?”
Mr Landreth-Smith said that he had spoken with one resident who had debts of up to £70,000, excluding a mortgage.
He said that people got into debt for numerous reasons, from living beyond their means and easy credit to losing their job.
The proposed debt centre would employ a manager and volunteer befrienders, who visit indebted people and offer advice and counselling.
“Most of the work is visiting clients, talking through their bills and debt,” Mr Landreth-Smith said,
“Sometimes people don’t open the bills because they are afraid and they are in debt.
“Sometimes it’s just gathering information and facing the challenge.
“The great thing about CAP is they take responsibility for clients.
“We speak to debtors on clients’ behalf and take the pressure off.
“It really lifts the pressure off families.
“It’s a crippling scourge that can break up families.
“We want to help as many people out of the bondage of debt.”
He said that he would love to see the centre helping families in time for Easter next year.
The project has raised £15,750 of its £27,444 target and donations can be made at https://app.thegoodexchange.com and searching for Bridge Church Newbury.
Discussing a grant application at a meeting of Thatcham Town Council, member of Bridge Church Lisa John said: “We recognise there’s a huge debt problem in the area.
“A lot of times they don’t have any ways of dealing with it.
“Banks can help people with budgeting, but not the situation they are in.
After hearing the request for a grant, town and district councillor Richard Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central) said: “I think the Citizens Advice bureau covers the work that they do and that should be sufficient in my view.”
West Berkshire Council has cut CAWB’s funding by £100,000 in the last three years.
Thatcham Town Council granted the project £1,500.
With match-funding by Greenham Trust via The Good Exchange, this will bring the total to £3,000.