Debt Saviours and where to get help with debt

Image of a documentary maker for Debt Saviours filming John Kirby

Filming Dr John Kirby, CAP founder (copyright: CAP)

Did anyone else watch Debt Saviours, the documentary about Christians Against Poverty (CAP) and their work on debt relief? It went out on BBC2 at 9pm on October 5, and I just saw it on catch up here.

I was left uneasy about the focus on religion, the implication that CAP uses debt advice to recruit people into Christianity.

I was more uneasy, and in fact downright angry, that the programme might put people off seeking help with their debts. Debt and poverty are enormous issues in our society. A million people are in outright destitution right now.

Debt Saviours

Originally, I tuned in hoping to see practical advice about debt help. Explanations about how debt relief organisations can help lighten the load, negotiate with creditors, get bailiffs off people’s backs and suggest alternatives to bankruptcy like Debt Relief Orders.

Instead, the camera lingered far longer on religion: prayer meetings at work, praying with debt clients, leaflets, images, crucifixes, church services, preaching and hymn singing.

To be fair, Debt Saviours did give some idea that CAP does amazing work, helping thousands of people become debt free. It followed the stories of several individuals in dire poverty and dreadful need, showing how CAP supported them.

But the programme seemed to present CAP as preying on the vulnerable, offering debt help while pressuring them to come to church. Maybe the Christian angle provides extra support, via the hope and friendship within a church community, even just by getting isolated people out from their own four walls. I don’t know. I’m not an evangelical Christian. Winston Churchill’s comment strikes more of a chord – that he supported the church like a flying buttress from without, rather than as a pillar within.

But I do worry that CAP was stitched up by a documentary team that originally promised coverage about the level of destitution in the UK, then swivelled to focus specifically on CAP. (CAP blog)

So let’s be clear: you do not have to be Christian to get help from CAP. CAP offers debt counselling, life skills classes, job clubs and more – for free. I know people who have done CAP money management courses and really recommend them. Some charities can only help online or over the phone. CAP has the major advantage that it will arrange home visits too.

Help with debt

I really hope Debt Saviours encourages people to seek help with poverty and debt, rather than putting them off. I reckon CAP does great and much-needed work, but there are several other debt relief charities out there. Debt charities offer confidential, impartial advice to help people become debt-free, protect their families and homes, and deal with creditors. However big your debts, there is always a route out.

Organisations include:

Christians Against Poverty (CAP): website and free helpline for new enquiries: 0800 328 0006 (open on week days during working hours)

StepChange: free debt advice online and over the phone. Website or call 0800 138 111 after completing a budget form. You can even fill in their online debt advice form in the middle of the night.

National Debtline: website and freephone 0808 808 4000

Citizens Advice: try their online webchat or make an appointment at a local Citizens Advice centre.

Debt Advice Foundation: website and free helpline 0800 043 40 50 which is open on Saturdays too

Payplan: website and free helpline 0800 280 2816 also open on Saturdays as well as during the week

Also, I couldn’t mention debt help without recommending Debt Camel, the blog by Sara, a Citizens Advice debt counsellor.


Now – over to you. What did you think, if you saw Debt Saviours? What do you think, if you’ve ever used CAP or another debt charity? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear.

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  1. Roberta
    14th October 2018 / 10:52 am

    I watched the programme too. Agree with your comments about the religion focus. Spooky.

    • Faith
      15th October 2018 / 12:31 pm

      As CAP’s name suggests, it is Christians Against Poverty, but I did think there was too much focus on the religious angle.

  2. 14th October 2018 / 7:14 pm

    I’m afraid the BBC seem to have a track record of bias against evangelical Christians. It’s a group they can poke at without fear of reprisal. CAP do great work and no one should be afraid to use their services, no strings attached.

    • Faith
      15th October 2018 / 12:32 pm

      Glad you can confirm that CAP’s work doesn’t come with strings attached, Caroline. Shame about the bias.

  3. Sam from Swimming!
    19th October 2018 / 6:45 pm

    I’ve been to a CAP course, it was fantastic. I’m so sad that the program could put people off in future.

    It was such sound, sensible advice that came with great online budgeting tools I still use. Apart from the explanation of CAP – christians helping people out of poverty – there was no religion involved.

    Going to watch the program now and shout at the tv!

    • 22nd October 2018 / 7:35 am

      Oooh online budgeting tools sound handy. Glad you had such a good experience with CAP.

  4. linda
    21st October 2018 / 3:46 pm

    I have seen the amazing work CAP does to support individuals and families in debt. It is run by volunteers who are Christians and offer a positive lifeline to those in need but I do not believe there is pressure for people to attend church. It does accept people no natter their situation and offers hope for their future through money management support .It is a shame if this programme puts those in need of support off.

    • 22nd October 2018 / 7:36 am

      Great that you’ve seen CAP’s good work in action. On Twitter, CAP reckoned they’d had shedloads of calls following the programme, so hopefully didn’t put people off.

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