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