Julia is new leader at Norwich CAP debt advice centre
Christians Against Poverty has appointed Julia Morrish is to lead its Norwich team, which is based at Surrey Chapel in Botolph Street. CAP is a charity which helps people to escape overwhelming personal debts. Eldred Willey reports.
Julia (pictured above) takes over from John Graver who, after four-and-a-half years leading the Surrey Chapel team, is moving to Burnley to open a new CAP centre there. During his time in Norwich, John saw approaching 300 clients, and helped 100 of them to become debt-free.
Julia was previously a teaching assistant at Brundall School, but felt called by God to be doing something different. She handed in her notice and worked for four years as a volunteer befriender with CAP, meeting regularly with indebted families and accompanying them to appointments.
“I loved the fact that I saw clients’ lives being transformed,” she said. “I felt God wanted me to train as a debt coach, so I went to Bradford, and did a two-week course there at CAP headquarters.”
Julia tells the story of one couple in Norwich with two little boys, who were in huge debt. The mother was isolated, anxious and suicidal. CAP supported the family as it went through bankruptcy; now it is back in control and has even managed to have a holiday abroad.
The father became a Christian first, then the mother. The couple got married and were baptised. They are now both CAP befrienders.
“The clients totally relate to them,” said Julia, “because they have been through it themselves. The mother’s life is jam-packed now, and from being turned in on herself, she goes over to people and makes them welcome.”
“We always offer to pray for people,” explained Julia, “and only two people didn’t want it. Clients often see God in answered prayer. We would only talk about God if people are open, but when they are, we say that God loves them and cares for them.”
CAP tends to deal with the most vulnerable people, who often suffer from mental ill-health. “They are normally receiving lots of letters and calls about their debt – even visits from bailiffs,” she said.
“When we are in our homes we take for granted the fact that they are warm and safe. The houses I go into are cold, and have no food – literally no food in the fridge or in cupboards. The families are frightened and have lost their dignity and self-worth. They are often taking medication for anxiety or depression.”
Most of these families have fallen into debt through unstable income, relationship breakdown, mental ill health or zero-hour contracts, which are becoming much more common in the UK. Hardly any of the clients have a debt crisis as a result of reckless spending on credit cards.
On first visiting a family, Julia collects all the relevant paperwork and sends it off the CAP headquarters. The financial experts there put together a budget and a plan for getting out of debt, then negotiate with the creditors, allowing a justifiable amount for the family to spend on essentials like food.
The family then makes payments to CAP, which it dispenses among these creditors. If the family can get out of debt in three years, a repayment model is followed; if longer CAP advises the insolvency route.
When there is no food in the house, CAP can do a one-off food shop. It will also top-up gas and electricity if the house is cold.
“Surrey Chapel has been so supportive of CAP,” said Julia. “Lots of clients come to the church. We have a lunch club for clients on Tuesdays – a place where they can come and belong. People start to look outwards, and they realise there are other people going through the same things as themselves.”
Some CAP families go along to messy church or holiday clubs at Surrey Chapel. There is also a Job Club linked to the church, which gives advice to people seeking to return to employment.
“It makes a huge difference being a Christian organisation,” said Julia. "You see people as God sees them: really valued. You want to show them His kindness and compassion. You realise that this is not what God intended for them.”
Julia invites members of the wider community to pray for the work, and if they are interested in becoming befrienders, to get in touch on 0800 328 0006.
CAP was founded 23 years ago by John Kirkby, who himself went through a debt crisis which led to the break-up of his marriage and the loss of his home. There are now 392 CAP centres across the UK.
CAP advises that if you know things are out of control with debt, and you’re stressed, missing meals or sleep, to please ring 0800 328 0006.
Find out more about CAP at www.capuk.org