Debt charity that prays with clients gets licence to expand

Debt charity that prays with clients gets licence to expand

Debt charity that prays with clients gets licence to expand12

Governance | Tania Mason | 11 Jan 2012

The Christian debt counselling charity that was forced to resign its membership of Advice UK after it emerged that it offers to pray with its clients, has secured a new licence that will enable it to expand its work with churches around the country.

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) has obtained a Group Consumer Credit Licence from the Office of Fair Trading, putting it on a similar footing to Advice UK in that it will be able to act as an umbrella body and grant consumer credit licences to other groups.

CAP's chief executive Matt Barlow said the licence would allow the charity to accelerate its growth into more geographical areas: “It will mean our charity will be able to partner in new ways with churches around the country to provide excellent debt counselling that truly changes lives. In a recent survey 94 per cent of clients described the service as ‘life-transforming’ or ‘a great help’.”

Last summer, CAP was forced to quit its membership of support network Advice UK after the umbrella body was made aware that it offers to pray for people who come to it with debt problems. Advice UK said that praying as part of the advice process was not compatible with its membership criteria, because “praying is not advice”.

CAP is a national charity with a network of 190 centres based in local churches.

As well as Advice UK, other organisations that hold a Group Consumer Credit Licence include Citizens Advice, the Institute of Chartered Accountants and the Law Society.

Carole Gallant
create a future
12 Jan 2012

There are not enough organisations where someone who is experiencing not only the fact of debt but the emotional, spiritual and phyisical effects of debt. Far too many organisations look at the facts without addressing some of the underlying needs. It does not matter if the person being prayed for believes or not - for many it is the first time that anyone has shown any empathy with their situation and it brings a measure of comfort. No one is looking for conversions - jus thelping those in need. Which is what we are called to do as Christians.

ps I am not a CAP staff member nor do I support them directly. I have referred people to them as there is no where else locally where I can send people in need.

Stephen Lulsley
Independent Commentator and Consultant
13 Jan 2012
Response to [Carole Gallant]

I agree wholeheartedly, Carole.

Trevor James
Sheen Stickland LLP Chartered Accountants
11 Jan 2012

CAP is providing a most valuable service. It is good news that this is recognised by the Office of Fair Trading.

Christians play a major part in the work of many charities and voluntary organisations. When an individual's faith inspires them to help others this is good news and we should all welcome this.

Managing Director
11 Jan 2012

The offer of a prayer may be viewed negatively by some and this is a whole other debate, but surely more critical is the overriding principle of availing good quality, free independent debt advice to people experiencing financial difficulty. The provision of free debt advice is still outstripped by the demand (it’s fair to say by a significant margin), so increasing provision can only be a good thing. Any argument around how appropriate it is to offer to pray for someone in this context, in practical terms, is far out-weighed by the fact that desperate people are receiving good quality advice and assistance. Advice UK made the right decision according to their constitution (and I say this as a proud AUK member) but if an offer to pray is politely made it can be politely declined, the advice must remain paramount.

Speaking as a citizen
11 Jan 2012

Mr Lulsley,

You can't be serious? A victory for common sense? A victory against the PC brigade?! Political correctness is typified by appealing to crackpot groups who wish to be afforded special status to do something nonsensical just because the flag of religion/race/gender/sexual orientation is waved.

I bet if I set up a 'holistic' advisory service based on realligning people's chakras and chanting you would be the first to cry foul.

Let's just allow advisory services to stick to dispensing advice shall we?

Stephen Lulsley
Independent Commentator and Consultant
12 Jan 2012
Response to [Sam]

Yes, a victory against the PC brigade!

CAP are not doing something nonsensical. They DO offer advice and support.

They do not charge for the prayer, it is entirely an optional refusable extra, so what is the problem, Sam?

Speaking as a citizen
13 Jan 2012
Response to [Stephen Lulsley]

Mr Lulsley,

It's no skin off my nose if CAP wishes to dispense prayers along with their advice. As long as the advice is sound.

My problem is with how you appear to be defining political correctness. As far as I'm concerned there is not a shred of difference between whether a prayer or a homeopathic remedy is dispensed alongside the advice.

I just can't see a homeopath being granted a licence to dispense financial advice, can you? To therefore pretend that CAP hasn't had been conferred special treatment, and is therefore the beneficiary of the PC brigade seems to defy logic.

11 Jan 2012

Praying for their clients is the least of CAP's issues. Failure to carry out even the most basic of debt advice good practice including distinguishing between priority and non-priority debts and failure to use the Common Financial Statement agreed with and accepted by the majority of creditors is far more of a concern. As is their lack of independent quality assessment.

Prayer may not be advice but I for one would not be overly concerned about that as a way in which the faith of the organisations members is impacting on their work. Where one has to question the behaviour of the organisation is in their inclusion of donations to the church in their statements of essential expenses submitted to creditors on a par with electricity, gas, food and rent.

Do you really think they should be licensed at all let alone setting up as an umbrella body for other agencies when their own practice is of such concern?

11 Jan 2012
Response to [M L]

M L - You clearly don't know anything about how CAP works.

"Failure to carry out even the most basic of debt advice good practice including distinguishing between priority and non-priority debts and failure to use the Common Financial Statement agreed with and accepted by the majority of creditors"

Funny how, in reality, CAP do distinguish between and Priority and Non Priority Creditors and do use the Common Financial Statement. Do they also advise people to take out pay day loans to repay their outstanding Gas bill? And fly around on broomsticks to visit their clients?


David Bennett
Head of Strategic Partnerships
Evangelical Alliance
11 Jan 2012

Why does the media insist on using words like "it emerged that..." as if CAP was hiding something? Thank God that the OFT is less biased against Christians than most Quangos and took a rational, informed decision. And well done everyone involved in getting the decision by Advice UK shown up for what it was.

11 Jan 2012

Everybody's happy then. I'm glad that Advice UK took a stand because I wouldn't go anytwhere where praying is involved - serios bursting-in-flames risk - but equally happy that CAP will be able to provide services for people with specific religious or cultural needs. Communities must be free and develop as they want and feel it suitable. Congrats to a civil society in UK.

Stephen Lulsley
Independent Commentator and Consultant
11 Jan 2012

Praise the Lord!

A victory for common sense and against the PC brigade who seek to deny that our behaviour as people needs to be addressed holistically; that is, both practically and spiritually.

Clearly the 94% per cent of clients (who) described the service as ‘life-transforming’ or ‘a great help’ feel that they were treated supportively and unjudgementally and were freer and more able to address their problems and issues in a more sympathetic environment.

Carry on the good work CAP and God bless you in all you do.


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