A clear memory that I have of my teen years is the frequent scolding I received from my parents for forgetting to turn the lights off whenever I left my bedroom in the morning.
At the time, I didn’t understand what the problem was, how much difference could it really make? “When you’re paying the bills, you’ll be just as keen to keep them off” would be the usual response from my Step-Dad.
And now, in my late twenties, that prediction has been confirmed as I find myself turning lights off whenever I leave a room (although I still receive the odd scolding, this time from my wife, left trying to read a book in a dimly lit room).
With energy costs rising at a rapid rate alongside numerous other bills, this is a childhood lesson that I’m now all too thankful for.
We’re all feeling the sting of this cost of living crisis, but this crisis has and will continue to have a disproportionate impact on low-income households.
Money management and learning to live on a lower income is sadly becoming an immediate necessity for many more people, with financial prioritisation being a requirement to live, not just save. ‘
There are three of us working in this house but we still can’t keep up. I’m just off to work today and that money will all go into the meter and it will still have to be topped up before the end of the week.’ CAP Life Skills member
Living on the edge
At Christians Against Poverty (CAP), we equip and empower local churches across the UK to help some of the most marginalised people in their communities find freedom from problem debt, gain vital life skills like money management, and more.
Simply not having enough money to cover the cost of essentials is the most common reason we see people ending up in poverty, with ‘low income’ being the most common reason CAP clients give to how they ended up in a debt crisis.
Low income prevents households from being able to create a savings buffer and it sees many households struggle to afford even basic necessities.
These underlying issues can then quickly spiral into a dire situation when unexpected costs come up. With previously stable incomes now being stretched further than ever, this is a very real possibility for many individuals and families in our communities and churches.
As people passionate to see change in your community, I want to encourage you that you aren’t alone in facing this challenge and, as someone who has the joy of witnessing the incredible work of local churches across the country, I want to reassure you that your actions do make a difference.
Living in hope
Alison Dennis, a member of Unity Church in Orpington and Manager of their CAP Life Skills service recently shared some of the ways that her church has been responding to the needs of their community.
“Unity Church is in the centre of one of the more needy estates in Bromley. There is a significant proportion of people on the estate that are on Universal Credit or Personal Independence Payment.
“These are difficult times for people and even more so since the extra money for Universal Credit was stopped. The church has responded by setting up a Community Fridge.
“We collect end-of-day food from various shops and also from a central hub. Twice a week we lay the food out on tables in the church car park and have a team of people who serve at each table. 30-40 families come each time, many coming both days each week.
“CAP Life Skills provides support for living well on a tight budget. The first Life Skills course attracted a large group, mostly Fridge users.
“It’s been so lovely to see people sharing their own tips and making friendships, as well as gaining the skills that the course provides.”
Living in community
The Church is uniquely positioned in its ability to support those in the most desperate situations, not just bringing practical help, but bringing real hope, friendship, and the love of Jesus. “It’s not just practical help that has been appreciated over this time but also the feeling that they are not alone and part of a community that cares.
The Community Garden grew out of the Fridge. It opens twice a week over the growing period for helping with growing veg and general coffee and chat. It’s open all year as a peaceful place to sit, increasing quality of life, especially for those living in flats without gardens.”
Whether you’re running support projects, or providing a caring community for those struggling through these turbulent times, you’re offering a vital lifeline.
How you can help
If you’re looking for more ways that you and your church can respond to the cost of living crisis, here are three things you could do –
Support – A good place to start is to find out about the local activities already taking place, few will turn down an extra pair of hands or prayer support.
Signpost – Christians Against Poverty offers a free debt help service, run by local churches, that helps people to find a practical, lasting solution to debt and poverty. Anyone can contact CAP, just call our free helpline on 0800 328 0006.
Start – If you’re looking for new ways that your church can practically respond to the rising cost of living, you could consider running CAP Life Skills: a group that helps members discover the skills to live well on a low income, from budgeting to cooking low-cost meals, to staying in control of their home energy.
Head to our website to find out more.
Sam Colbourn Leach, Christians Christians Against Poverty (CAP).
CAP provides free debt help and local community groups across the UK. Our free services, run with local churches, provide practical and emotional support and show people that there is always hope.