Justin Welby becomes first patron of debt counselling charity CAP


The Archbishop of Canterbury is to become the first patron of debt counselling charity Christians Against Poverty, signalling once again his determination to put the issue of poverty on the front line.

His new patronage also shows however that his key objective is not so much engaging with political debate but actually taking steps to address issues such as debt and poverty at a practical, grass roots level.

"Most of us know people who've been in debt," he says in a video to launch the charity today.

"Many of us, probably most of us, have had moments when either we've been in debt or we've begun to wonder how on earth we're ever going to make ends meet. CAP deals in helping people to get free of the prison of debt and it's something I feel passionately about. And having seen them at work and having seen how effective they are, I wanted to be a patron and to support them in any way I could."

The charity has grown in nearly 20 years to a network of hundreds of churches across the UK. Archbishop Welby got to know its work during a visit to the Bristol diocese last year.

Archbishop Welby said: "First of all they tackle the issues where they really exist, they go to people's homes, they treat people as human beings, they keep them with their dignity, they're not trying to make money out of them, they're there to love them and to enable them to find their own way forward. It's not just about telling them what to do, it's about a sense of ownership and liberation for them.

"Secondly, they are linked to local churches. Over 20 per cent of CAP branches link in in some way to a Church of England church but all of them link in to Christian churches. That's really exciting because it means there's a community for those who want it. CAP don't force them into the church or anything like that but they offer them scope to find the support and love of a Christian community. That's wonderful."

The charity is also working in areas such as addiction that can lead people into a spiral of debt.

Founder and international director John Kirkby said: "We're delighted and grateful to have the Archbishop as our first ever patron. This is not something I would ever have imagined when I started all this in my spare bedroom in 1996.

"The Church of England is a major player in fighting poverty. Around 20 per cent of CAP services only happen on the ground, in communities, because of committed Anglicans who want to see a change. About 60 of their churches are running debt centres with us, for example."

Since his appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury in March 2013, Archbishop Welby has been outspoken about poverty and, in particular, the availability of easy credit from payday lenders. Last year he launched the To Your Credit initiative to promote responsible lending and financial advice.

Of the charity's 280 debt centres, 60 are based at Church of England churches with more expected to open next month.