Helping families be debt-free

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A debt counselling service run in partnership between Christians Against Poverty (CAP) and Ashburton Baptist Church has reached a five-year milestone and continues to support people to become debt-free.

The free service aims to help families break the cycle of debt and poverty and is non-denominational.

Ashburton Debt Centre manager Nicola Dodd said the service had grown steadily since it started in 2015.

Some 10 families had been helped to become totally debt-free over the past five years and others were working towards the same objective.

Becoming debt free could take two or three years, or even longer, she said.

Mrs Dodd said the centre had seen steady demand for its services since the Covid-19 outbreak and referral numbers had been similar to 2019, when she had worked with two new families each month.

She expected self-referrals to increase as wage subsidies and other support disappeared.

Reduced working hours meant lower incomes, but families faced the same costs and some were finding it tough.

Mrs Dodd visits families in their own homes to gather debt and financial information.

She passes those financials to the CAP head office, which produced budgets and also negotiates with creditors to better manage the debt.

Clients manage their budgets and make payments into a separate bank account, which helps to ensure the debt is paid off,

Mrs Dodd said client debt ranged from hundreds of dollars to thousands.

Being able to pay it off took stress away from families, gave them more choices and enabled them to start accumulating savings.

The debt support service helped clients learn new skills, cope better and showed them that the cycle of debt could be broken, she said.

Mrs Dodd works from an office at the baptist church from 1pm until 5pm from Monday to Thursday and walk-ins are welcome.

There are 48 CAP debt offices around the country.

The CAP support number is 508 227 111 and there is more information at the website capnz.org.

-By Mick Jensen