Four churches in Henley have teamed up to open a Christians Against Poverty (CAP) debt counselling service for people in Henley who are struggling financially.
The Henley Debt Centre was launched on Monday evening at d:two and will be managed by Olympic rowing silver medal winner, Debbie Bruwer (previously Debbie Flood). Guests were treated to refreshments kindly provided by Waitrose, Majestic and Brakspear before learning about how the Centre has been set up and how it will support those in trouble with debt and through the cost of living crisis.
Debbie is swapping her oars for paperwork and bills to try and help people in Henley struggling in debt as the impact of the cost of living crisis is being felt by many on a low income in the local community. Debbie said “Going from competing in the Olympics to helping people out of debt is certainly a big change for me personally but me and other members of the local churches here in Henley just really want to offer help to those struggling in our community during this cost of living crisis.
“Living with debt or financial worries is extremely difficult. It affects so many areas of people’s lives – relationships, physical and mental health, not being able to afford the basic essentials. It can also be very isolating.
“As a compassionate church community, we want to be there to support local people in need, work with them on their route out of debt, providing emotional and practical support every step of the way until they go debt free.”
Although the service is backed by Christians Against Poverty, you don’t have to be a Christian to get help. Debbie will be working part-time and will work with 2 clients a month. They would like to recruit a new coach to work alongside Debbie and are looking for funding for this so that they help around 50 people each year. The Mosawi Foundation, a local charity made a donation to fund Debbie’s role and hope that this will encourage other organisations and charities to support this new venture.
Terry Grourk, Trustee, Henley on Thames Churches Debt Centre said, “Debbie has received extensive professional training from CAP and the Debt Centre hopes to offer not just debt counselling but in the future training courses for people who are sliding into debt and a Job Club to help people into work.”
Andy Jones from Henley’s Citizens Advice feels the service is needed locally “There is such a misconception that everyone in Henley is rich! We see struggling families every day, and it is so exciting to be able to refer people to a local set up that provides free, compassionate help to people in real need”.
Tim Prior, “Manager of Nomad Youth & Community Project” based at d:two in Market Place agreed, “During the pandemic our Foodbank saw nearly a ten-fold increase in demand, and although things have settled, we are still donating over 120 large bags of food every month. Debt crisis is another big issue for many of our clients, and we are delighted to work in partnership with CAP”.
The Chair of Trustees, Father Jeremy Tayler, Rector of St Mary’s Church, Henley-on-Thames says, “Luke’s gospel tells us that Jesus’ preaching ministry began with the promise to ‘bring good news to the poor’. As followers of Jesus we are called to continue this work, and to bring good news to those who are struggling in our communities.
“We want to help people in our community, who may feel their situation is hopeless, see that there is hope and work with them to find a way out of their financial predicament. We do this all with warmth, compassion and without any judgement.
“Debt can occur for so many different reasons – low income, ill health, bereavement, job loss, a relationship breakdown – these are things that can happen to any of us and seriously impact our finances, especially during a cost of living crisis.
“We are also looking for people in Henley to support our debt help centre long-term so we are able to keep the centre running with the aim of helping families out of poverty and into a brighter future. This service will be life changing for many so we’d like to invite you, if you feel able, to support us in any way you can so together we can help as many people in our community as possible through this cost of living crisis and beyond.”
Debbie is urging people to contact her if they are struggling in debt, “We know it can be really hard for people to seek help but the sooner you seek help, the sooner we can begin to sort the problem. We want to encourage anyone who is struggling to contact us so we can work with you to help you out of debt.”
For free non-judgemental support or to offer help for the new Debt Centre, please contact Debbie on email@example.com and 07379 040116