A CHURCH has launched a new debt counselling centre for people in need.

St Andrew’s Church, in Haughton-le-Skerne, Darlington, has partnered with UK debt counselling charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) to offer free debt counselling for the people of the town’s church congregations.

Members of St Andrew’s Church launched the project in a bid to better serve people living with the pressure of debt.

The members will be fundraising in order to offer the new, free service from September.

Rev Mark East, Vicar of St Andrew’s Church, said: “Debt stress can be very destructive.

“It affects family relationships, health and can be very isolating.

“As a compassionate community, we wanted to provide people with a route out of debt.

“CAP is distinct because it does that in partnership with the church. Sometimes people feel they have made mistakes but very often they have been driven into debt by suffering from job loss, relationship breakdown or coping with illness in the family or a bereavement – situations that are often difficult, emotional and have a financial impact.”

St Andrews is currently in the process of putting a dedicated Debt Centre Manager, Rachel Ryan, and key members of the church through training with CAP to offer a face-to-face, tried-and-tested professional service to help people get their lives back on track.

CAP has about 300 church-based debt help centres across the UK offering a free service, which usually begins with three home visits, although the impact of Covid-19 means that this has been temporarily adapted to phone conversations.

The charity received the praise of TV’s ‘Money Saving Expert’, Martin Lewis, who described them as “unsurpassed” in its service, which encourages and supports each household to repay what they owe – or go through an insolvency – until the day they are debt free.

It prides itself on being a service for all regardless of religious beliefs, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, sex and sexual orientation.