Whitehaven's debt centre has been praised for its work and the way it has adapted throughout the pandemic.

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) UK, at St John’s Church, Hensingham, received a visit from the High Sheriff of Cumbria, Julie Barton, who recognised the positive difference it makes to people’s lives.

The debt-relief charity, which also has centres in Carlisle and Eden, operates a free advice service and is needed now more than ever, with many people being made redundant and finding themselves in arrears as a result of the pandemic.

To help cope with the increased capacity, the Whitehaven centre is looking to take on a second debt coach to help cope, while the Carlisle and Penrith branches already have an employee in place.

A grant from Cumbria Community Foundation and the Cumberland Building Society’s Communities Fund of £10,000 to be shared across its three centres will help CAP continue its work.

The High Sheriff spoke of how well the counselling charity had adapted, moving face-to-face appointments to telephone calls. She found out how they are preparing for a likely “deluge of clients” and also learned about the isolation that debt can bring to people’s situations.

Julie Routledge, of Whitehaven Jobcentre Plus, also praised the service’s work. She has seen “the weight lifting off clients” when they engage with CAP.

“CAP’s always had a good reputation in the town," she said. "It’s a brilliant scheme that does its job in a different way to other debt counselling agencies and it’s very much-needed."

The High Sheriff said on Facebook: “Their experienced teams offer quality debt counselling, budgeting advice, and other support.

“They work with partners such as Fareshare. Debt affects mental health and relationships and can lead to social isolation, but the good news is that CAP are there to help and they make such a positive difference to people’s lives.”

CAP Whitehaven’s centre manager Jonathan Berry told Mrs Barton about a client who lived in darkness with their curtains closed, fearful of the next letter or the next phone call they would get.

But he said when CAP works with the client’s creditors, and a plan is in place, “it’s great to see light coming back into their homes and lives.”

One client, who is now debt-free said: “I didn’t want to tell my family what debt I was in, but when I started with CAP I felt so encouraged by the team – I never felt judged.

“I gained the confidence to deal with the whole situation and I began to get my life back again.”

Mrs Barton thanked CAP’s staff and volunteers, adding: “It was so good to meet you all. What you are doing is so important and helps so many people.”

Anyone struggling with money worries can contact CAP on 08003280006.