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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Meeting of the Parliament 03 December 2019

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Scottish Prison Service (Auditor General’s Report), Glenrothes (Living Wage Town Campaign), Veterans and the Armed Forces Community, Decision Time, Point of Order, Purple Light-up Campaign


Time for Reflection

Good afternoon. Our first item of business today is time for reflection, for which our leader is Ms Emma Jackson, national director Scotland for Christians Against Poverty.

Jesus said to his host, “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your family, your friends or your rich neighbours—the kind of people who will return the favour. Invite some people who never get invited out—the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind—and you will be blessed.”

Whether or not you share, like me, in the Christian faith, it is hard to hear those words and not feel challenged. It is a poignant question for us at this time of year, when we are perhaps more aware than ever of those who have less than us: those living in debt or struggling with unemployment, or the many people battling issues of addiction and isolation.

Christians Against Poverty is a United Kingdom debt counselling and anti-poverty charity that, at its heart, seeks to connect the local church with those in most need, regardless of background. The unique partnership between individual churches that know their local communities, and our highly-trained, Financial Conduct Authority-regulated head office teams, works to enable families to journey out of debt.

Debt can be all consuming. Shame and embarrassment rob people of their dignity. Almost a fifth of our clients said that before they received CAP’s help, they missed meals daily. More than 35 per cent of clients have said that before CAP got involved, they seriously considered or attempted suicide because of their debt.

Here in Scotland, our award-winning network of 22 debt centres offers hope to those in the most difficult of situations. Through 20 years of providing free debt advice locally, we know that there is always a solution. Lives can be rebuilt.

At CAP, we know that debt is not just a financial issue. We strive, as standard, to offer people the very best support that goes the extra mile. We are interested in whole-person transformation. Our army of volunteers never shies away from providing kindness, compassion, a friendly face, a listening ear, gas or electricity top-ups, or a cooked meal.

When he contacted CAP, one client, Andy, was at rock bottom because of a broken relationship, mounting debt, alcohol misuse and anger. We took the burden of his debt and we showed him a way forward. That created space for him to heal and to rebuild his relationship, his wellbeing and his life. Andy is now debt free; he paid it all back. He is married, and he works as a local CAP debt centre manager, helping others to find freedom.

Community and connection matter to us all—even more to those who are facing the most difficult of circumstances. Although we cannot all be debt experts, we can all reflect on Jesus’s words and think about who is at our table. Who could we reach out to and offer dinner or lunch to? Who are you going to invite?

Thank you very much for your time this afternoon. [Applause.]