“Debt-free and set free”

With the support of Auckland Airport Community Trust, families living in poverty caused by unmanageable debt can receive the free help and support of CAP Debt Help.

CAP prioritises living expenses such as food and rent in families’ budgets, and also negotiates with creditors to get debt and/or interest rates lowered so that families can make repayments. Long-term caseworker support also ensures these families break free from debt and poverty.The leading cause of unmanageable debt for families in this programme is low income; the average amount of debt they come to CAP with is $20,000. One hundred and twenty families families in the area of benefit have worked to repay debt and are now completely debt-free.

David and Michelle from Māngere are one family who received Debt Help. They were living in a rented property with their three young children, as well as two adult children and their partners, who helped to share the rent.When the four other adults decided to move out, Michelle and David were left with the responsibility of a big property – and huge rent.The couple had already lived with debt for years. Being left with all the rent to pay escalated their financial problems, and plunged them further into debt.Michelle recalls, “I felt insecure, not knowing how we were gonna manage.” She was forced to return to work when her newborn was just two months old.

The couple were hounded by creditors, who would constantly ring or send letters demanding payment.Of course, they got behind on the rent... and the worst happened. Their landlord gave them a ‘90-day notice.’ Michelle and David were facing homelessness. They knew, with their history, it would be difficult to find another house for their family. Michelle recalls tearfully, “I felt like a failure.”Thankfully a friend gave her a CAP Debt Help pamphlet, and with their debt situation now dire, Michelle made that first call for help.

As CAP prioritises families’ living expenses from the outset, Michelle and David were better off straight away. And they had someone to stand in the gap, to help sort their housing situation. While Michelle and David had a long journey ahead to repay debt, they no longer carried the burden.“When CAP said ‘Give us the debts you want help with’ we said - you can have them all! We were able to just deal with our family while they dealt with our finances. No more phone calls. I could sleep. I felt relieved and free. I still do.”

Michelle and David worked hard to keep to their budget and make debt repayments, always with the help and support of their caseworkers just a phone call away. And after four years of this support, they’re now debt-free!They learnt crucial financial literacy skills throughout these four years, helping set them up for a healthy financial future. Ninety-one per cent of people like Michelle and David steer clear of unmanageable debt once leaving CAP debt-free.

The couple wanted to give back to the community, and so Michelle has trained to become a CAP Debt Coach!“My hope is that I will give someone else hope. And I would love my whole community to be debt-free. That’s my heart’s desire.”

This story appears in the Auckland Airport Community Trust's 2017 Annual Report.