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Austerity, Community Action, and the Future of Citizenship$
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Shana Cohen, Christina Fuhr, and Jan-Jonathan Bock

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781447331032

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447331032.001.0001

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Breaking the hold of debt: Cambridge Money Advice Centre

Breaking the hold of debt: Cambridge Money Advice Centre

(p.81) Five Breaking the hold of debt: Cambridge Money Advice Centre
Austerity, Community Action, and the Future of Citizenship

John Morris

Policy Press

This chapter explores the work of the Cambridge Money Advice Centre, a faith-based debt advice charity located 80 km north of London that has been serving local people for eleven years. In that time it has witnessed (i) a period of growing economic prosperity accompanied by an increase in the availability of credit, (ii) the financial crisis of 2008 resulting in the withdrawal of some forms of credit, (iii) the introduction of austerity measures in 2010 causing personal financial hardship and thus making debt repayments more painful, and (iv) a subsequent slow growth in the economy only helping those who are not adversely affected by austerity. The implications for this see-saw variation in the UK’s economic performance for both a middle class and working class population are described in terms of the general accessibility of credit and individuals’ ability to meet debt repayment obligations. The debt advice process and clients’ attitudes and practical responses to being in stressful, unmanaged debt are illustrated by eight case studies. The Christian motivation of volunteer advisers to support others is also examined. Finally, in an era of intense stigma surrounding debt and reliance on welfare benefits, the isolation suffered by debtors in their communities is noted. The nature of the client-adviser relationship, which often bridges social boundaries, is also strained by professional boundaries and clients’ ambivalence towards engaging with the emotionally draining process of getting their debts under control. Ironically, community-building is best seen between advisers themselves and their partners in other welfare services.

Keywords:   Cambridge, Christian, communities, debt, money

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