How The Salvation Army is freeing people from debt in Bolton South

published on 12 Feb 2019

Bolton South

A small team are helping scores of people in Bolton and the surrounding area overcome their financial difficulties, as part of The Salvation Army’s free debt advice service.

Captain Janice Lahouel, church leader of Bolton South Salvation Army and Helene Callan debt advice co-ordinator, always find time for anyone who approaches the service needing a way out of their debt problems. Although a church-based service, they offer free impartial advice without discrimination to people of all faiths and none.  They are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Bolton South Salvation Army launched the free service in August 2016.  And to publicise its arrival to the church on Aldred Street, Captain Lahouel gave a special interview to BBC Radio Manchester’s Sunday Show.

Since then, demand for their service has grown significantly and the church is now looking for volunteers (as well as cash donations) to ensure they can help even more people who are struggling to keep their heads above water.

Captain Janice Lahouel, Corps Officer of Bolton South Salvation Army said:

“We want more people to know the service is here.  We’re incredibly busy but we’re a very flexible service, we will always find time to see anyone. For every client we help, we know there are at least ten more people out there who are also in need.

“There’s a lot of hidden debt in Bolton.  People get into debt for a variety of reasons, some are working, others are not.  Sometimes it is because situations have changed, they may have suffered a relationship breakdown; some people have had to give up work to care for someone or through ill-health.  On the surface they might look OK but in reality they’re only just managing every month. 

“Occasionally people make an appointment with us and then get cold feet and don’t show up.  Being in debt is a difficult thing to admit, it’s embarrassing but the hardest thing to do is to walk through the door in the first place. Once you take that first step, it gets so much easier.”

No two clients have the same issues and the number of sessions needed and type of help required to overcome individual debt problems varies considerably.  

The first thing The Salvation Army does is to contact creditors on their clients’ behalf to ask for all further action to be stopped while they build up a picture of their client’s financial situation. From there, depending on the level of debt and the ability to pay, there a number of solutions which can be put in place in order to deal with the debt and get the client back on an even keel, feeling in control of their finances once more. 

“We’ve helped so many clients in the last two years.  Some only need one or two sessions but some need a few more before we can really build up a true picture of their finances.  

“Some people just need help going through their finances, making some adjustments and sticking to a budget.  Other people have more pressing money worries; they might risk losing their home or they have serious debts caused by addiction of some kind but we can always help. We are able to ring the bailiffs on people’s behalf and stop them from going and taking their belongings!”

Situated at, Aldred Street, Bolton BL3 3QZ, Bolton South Salvation Army is at the very heart of the community and offers a range of services for all ages — from toddlers to knit & natter and Coral club (a social group for the over 50s) — and the debt advice service is helping even more people connect with the church and access all it has to offer.

“We are much more than a debt advice service.  We really get to know who the person is and it sort of spills over into pastoral issues.  Debt doesn’t come alone; it often comes with isolation, poor mental health and other problems so we help out with those issues too if we are able.

“The most important thing is to get help. People walk in here afraid and not wanting to meet your eye.  They walk out with their head held high — that’s just so rewarding to see.”