Big Issue Foundation

A day in the life of a service broker by Susannah Wilson, Birmingham

A day in the life of a service broker by Susannah Wilson, Birmingham

10am – an appointment

It’s Wednesday morning and my first appointment is with someone returning to sell The Big Issue after a short break – he’s living in a hostel due to family breakdown, and is waiting for a benefit claim to get up and running. Therefore, he’s keen to get out selling, but I write out a referral to a food bank for him first. We discuss where he’s going to go to sell, and I make him a badge and book him onto a pitch in the city centre.

11am – a lesson

Alex, our ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher, arrives and I discuss today’s lesson – this week they’re going to learn how to talk about families using pictures of the Royal Family! Giving our vendors a way to build relationships with their customers is key to regular sales, and family is always a good talking point. We have eight students with varying levels of English – for those with very low levels, the classes are linked to their badge validity. Walking past the classroom, I hear them singing the alphabet song together in a deafening and very enthusiastic style!

12pm – a meeting

Whilst the class is in progress upstairs, a colleague from the Community Mental Health Team drops in to introduce a medical student who’s shadowing him, and asks me to explain a little about what we do and the referral process. After the class there’s a flurry of activity as badges are renewed, and vendors very proudly ask to buy magazines using the correct sentences they’ve just learnt – it’s really amazing to hear.

2pm – a problem

In the afternoon, I meet a vendor who presents me with a large carrier bag of unopened envelopes. He hasn’t wanted to look at it as he’s been worried about what might be in the pile, and he is suffering from poor mental health currently. We sift through it and put it in order. I find various bills that need paying, so I make some initial phone calls to the water and electricity companies explaining the situation. I make an appointment for the vendor and me to meet with the CAB debt worker, so we can work out the best course of action. He says he feels like a massive weight has been lifted.

3.30pm – a visit

I then make a couple of calls to vendors in Leamington Spa – I visit the Salvation Army there once a fortnight on a Friday to meet with our vendors. I make an appointment to do a review with a vendor, to discuss his sales, and to talk about how to move forward with his drug treatment. I assemble the paperwork I need for my visit, and make a phone call to the Salvation Army team to work out the best contacts to make in the drug treatment team, to make sure he gets the best person available to work with.

5pm – a stop-off

Another busy day at the office ends with me cycling past our co-ordinator, checking he’s got enough magazines to sell to the city centre vendors this evening, before I make my way home.

Every copy counts this Winter

Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Winter. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Winter.

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