Behind the scenes

Here's how Big Issue has helped thousands work their way out of poverty

Big Issue delivered £5.3 million of social value to the UK economy last year. Leaders take note

Big Issue vendor Lawrence sells the magazine in Chiswick, London. Image: ©Louise Haywood-Schiefer

New figures show how Big Issue Group (BIG) has tackled the cost of living crisis head on by
supporting thousands of people affected by poverty to earn and find employment in the last year.

Almost 4,000 people were given the opportunity to change their lives through enterprise in the previous 12 months across the group’s services, including by selling the magazine or being helped into work through Big Issue Recruit (BIR).

To get involved with Big Issue’s National Vendor Week, click here.

The figures, released as BIG puts the spotlight on vendors for National Vendor Week, show that the number of people the group has helped grew by 8% year-on-year as the cost of living crisis continued to bite.

That work has resulted in the delivery of £5.3 million of social value to the UK economy – including £4m generated through sales of The Big Issue magazine and £1.3m through BIR’s work to help marginalised individuals move into the full-time workplace.

BIG CEO Paul Cheal said the statistics show that Big Issue’s model could demonstrate how to help people affected by poverty into sustainable employment.

“We believe that the government’s Back to Work scheme requires further consideration and enhancement to truly serve the needs of marginalised people,” he said.

“There is a huge opportunity to get more people into work and generate an enormous amount of social value in the UK.”

Overall, BIG supported 3,716 vendors to earn an income, delivered 1,400 hours of employability and skills training to marginalised individuals, and enabled 85 individuals to access new forms of employment through its BIR service.

That comes at a time when inflation and rising prices have hit households hard and pushed more into poverty, while stagnation has pushed the UK economy into a recession.

There has been a 148% increase in the number of people experiencing destitution since 2017, while 3.8 million are living in the deepest levels of poverty and struggling to afford essentials.

As of July 2023, 520,000 people were facing unemployment across the UK for six months or more – making up 35% of all individuals who are without work.

However, with nearly one million job vacancies in the UK and 531,200 skill-shortage vacancies in 2022, BIG’s success shows the potential of helping more people into sustainable work, Cheal added.

“If those 520,000 individuals could all be supported into employment opportunities through services like BIR, it could generate a potential total social value of more than £12 billion for individuals, communities, and the UK economy,” said Cheal.

“At a time when the country is facing an incredibly challenging economic recession, this is an approach we believe the government should take.”

This week BIG invites people across the UK to join us in celebrating individuals affected by poverty who are earning a living and working their way out. Together, we can forge a future where everyone has the opportunity to thrive in work, regardless of their background or circumstances.

To get involved with Big Issue’s National Vendor Week, click here.

Support your local Big Issue vendor

If you can’t get to your local vendor every week, subscribing directly to them online is the best way to support your vendor. Your chosen vendor will receive 50% of the profit from each copy and the rest is invested back into our work to create opportunities for people affected by poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

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