Major party leaders back The Big Issue’s poverty prevention plan

Ahead of polling day Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, Tim Farron, Caroline Lucas and Leanne Wood have ALL pledged to change poverty policy

In an election marked frequently by a refusal by any politician to commit to anything, a strange thing has happened. We have agreement.

In The Big Issue this week you can read Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, Tim Farron, Leanne Wood and Caroline Lucas all agree to back The Big Issue’s call for prevention to be at the heart of policy.

While polls shift as quickly as manifesto U-turns, throughout the campaign The Big Issue has been clear. There must be a focus on ending poverty in Britain. And the only REAL way to break the poverty cycle is to work to prevent it taking hold.

There is only one way we are ever going to address social divisions – by putting prevention at the heart of our approach

Led by Big Issue founder John Bird, we’re pushing for a Poverty Prevention Unit. After decades of failed ministerial attempts to address poverty, we need a Prevention Unit to keep the spotlight on poverty. The £78bn-plus that governments spend every year on the rat’s nest of consequences of poverty – in educational underachievement, bad health, poor employment, drink and drug abuse and the criminal justice system – would be much better targeted by prevention.

We’ve challenged every major party leader in Britain to back our call for a non-partisan unit and this week each have written in The Big Issue about their commitment to the cause.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “There is only one way that we are ever going to address these enduring social divisions in the long term – by putting prevention at the heart of our approach.

“If we continue to focus on the symptoms or immediate consequences of issues like homelessness, we will fail. We must instead understand the complex issues that contribute to people becoming homeless in the first place – including domestic abuse, mental illness, problem debt and housing insecurity – and tackle them early to prevent people from suffering further and becoming harder to help.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also backed the need for prevention. “A Labour government will not measure our success by the number of millionaires that live here, but by the absence of poverty in our country,” he said.

“Instead of setting people against each other, leaving some in lavish wealth, and others in crippling hardship, we should come together as a society to ensure that no one goes without. That is how we can bring about positive change and ensure that everyone has the best opportunities in life.”

Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP, agreed. “When I hear Big Issue founder Lord Bird claim that ‘poverty is stitched into the system’, it’s hard to disagree. All of us have a role in fixing it.

“Prevention is better than cure – and I’m extremely sympathetic to calls for a prevention unit to work across the public sector and across the governments in these islands.”


The Big Issue magazine is a social enterprise, a business that reinvests its profits in helping others who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or whose lives are blighted by poverty.

Tim Farron of the Liberal Democrats said: “Like The Big Issue, we understand that prevention is better than cure. I am pleased to add my support to Lord Bird’s proposal of a Prevention Unit that works across government to make sure every department plays its role in tackling the causes of poverty.”

“Plaid Cymru wholeheartedly endorses The Big Issue’s calls for a poverty prevention unit working across health, education, social services, police and prisons,” wrote Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood, while co-leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas, added: “We know that poverty costs about £78bn in this country and it causes untold misery. So the Green Party is proud to say that when Green MPs are elected we will put poverty prevention at the heart of everything we do.”

I am pleased to add my support to Lord Bird’s proposal of a Prevention Unit that works across government

There are 14 million people living in poverty today. But The Big Issue knows that poverty isn’t inevitable. It is conquerable. It is preventable. It’s why we need a real shift, to a new, systematic strategy of prevention.

We believe in a fence at the top of the cliff, not an ambulance at the bottom. We believe that by investing in people’s lives early you provide routes out of poverty and into better futures, especially for the poorest in society. We believe that better use of resources will improve the quality of people’s lives and reduce the need for expensive state services when lives are beginning to spiral out of control.