Tim Farron: “I support Lord Bird’s proposal of a Poverty Prevention Unit”

The Big Issue has challenged party leaders to put poverty prevention at the heart of government. All have agreed, and here Tim Farron explains how the Liberal Democrats would act on this

The Big Issue believes that 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. It’s why we need a real shift, to a new, systematic strategy of prevention. 

Led by Big Issue founder Lord John Bird, we’re pushing for a Poverty Prevention Unit to keep the spotlight on poverty. The £78bn plus that governments spend every year on the consequences of poverty 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, which would put poverty prevention right at the heart of national decision-making. A team of people who would keep ministers’ feet to the fire, and ensure this BIGGEST ISSUE can’t be kicked into the long grass.

All party leaders are in agreement on this. Here, Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron responds to The Big Issue’s prevention plan


“Fighting poverty and homelessness isn’t just an afterthought for me. It’s the cause that motivated me to get into politics in the first place, after watching Cathy Come Home aged 14. And today – in 21st century Britain – more than 4,000 people are sleeping on the streets. That is a scandal and it must end.

One of the first policies I announced in this election campaign was a commitment to end rough sleeping in Britain

That’s why one of the first Liberal Democrat policies I announced in this election campaign was a commitment to end rough sleeping in Britain. We will do this by ensuring that emergency accommodation and supported housing are adequately funded, but also by investing in homelessness prevention and restoring housing benefit for 18 to 21-year-olds.

You see, 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.

Preventing people from falling into poverty begins at school. We will make sure all children learn financial literacy, by including it in a slimmed down core curriculum to be taught in all schools.

The government must also do more to help people find jobs, rather than simply sanctioning those who cannot. We will make Job centres genuine places of training and support, and administer benefits separately. We’ll also expand programmes that help people with disabilities or mental ill-health into work.


The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.

The way people’s lives are torn apart by poverty and homelessness made me angry when I first watched Cathy Come Home as a teenager, and it still makes me angry now. I want a brighter future for Britain, where no one is trapped in poverty or forced to sleep on the streets. Together we can build that future.”

The Big Issue has asked for YOU to help us hold political leaders to account – to become part of our Activist Army and challenge MPs to back The Big Issue’s prevention manifesto.