While process in parliament has been glacial lately, Big Issue vendor Phil is bucking the trend. The 60-year-old mixes with political top brass on his pitch at Pret A Manger on Great Peter Street in Westminster, near the Home Office’s HQ.
Selling the magazine has given the self-described ‘ideas man’ (pictured below) a chance to run his latest brainwave past the likes of Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey, and he recently secured an audience with homelessness minister Heather Wheeler.
I was pleased to welcome @BigIssue seller Phil to my office
this week. Phil is a well-known face around Westminster so it was a real
privilege to gain an insight into his ideas on employment and mentoring for
former rough sleepers. pic.twitter.com/dtrITPq2zf
— Heather Wheeler MP (@HeatherWheeler) April 3, 2019
Phil is proposing a new way to bring jobs to homeless hostels to help residents to move into private rentals and free up space for more rough sleepers. He envisages councils offering jobs – such as street cleaning, litter picking or leaf sweeping – to homeless people. It would act like an apprenticeship with paid work for 100 days, resulting in a permanent position if the employee is a success.
The idea is that this is supported by sponsors to provide funding while they – or support staff like key workers – could also act as trustees, saving a proportion of their wages to cover a deposit for accommodation at the end of the trial period.
There are currently around 1,450 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
Complying with minimum wage and employment laws, Phil hopes successful workers will be able to save £2,000, enough to move into a shared rented property. “It will help people in long-term unemployment take a more realistic route back into work as it would be a gentle step which would give them more self-confidence for a better future for themselves,” he explains.
The proposal first gained traction on January 31 when Lord George Young of Cookham held aloft The Big Issue magazine he had bought from Phil earlier that day and said: “When I bought my copy of The Big Issue today from Phil in Great Peter Street I remembered the noble [Big Issue founder] Lord Bird. Phil suggested that those in the Victoria area who are recruiting staff could do well to call into the hostel where Phil stays where they would find some motivated, hard-working employees like him who deserve a break.”
A historic moment for @BigIssue vendor, Phil – who works on Great Peter Street, Victoria – praised by a long-standing friend of the magazine, Lord Young, in today's @UKHouseofLords housing debate https://t.co/9JFmNXJBvS https://t.co/UR5rozGjli
— John Bird (@johnbirdswords) January 31, 2019
He has seen a different side to politicians. “I’ve got Leadsom on my side, I know Andrea quite well. Esther McVey is also talking to me,” says Phil. “The pitch I’m on is quite powerful. I talk to people and say, ‘What do you do?’ and policy-makers talk to me. It is my little world, but I’ll talk to them like anybody else. That pitch is worth £100,000 to me, if you know what I mean, with all the valuable contacts, it’s really good.”
The initiative is being considered by Wheeler’s office, while Phil is keen on securing funding through Westminster Council’s ‘Chat, App, Tap’ rough sleeping campaign. Phil, who has sold The Big Issue magazine for three years, has seen a profound impact: “It is such an important thing, it’s the best thing I’ve done in my life, the most important thing I’ve done, and the most successful I’ve been in my life.”