In 2022 Big Issue Group and Specsavers united on a mission to make expert care accessible for people who are experiencing homelessness, one of the most overlooked and neglected communities in our country.
Our Vision For Change initiative is providing free eye tests, glasses and wax removal to Big Issue vendors and the front line team nationwide in a partnership that’s transcending typical corporate social responsibility statements – taking action where it’s needed most and making a real difference. This isn’t a short-term initiative, the aim is to make a real difference, working towards dismantling barriers to essential care and providing help to everyone.
George Anderson, who sells the magazine in London, articulates a significant barrier to healthcare: not knowing that help is available. “The primary reason for leaving it so long was just cost – I was fearful,” he explains. “I suppose there was a slight ignorance on my part. I never went into a place like Specsavers to enquire. I just assumed it was going to be too expensive for me to deal with.” It’s clear that our initiative is opening doors that many thought were closed to them.
In Bristol, vendors Will Payne and Daiana Dumitru also talk about how the support from Specsavers has helped them. Will, a poet, writer and novelist, describes how his deteriorating eyesight affected him: “My eyesight was shortening, shortening, shortening, leading to headaches, dizziness and fainting spells,” he tells us. “I’m a writer myself, so words are everything to me. But you can’t read the words if you can’t see properly.”
After receiving his glasses from Specsavers, Will’s world transformed: “It’s been incredible,” he says. “I can see everything crystal clear. The words dance off the page!”. And new glasses meant he could resume a training course for security work at music festivals, improving his skills and ability to earn more money.
Daiana echoes Will’s sentiment: “I think that this was a really good project,” she says. “My glasses have really helped me. They have helped me to read much more than I used to.” Her involvement extended to a drop-in session for the Roma community at the Specsavers store in Bristol city centre, where she has helped others access eye tests and glasses.