Employment

How Big Issue Recruit helped more than 100 marginalised people overcome barriers to work

Big Issue Recruit has supported more than 100 people in just one year, new figures show – and created more than £750,000 of social value.

Former Big Issue vendor Lavinia Neda (l) and Lotty Talbutt, Big Issue Recruit Job Coach. Image: Chocolate Films

Big Issue Recruit (BIR) has helped more than 100 people overcome barriers to work in just one year, new figures show – and created more than £750,000 of social value.

Stable employment can protect people from the worst of the cost of living crisis. But finding a job isn’t always easy. For marginalised people – those facing poverty, hardship, or other obstacles to work such as disability or illness – this job search is even more difficult.

Big Issue Recruit – The Big Issue’s specialist recruitment service launched in 2022 – helps marginalised candidates do just that. At its one year anniversary, BIR had registered and supported 109 candidates, its new impact report reveals.

Of these, 80 have so far been put forward for vacancies, with 43 securing employment.

“Our candidates are highly motivated and genuinely want to work but face very real and varied barriers,” said Katy Wright, programme director at BIR.

“Our person-centred, strengths-based approach has enabled our job coaches to get to know each candidate, develop a tailored journey to becoming work ready and then place them in appropriate roles.”

Mokhammed Moradi, 42, was one of the successful applicants. Forced to leave Kyiv, Ukraine, and flee to the UK 12 months ago, he turned to BIR for help. Now, he works as a warehouse operative at C&C, a premium drinks company.

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“Shak [a BIR job coach] helped me with my interview, with what to do and what to say. He told me to follow the history and know a little about the company, and he told me questions to prepare myself for before the interview,” Moradi said.

“I was very happy when I got the job. I said to Shak: ‘Thank you for your help. I’m very happy. You helped me and it worked.’”

Moradi is far from the only success story. Neil Reid took a few months out of work to care for his mother. Once she was better, BIR helped him find a job he loves – and regain his sense of purpose.

“Getting up and going to work makes you feel like you belong, like you have a place,” he told The Big Issue. “It gives everyone a reason to be around.”

Leventica Paun – another BIR candidate – always dreamed of being a translator. Big Issue job coaches supported her to find a job translating for Roma vendors.

“I am so happy… someone should pinch me and make me come back to normal,” she says. “It has been a very big thing for me, it has changed my life.”

The benefits extend beyond the wellbeing of the new employee, too. In its first year of trading to September 2023, Big Issue Recruit is estimated to have delivered more than £755,000 in social value. With a total cost base of £278,000, this means for every £1 spent on operational costs £2.72 of social value was delivered.

The Impact report is a huge vote of confidence in the BIR model, Wright said.

“Big Issue Recruit’s mission is to give marginalised people who face barriers to work, the same access to jobs as everyone else, and we have managed to prove not only that we can do it but that there is both appetite and a market for our approach,” she explained.

As the cost of living crisis bites, services like BIR couldn’t be more essential.

Some 1.45 million people aged 16+ were unemployed in October 2023. Unemployment levels increased by 206,000 on the year and were 77,000 above pre-pandemic levels.

Unfortunately, the government’s approach to dealing with this unemployment – placing sanctions on people on benefits who don’t find work – is flawed, says Wright.

“An increase in sanctions for people who do not take on any roles offered to them will… create increased fear, stress levels and mental health issues for those affected,” she warned.

“Our experience tells us that this is the worst possible state of mind in which to apply for work, represent yourself well and find sustainable employment.”

The government should redivert the tens of millions which are currently being wasted on fighting people who are appealing benefits decisions into scaling solutions like BIR, she said.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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