Former Big Issue vendor Lavinia Neda (l) and Lotty Talbutt, Big Issue Recruit Job Coach. Image: Chocolate Films
Big Issue Recruit is the new initiative linking recruiters and candidates to help get Britain working again.
It’s the latest innovative solution built on Big Issue Group’s 30 years of experience creating opportunity and dismantling poverty, and it’s that enterprising foundation which will carry us forward into the next 30 and beyond.
Here are three success stories from the tens of thousands who have passed through the Big Issue’s doors and had a hand up — not a handout — to get their lives back on track.
Lavinia Neda, Cardiff
A manager at Wild Thing cafe in Cardiff, Lauren was keen to diversify her team but was faced with a barrage of CVs from unsuitable candidates. She went to Big Issue to see if they could find someone who was up to the job.
Lavinia arrived in the UK from Romania with her husband, looking for better jobs to support their family. She had experience working on a market stall and in a recycling factory in Romania, but struggled with the language barrier and with low confidence in her new environment.
She started selling The Big Issue almost right away, as a way to make some cash while she looked for other work. She also knew that she would have to improve her English to get a job, and selling The Big Issue to customers every day was a way of doing that.
One of Big Issue’s outreach workers, Lotty, supported Lavinia (above) to attend English speaking workshops and a barista workshop where she learned how to make proper coffee. Once Lotty knew that Lavina had the skills she’d needed to excel at work, she started helping her look for opportunities. After meeting Lauren at Wild Thing Cafe, she saw a perfect match.
Lavinia learned more and developed her skills and moved up the ladder. She is now head chef at the cafe. Wild Thing cafe has gained hard-working staff and customers who are aware of the cafe’s social mission, and Lavinia has a job she loves.
Steve Wyatt, Poole
Back in 2006 Steve was checked into a therapeutic community to address his substance abuse issues. But he did a runner from there with money he had stolen from the facilities. For a few years he was in a very dark place, spending time in prison, injecting drugs and sleeping rough.
He started selling The Big Issue, but still couldn’t break his addiction to methadone. He recalls viewing his goals as: to get up, buy issues of the magazine so he could sell them for profit, and get more methadone. Steve says that selling The Big Issue made him start to feel safe in the world. People restored a bit of humanity in him, a bit of normality, and selling the magazine became a routine for a few years. Alongside this, it was the community aspect of the Big Issue outreach team that gave him a support network to get through the week.
“I always had somewhere I could go if I had a problem, I could talk to the staff and know they would help me,” he says.
Through selling The Big Issue, Steve’s goals started to change. They became: get a job and get a flat. He realised he would have to kick the methadone if he could move forward in his life. It was through a furniture restoration course that Steve discovered his true passion – giving old furniture a new lease of life.
Steve has turned his life around. With seeds planted by Big Issue he now runs a high street shop selling restored retro furniture. He has sold 500 pieces of furniture in the last 18 months, and sources furniture for celebrity clients including Jay Blades from the BBC’s The Repair Shop. He has also struck a deal to supply pieces for John Lewis.
When she qualified from the National Film and Television School, Eliza thought she was at the start of a new career. But her move from education came at one of the worst times imaginable – the start of the pandemic. With her career on forced pause, she was unemployed and stuck claiming universal credit for two years. Then she learned Big Issue was launching a scheme to help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds or in a long-term unemployment cycle train to work in the journalism industry.
The Breakthrough scheme was running in partnership with the government’s Kickstart initiative – set up for young people claiming universal credit. Following this route, she began a six-month trainee placement with the Big Issue. Trained by the team in the Big Issue newsroom, Eliza and her Breakthrough colleagues were paid the London living wage, and brought their own stories and perspectives to the role.
Eliza made an impression. She took on the Big Issue’s social media output and when her placement came to an end, she was employed full time as a social media journalist.
“I now feel purposeful, assured and on track to develop a career in documentary producing,” said Eliza.
“Eliza earned her place,” said The Big Issue editor Paul McNamee. “She is a talent and I’m glad Big Issue is the sort of place that will offer opportunity, no matter where people are coming from.”
Are you an employer with vacancies to fill? Or a candidate looking for work? Find out more about how to get involved with Big Issue Recruit at jobs.bigissue.com