Housing

'Mr Sunak, do something': Big Issue vendors lead call for PM to protect renters from homelessness

Today, Big Issue vendors visited Downing Street to hand in a petition – signed by 11,910 members of the public – urging Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to act on the housing crisis.

Today, Big Issue vendors visited Downing Street to hand in a petition – signed by 11,910 members of the public – urging Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to act on the housing crisis. Credit: Gemma Day

As the housing crisis bites, more than 12,000 Brits have called on the government to protect renters from the threat of homelessness and end housing insecurity.

Everyone deserves a secure home. But for the nine million UK renters living in poverty, eviction or debt could be a single unpaid bill away.

Today, Big Issue vendors visited Downing Street to hand in a petition – signed by 11,910 members of the public – urging prime minister Rishi Sunak to act on this crisis.

“Renters don’t get a fair deal, people on benefits don’t get a fair deal, in fact, anyone who’s poor doesn’t get a fair deal in this country,” said André Rostant, who sells The Big Issue on Carnaby Street in London.

“In the 21st century, we have enough resources, and enough technology, and enough wealth that nobody should be in insecure housing or homeless.

Bearing a placard calling on the government to “make welfare fair”, fellow vendor Jane Durham – who sells the magazine in Vauxhall and Canada Water – echoed this sentiment.

“If you’re worried about paying your rent, the impact is absolutely terrible,” she said. “I really think they should raise universal credit, I really don’t think it’s enough.”

“Mr Sunak, do something about the housing and welfare in this country. It’s absolutely disgraceful.”

What is the Big Issue’s End Housing Insecurity Now campaign?

The petition is the culmination of the Big Issue’s End Housing Insecurity campaign, launched in September.

It calls on the government to increase universal credit to £120 a week for a single adult and £200 for a couple, and to permanently set local housing allowance rates at 30% of market rents.

These changes are desperately needed. Right now, a new young person faces the threat of homelessness every four minutes, while the most recent figures show that 3.8 million people experienced destitution in 2022. Last year, an eye-watering 242,000 households were made homeless.

Yet universal credit is now at its lowest ever level as a proportion of average earnings.

And things are set to get worse; average rents are estimated to rise by around 8.5% in England between now and late 2025.

Being forced into homelessness upends your life, says Durham, who was on the streets for many years.

“It’s really horrible,” she said. “Washing, having clean clothes, keeping dry, and keeping warm – those are the really big issues.”

The government must act in the upcoming Spring Budget, said fellow vendor Mo Gething.

“There are too many people sleeping rough, which means too many people aren’t fulfilling their potential,” he urged. “Prime minister, please bring up benefits in line with the cost of living.”

Big Issue founder Lord John Bird joined the vendors at Downing Street. The cross-bench peer warned that existing welfare supports fail claimants.

“With the level it’s currently set at, universal credit is making poverty more entrenched,” he said. “We ought to be giving people the tools to lift themselves out of poverty, and that starts with having a secure roof over their head.”

Lord Bird pledged to continue advocating the campaign in parliament.

“The petition we handed in today is calling for changes that would ensure people can afford to stay in their homes, which would put us on the road to eradicating poverty for good. That’s what I’m in the House of Lords to do, and I’m not stopping until we get there.”

Support our vendors this winter and beyond

If you can't visit your local vendor on a regular basis, then the next best way to support them is with a subscription to the Big Issue. As a social enterprise, we invest every penny we make back into the organisation. That means that with every subscription, we are supporting people in poverty to get back on their own two feet.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
'An amazing U-turn': Home Office drops bid to allow asylum seekers to live in unsafe housing
Asylum seekers risked being left
Immigration

'An amazing U-turn': Home Office drops bid to allow asylum seekers to live in unsafe housing

Landlord Tory MPs are trying to 'gut' protections for private renters, analysis shows
no-fault evictions
Renters Reform Bill

Landlord Tory MPs are trying to 'gut' protections for private renters, analysis shows

Prince William to build social housing in his back garden to help end homelessness
Prince William launches Homewards
Homelessness

Prince William to build social housing in his back garden to help end homelessness

Mum with disabled daughter facing homelessness as council refuses help: 'She'll have a breakdown'
disability, housing, eviction
Homelessness

Mum with disabled daughter facing homelessness as council refuses help: 'She'll have a breakdown'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know