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.

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 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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