Politics

'Real change is essential': Our blueprint for change shows how Sunak and Starmer can end poverty for good

Big Issue founder Lord John Bird has warned leaders of today and tomorrow that failing to act now to prevent poverty would be ‘catastrophic’. Sign our open letter now to demand the next prime minister takes action to end poverty for good

Conservatives' Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer of Labour went head to head in party conference speeches but which one tackled the housing crisis head on

Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak are set to go head-to-head in the general election. Image: Leon Neal / Carl Court / Getty Images

Big Issue Group (BIG) is calling on Britain’s next leader to finally end poverty for good.

Our demand has been made in an open letter to current prime minister Rishi Sunak, the Labour Party’s Keir Starmer – the favourite to replace him – and other political leaders, laying out a blueprint for change for the next government to implement within its first year of office in order to dismantle poverty.

“The time has gone for a light-touch approach from any incoming government. Clear and real change is essential. Failure to act now will be catastrophic,” said Big Issue founder Lord John Bird.

Big Issue is demanding an end to poverty this general election. Will you sign our open letter to party leaders?

“Our message to the next government is simple – if the electorate put their trust in you, do not pass up this chance to end poverty for good.” 

Around one in five people in the UK live in poverty. There are a reported 14 million people struggling to meet their most basic needs, including four million children. The last 30 years has seen the biggest increase in child poverty since records began.

BIG has demanded an end to this crisis, with the open letter laying out a blueprint for change for the next government to implement within their first year of office in order to dismantle poverty.

The policies are built around the five strategic pillars the Big Issue has targeted in order to dismantle poverty and to change lives through enterprise – including housing, health and wellbeing, learning and employment, financial and digital inclusion, and environment and community.

The next government should build more social and affordable housing, scrap no-fault evictions, increase universal credit to provide an Essentials Guarantee and reform the energy price cap within 12 months of being in office to keep people in their homes.

BIG is also calling for local housing allowance to remain unfrozen permanently to keep up with rents, affordable housing to be redefined and for a national target to end street homelessness by 2030.

The open letter is urging ministers to commit to universal free school meals for all school-age children in and outside of term time to boost the health and wellbeing of youngsters.

The government should also accelerate spending on mental health care in its first 12 months in power.

Over the full five-year term, Westminster leaders should increase the provision of free sight, hearing and prescriptions for all and invest in the NHS and social care workforce.

On the environmental and community front, BIG wants a commitment to keep libraries open and Sure Start centres to be reinstated as previously envisioned. A commitment to Just Transition investment should also be made in the first year at Number 10 to focus on reskilling workers to be green energy ready and avoid mass industry job losses.

Devolving greater powers to local authorities and investing into local social services should also be on the agenda.

Ministers should reform the increasingly punitive benefits system and adopt an alternative model to help people back into sustainable employment as well as boosting job security and reforming the Back to Work Scheme to focus on mentorship and confidence building.

Longer-term learning and employment goals include raising the minimum wage, delivering wraparound childcare, reforming statutory sick pay in line with the National Living Wage and introducing free bus travel for people aged 23 and under in England. Delivering young entrepreneurialism support programmes for disadvantaged groups would also boost employment prospects, BIG said.

Outlawing high-cost credit should be high on the new prime minister’s to-do list alongside focusing on gambling related harm as a public health problem.

Implementing a national financial literacy strategy, delivering fast and affordable broadband access for all across the UK and implementing a digital inclusion strategy should also be achieved across parliament to prevent poverty.

Big Issue Group believes this multi-faceted approach to reinventing systems at the heart of government is the only route to dismantle poverty for good. 

The open letter can be read in full here. Sign your name to demand a future without poverty.

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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