Social Justice

The Big Issue's John Bird is working to end poverty in the Isle of Man

The Big Issue founder called for leaders to be “innovative and inventive” in tackling the issue after meeting with Tynwald’s Select Committee on Poverty

John Bird IOM

Lord John Bird gave evidence to the Isle of Man’s first-ever Select Committee on Poverty during a visit to the island last week.

The Big Issue founder insisted that an ‘innovative and inventive” approach was needed to tackle poverty, which has seen an increase in the number of hidden homeless people on the island in recent times.

The Select Committee was formed in April to investigate the underlying causes of poverty as well as the government policies and programs in place to tackle it.

Unlike in the UK, unemployment, which sits at around 300 people on the island, is not a main cause of homelessness with pensioner poverty, working homeless and sofa surfing all priorities for the committee members. During his evidence, Lord Bird cited the opportunity to learn from how poverty can be tackled in a small country and pointed to a focus on prevention, referencing Wales’ Future Generations Act.

He also proposed solutions to poverty by giving people a hand up out of poverty rather than cementing people in it with social housing that allows for social opportunity.

“There is no silver bullet to solving poverty – rather it involves gradual and careful tweaking to change the system,” said Lord Bird. “We can’t forget that peoples’ lives are often transformed through small tangential changes – such as getting a library card. The small things matter.

“To address poverty we need to put effort into addressing the problems we are facing today – this means we need to give a hand up to those who are currently struggling. At the same time we need to start seriously planning for tomorrow to ensure that we don’t raise the next generation of Big Issue vendors.”

While on the island, Lord Bird also met with the head of the Prison and Probation Service Bob McColm as well as Member of the House of Keys, the lower branch of Tynwald, Claire Bettison to discuss rehabilitation in the prison system.

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