DEMAND AN END TO POVERTY THIS GENERAL ELECTION
TAKE ACTION
News

Vendor Phil is taking his idea of jobs for homeless people to Westminster

The self-styled ‘ideas man’ has met with Heather Wheeler and says he has the support of Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey

Vendor CREDIT: Kumar Sriskandan / Alamy Stock Photo

While process in parliament has been glacial lately, Big Issue vendor Phil is bucking the trend. The 60-year-old mixes with political top brass on his pitch at Pret A Manger on Great Peter Street in Westminster, near the Home Office’s HQ.

Selling the magazine has given the self-described ‘ideas man’ (pictured below) a chance to run his latest brainwave past the likes of Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey, and he recently secured an audience with homelessness minister Heather Wheeler.

Phil is proposing a new way to bring jobs to homeless hostels to help residents to move into private rentals and free up space for more rough sleepers. He envisages councils offering jobs – such as street cleaning, litter picking or leaf sweeping – to homeless people. It would act like an apprenticeship with paid work for 100 days, resulting in a permanent position if the employee is a success.

The idea is that this is supported by sponsors to provide funding while they – or support staff like key workers – could also act as trustees, saving a proportion of their wages to cover a deposit for accommodation at the end of the trial period.

Complying with minimum wage and employment laws, Phil hopes successful workers will be able to save £2,000, enough to move into a shared rented property. “It will help people in long-term unemployment take a more realistic route back into work as it would be a gentle step which would give them more self-confidence for a better future for themselves,” he explains.

The proposal first gained traction on January 31 when Lord George Young of Cookham held aloft The Big Issue magazine he had bought from Phil earlier that day and said: “When I bought my copy of The Big Issue today from Phil in Great Peter Street I remembered the noble [Big Issue founder] Lord Bird. Phil suggested that those in the Victoria area who are recruiting staff could do well to call into the hostel where Phil stays where they would find some motivated, hard-working employees like him who deserve a break.”

He has seen a different side to politicians. “I’ve got Leadsom on my side, I know Andrea quite well. Esther McVey is also talking to me,” says Phil. “The pitch I’m on is quite powerful. I talk to people and say, ‘What do you do?’ and policy-makers talk to me. It is my little world, but I’ll talk to them like anybody else. That pitch is worth £100,000 to me, if you know what I mean, with all the valuable contacts, it’s really good.”

The initiative is being considered by Wheeler’s office, while Phil is keen on securing funding through Westminster Council’s ‘Chat, App, Tap’ rough sleeping campaign. Phil, who has sold The Big Issue magazine for three years, has seen a profound impact: “It is such an important thing, it’s the best thing I’ve done in my life, the most important thing I’ve done, and the most successful I’ve been in my life.”

Image: Kumar Sriskandan/Alamy Stock Photo

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.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Why the four-day working week is a feminist issue – and what we need to do about it
Four-day working week

Why the four-day working week is a feminist issue – and what we need to do about it

Hollyoaks legend Emily Burnett: 'With the right people behind you, you can do anything'
Learning Disability Week 2024

Hollyoaks legend Emily Burnett: 'With the right people behind you, you can do anything'

Benefits, bills and safe routes for refugees: All the issues the major parties aren't talking about
Sunak and Starmer debate
General election 2024

Benefits, bills and safe routes for refugees: All the issues the major parties aren't talking about

June 2024 payment dates for DWP benefits – plus universal credit increase
money in wallet/ dwp benefits
Benefits

June 2024 payment dates for DWP benefits – plus universal credit increase

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

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

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