Press Release

“We demand an end to poverty”: Big Issue vendors deliver call for change backed by 12,000 to Labour and Tory HQs

The Big Issue’s open letter challenges the next government to adopt five vital poverty prevention policies and has been signed by more than 12,227 people, including celebrities Christopher Eccleston, George Clarke and Daniel Mays.

Big Issue vendors, frontline staff and campaigners with placards calling for an end to poverty on Westminster Bridge.

Big Issue vendors, frontline staff and campaigners with placards calling for an end to poverty on Westminster Bridge. Image: Louise Haywood-Schiefer / Big Issue Group

25 June – Big Issue vendors and frontline staff have visited Labour HQ in Southwark and Conservative Campaign HQ in Westminster to deliver an open letter urging whoever forms the next government to implement five vital policies in their first 12 months in power, to eradicate poverty in the UK.

The open letter has been signed by 12,227 members of the public, including the Big Issue Group’s ambassadors Christopher Eccleston, George Clarke and Daniel Mays, and a number of leading social businesses supported by the Group’s social investment arm Big Issue Invest.

The Big Issue has also put the policy asks detailed in the letter to Rishi Sunak, Keir Starmer and other party leaders in an exclusive leaders’ interview earlier this week.

In the interview, Starmer declares he’ll be “as bold as Atlee” in his approach to government, while Sunak states he believes “work is the best way of poverty, as Big Issue shows”.

1 in 5 people in the UK live in poverty[1]. There are a reported 3.8 million people experiencing destitution, struggling to meet their most basic needs, unable to feed, clothe and keep themselves warm. Over the past 30 years, the UK has experienced the biggest increase in child poverty since records began, with 4.3 million children now living in poverty.[2]

The Big Issue Group has demanded an end to this crisis, with their letter recommending a number of key changes the next government can implement within their first year of office in order to dismantle poverty.

Lee, a Big Issue vendor who trades in Covent Garden, said: “Today, with a group of other vendors, we’ve visited Labour and Tory Headquarters to deliver a message to the candidates. This is probably the most important election we’ve ever lived through – unfortunately politicians say that about every election, but for this one it is true.

“I’m here as a representative of not just other vendors, but anyone who lives in poverty or the edge of poverty – people who wouldn’t have the energy or time to come to central London, knock on the door and say ‘this is us’.”

Lord John Bird, founder of the Big Issue, said: “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.

“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.”

The five policies detailed in the open letter are built around the five strategic pillars which are the cornerstone of the Big Issue Group’s work to dismantle poverty and to change lives through enterprise.

The five poverty prevention policies outlined in the open letter are:

  • Build more social and affordable housing, and commit to providing high-quality public services and infrastructure as part of the build.  
  • Provide universal free school meals to all school-age children, including outside of term-time. 
  • Replace the increasingly punitive job-seeker benefits system, with back to work support mentorship, confidence building and realistic routes to sustainable employment. 
  • Outlaw high-interest credit and loans, and ensure access to affordable, equitable and fair replacements. 
  • Invest in reskilling workers in green energy, using the Just Transition criteria.

The open letter and five policies are just the beginning of the Big Issue Group’s work and they form part of a Blueprint for Change, which outlines how ending poverty can only be achieved through a multi-faceted approach to reinventing systems at the heart of government. The Blueprint states that poverty is a manmade phenomenon and demonstrates that with the right approach political leaders, have the power to re-invent the systems that keep it in place. The Big Issue is calling for the next government to tackle the crisis, improve lives and lessen the burden of poverty.

To read the Big Issue’s leader interviews, buy this week’s magazine from your local vendor, or subscribe online, at bigissue.com.

Ends 

For more information, please contact James Barker, Senior Press Officer for the Big Issue Group on 07564 328307

1 More than 1 in 5 people in the UK (22%) were in poverty in 2021/22 – 14.4 million people: https://www.jrf.org.uk/uk-poverty-2024-the-essential-guide-to-understanding-poverty-in-the-uk

2 Poverty in the UK: Statistics by Brigid Francis-Devine 8 April 2024, citing DWP, Households Below Average Income, 2022/23, pg 23.

Support your local Big Issue vendor

If you can’t get to your local vendor every week, subscribing directly to them online is the best way to support your vendor. Your chosen vendor will receive 50% of the profit from each copy and the rest is invested back into our work to create opportunities for people affected by poverty.
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