If you regularly buy Big Issue North or chat with your local vendor, you may be aware of the many misconceptions about what we and our vendors do. We’ve broken down our most common queries and misunderstandings into our top ten “did you know?” factoids.
- Vendors are working, not begging. Vendors buy magazines for £1.50 each from one of our offices, then sell them on for £3, keeping the money they make. Selling Big Issue North is a legally recognised form of self-employment.
- Big Issue North is a separate magazine to The Big Issue. We began as a Manchester supplement to The Big Issue but have been fully independent since the 1990s. Big Issue North is sold in the North West, Yorkshire and Humber.
- You don’t have to be homeless to sell Big Issue North. Our recent vendor audit found that two-thirds of our vendors are currently in housing. While our service is designed to be accessible to people experiencing homelessness – unlike more traditional forms of employment, we do not ask for proof of address, ID or a bank account for someone to start working with us – we are here for anyone who needs us.
- Vendors often face multiple barriers to alternative work. The vendor audit found that two-thirds of vendors do not speak English as a first language, one in ten have been in care and one in five have been in prison. A third have slept rough at some point and a third have used a food bank or soup kitchen at some point. Three quarters have no formal qualifications, three quarters have no work experience, a quarter do not have a bank account, a fifth are disabled and a sixth struggle with substance misuse.
- As well as an opportunity to earn an income, vendors also receive support with securing suitable accommodation, improving their health and wellbeing, managing their finances, re-entering education and finding new employment, as well as crisis support, such as the hardship fund we launched when vendors were unable to work during lockdown and to which many readers very generously contributed.
- Vendors sell on pitches agreed with local councils or the business whose land they sell on and abide by a code of conduct, which you can read at bigissuenorth.com/about-us/vendor-expectations.
- We have more pitches than we have vendors, and the money that vendors spend on magazines is reinvested in the service we provide. This means that nobody ever misses out on accessing our service, and the more magazines a vendor is able to buy, the more they are helping us to support them and their colleagues.
- Big Issue North isn’t just good for vendors and readers – it’s also good for the communities vendors live and work in. Almost all of the quarter of vendors who begged and the fifth who were involved in criminal activity prior to selling the magazine say that since they became a vendor, they have reduced these activities, the vast majority stopping completely.
- As well as helping them to earn an income, over half of our vendors say that selling the magazine helps them to improve their confidence and motivation.
- It costs £45.68 to set someone up as a Big Issue North vendor. This covers an initial assessment of the support the vendor needs to achieve their aims, providing a tabard, ID badge, ten free magazines to help them get started and a support meeting to review progress and support requirements. Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, we have also provided vendors with contactless card readers, costing a further £119, and photo ID required to operate it if they do not already have some, costing £30. Donations to Big Issue North contribute towards these costs and help us to change lives!
If you would like to make a donation to support our work, you can text BINORTH to 70970 to give £5, or go to justgiving.com/bigissuenorth. Thank you so much
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