More than a magazine…

Our regional offices and staff provide support with all aspects of being a vendor and other areas of their lives

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From the very first issue, The Big Issue was created in response to the growing number of people facing poverty across the country by offering them the opportunity to earn a legitimate income by becoming a vendor and selling the magazine.

At Big Issue North, we work directly with vendors based across the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber. For many, becoming a vendor is a starting point to creating positive, impactful changes in their life.

Creating opportunities and means for these changes underpins everything we do. As such, our regional offices in Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield provide support with all aspects of being a vendor and other areas of their lives. This includes housing, access to services, financial guidance, healthcare and skills training. Our support is designed to help vendors to make the most of the financial independence they begin to gain when they sell the magazine.

Sometimes, how we support our vendors may seem arbitrary. For example, among the most common requests for help is for assistance with opening a bank account. This may sound like simple administration but, to people like our vendors, it is often tasks like these – processes that demand a level of English or digital literacy, and formal documentation such as proof of address or photographic identification – that can be a serious barrier to progress in many areas of their life.

It may be surprising that something seemingly negligible like not having a bank account can be significant enough to keep someone trapped in a difficult situation. Think about it: not having a bank card or account can stop someone from gaining employment, as there is nowhere to send a paycheque. Ironically, it will also stop someone from receiving benefits for unemployment. It can stop housing applications or rental agreements. It can even stop someone from buying groceries and essentials as we move more and more towards being a ‘cashless society’. Suddenly, it is easier to see how someone could end up in a challenging cycle, unable to move forward.

The biggest part of what we work to do at Big Issue North is helping people to progress in their lives. How that progress looks varies from vendor to vendor, dependent on personal backgrounds and experiences.

Many of the people we work with have had challenging, difficult pasts that have included homelessness and severe poverty. Our latest vendor audit found that 25% of vendors begged prior to selling the magazine. Some have long histories of substance use or serious mental health conditions. A fifth of our vendors are disabled, one in ten have been in care and one in five have been in prison or have a criminal record.

These are not insignificant issues to navigate. It can take a lot of work and time to overcome adversities like these and to make lasting change. But every change must begin somewhere. That’s why even the smallest act of support – such as setting up a bank account or submitting a housing application – can be an incredibly impactful step for someone trying to improve their life.

Steve, a vendor based in Manchester City Centre, concurs: “I have a life because Big Issue North helped me. They helped me get into [rehabilitation centre] the Priory when I needed it, they helped me get a flat, helped me get a job… I know how it can change your life for the better.”

Each week, around 350 people sell The Big Issue in the north of England, visiting our regional offices to buy the magazine for £2 before selling it on the streets for £4.

Big Issue North is here for anyone who needs us – everyone has the right to work their way to a better life and deserves to be helped to do. Your donation to Big Issue North Trust or purchase of The Big Issue from your local vendor can set someone on that path to changing their lives. It is thanks to you that we can continue to support those who need it the most.

Learn more about how you can support Big Issue North vendors here

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