Working, not begging

Every vendor is a micro-entrepreneur who is working. Currently, there are 250 vendors across the North, working hard to sell the magazine and support themselves.

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Selling The Big Issue is a legally recognised form of self-employment. Big Issue North vendors are committed to earning an income. They are working, not begging. 75% of vendors have never begged.

Since the magazine was founded in 1992, we have been in partnership with the people who sell it. Vendors buy magazines from one of our regional offices for £2 each, then sell them on established pitches in northern towns and cities for £4, keeping the profit. Each vendor is a micro-entrepreneur who is working. Currently, there are more than 250 vendors up and down the North, working hard to sell the magazine and support themselves.

Vendors often face multiple barriers to alternative, more traditional versions of employment. Our latest vendor audit found that two thirds of vendors do not speak English as a first language. One in 10 have been in care and one in five have been in prison. Three quarters have no formal qualifications, the same number have no work experience, a quarter do not have a bank account, a fifth are disabled, and a sixth struggle with substance misuse.

Madalin, a vendor based in Shaw, came from Romania in search of work: “I’ve done this for about seven years. I was 18 when I started, and I am 25 now. I started because I needed a job. There was no other job, and you had to survive doing something. There is nothing in Romania. I have also got work in a factory, but it is casual for Christmas and stuff.

“I sell the magazine to make money because I have to, but it is more than just the money. To do it, you have to enjoy it, you have to like it. I like to speak to people from my heart when they come and talk to me. I have some good customers in Shaw; they are people who come to see me regularly and they like the magazine and they buy it from me.”

Becoming a vendor is often a starting point for people struggling to earn an income. We believe that everyone has the right to make an independent living. We do not ask for a permanent address, ID, bank account, qualifications, or previous experience. Anyone who wants to sell the Big Issue can do so. It is often a welcome return to work for those who have previously had to beg to survive.

25 per cent of vendors begged before selling the magazine. This figure increases to 56 per cent among British vendors and 36 per cent among men. Of that 25 per cent, 69 per cent say that selling the magazine has reduced their begging.

Dave, a vendor based in Altrincham, begged before becoming a Big Issue North vendor: “I was begging for a while and that’s not me. I was desperate, I suppose… I just got stuck in a rut and it was hard to get myself out of it. It feels great to be selling the magazine again, a lot better. It’s a pride thing. I understand why people beg, but I prefer not to.”

Selling the magazine not only helps vendors to generate essential income, but also provides vital motivation. It helps to boost their self-esteem. Selling also teaches them new skills through interacting with members of the public. This can support vendors to secure further employment once they feel ready.

As Dave says, selling the magazine “is like any other job – you have just got to turn up and do the work. If you don’t, you don’t live. I’m so glad to be here. It’s better to be stood up than sat down.”

To donate to help us to support current and future vendors to turn their lives around, just text BINORTH to 70970 to give £5, or go to Thank you for your ongoing support.

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