Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

current issue

April – May 2024 : Compassion READ ONLINE


Changes at Big Issue

June 08 2011
Vendors express concern about increased number of people selling the mag


Big Issue vendors have expressed concern that the decision to allow the unemployed to sell the magazine may make it harder for existing vendors.

Big Issue co-founder John Bird announced on 17 May that he would allow the magazine, currently sold by the homeless and vulnerably housed, also to be sold by the unemployed. He said he wanted them to have a chance to earn an income rather than get stuck on benefits.

A Big Issue vendor who calls himself vendazero wrote on Twitter that the move could cause problems for people currently selling the magazine.

"There are already too many of us," he wrote. "There are fights over pitches. What’s going to happen when 1000s of unemployed start selling it? It’s already hard enough to sell as it is."

The magazine is currently sold by between 2,000 and 3,000 people around the UK. Since the magazine was formed 20 years ago in September 1991, these have all had to be either homeless or in temporary accommodation. By allowing them to sell the magazine at a profit, the Big Issue hoped to give "a hand up, not a hand out". Bird said he now wants to offer the same opportunity for those who have lost their jobs or are long-term unemployed to earn an income rather than rely on benefits.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, he said that allowing unemployed to sell the magazine did not constitute a shift in direction for the magazine.

"We’re changing absolutely nothing," he said. "We’ve been banging on over the years that we are there for people who are slipping into the crisis of homelessness.

“All we’ve done is wave a hand in the air and say, look, there’s going to be more and more people… Prepare yourself for the fact there are people going to be slipping into homelessness or long-term unemployment.”

“We haven’t changed anything. All we’re saying is that Britain’s changing.”

• We’ll try to look more at changes in the Big Issue in the next issue, and if any readers, particularly vendors, want to get in touch we’d welcome your thoughts and comments.