Number of people helped by Big Issue increases by 8% in past year

New figures out recently show how Big Issue Group (BIG) has tackled the cost-of-living crisis head on by supporting thousands of people affected by poverty to earn and find employment in the last year.

Almost 4,000 people were given the opportunity to change their lives through enterprise in the previous 12 months across the Group’s services, including by selling the magazine or being helped into work through Big Issue Recruit (BIR).

The figures, released as the organisation celebrates Big Issue’s National Vendor Week, show that the number of people effected by poverty that the Group has helped grew by 8% year-on-year as the cost-of-living crisis continued to bite and the UK entered recession.

In 2023, BIG supported 3,716 vendors (a 2% increase to last year) to earn an income, delivered 1,400 hours of employability and skills training to marginalised individuals and enabled 85 individuals to access new forms of employment through BIR.

BIG’s commitment to supporting individuals affected by poverty to earn and work to improve their lives, resulted in the total delivery of £5.3million of social value to individuals and the UK economy; £4 million generated through sales of the Big Issue magazine and £1.3 million through BIR’s work to help marginalised individuals into the full-time workplace.([1])

The current economic landscape of a recession and ongoing cost of living crisis has increased the number of people in the UK affected by poverty.  There has been a 148% increase in the level of people experiencing destitution since 2017, with 3.8 million people experiencing the deepest levels of poverty, where people struggle to afford to meet their basic needs to stay warm, dry, clean and fed. ([2])

This comes at a time when the rate of unemployment in the UK was 4.2%, and 1.45 million people aged 16+ were unemployed. Unemployment levels increased by 206,000 YOY and were 77,000 above pre-pandemic levels ([3])

However, with nearly 1 million job vacancies in the UK and 531,200 skill-shortage vacancies in 2022, more than twice the corresponding number in 2017 (226,500) ([4]) the reported success of BIGs programmes of work, shows that, with the right approach people can move into sustainable employment.

Paul Cheal Group CEO says: “We believe that the Government’s Back to Work scheme requires further consideration and enhancement to truly serve the needs of marginalised people. There is a huge opportunity to get more people into work and generate an enormous amount of social value in the UK. As of July 2023, there were 520,000 individuals facing unemployment in the UK for periods exceeding 6 months, this represents 35% of all individuals facing unemployment ([5])

“If those 520,000 individuals could all be supported into employment opportunities through services like Big Issue Recruit, it could generate a potential, total social value of more than £12 billion for individuals, communities, and the UK economy [6]. At a time when the country is facing an incredibly challenging economic recession, this is an approach we believe the government should take.

“To mark Big Issue National Vendor Week 2024, we invite everyone across the UK to join and celebrate all those individuals who are earning and working their way out of poverty. Together, we can forge a future where every individual has the opportunity to thrive in work, regardless of their background or circumstances.”

Will Payne used to sell the magazine on the streets of Bristol and has recently secured a job as a street cleaner: “Big Issue helped me recuperate after I had a bit of a breakdown. I lost it and ended up in hospital.” He started his new job just before Christmas and said: “I love it. I love being outdoors. I love pushing my barrel, chatting to the punters and the lovely people in Bristol. It’s really nice.”

Sandrine Mpongo, a Big Issue Recruit Candidate from London, recently secured a catering job with the support of Job Coach, Shak Dean: “Before the interview, we were talking every day for a week. Shak told me I could call him anytime. Before the interview, I wanted to practice my English, so that’s what we were doing.”

Big Issue National Vendor Week will see a special edition of the magazine full of individuals personal stories of moving on with their lives, a series of celebrities’ supporting vendors by selling the magazine and will culminate in a reception at the House of Lords to celebrate these individuals. Buy a copy of the magazine from your local vendor or find out more at

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