The Big Issue has announced measures including the provision of extensive PPE, contactless card payment equipment and the introduction of stringent health and safety procedures in all distribution offices.
The Big Issue, which offers homeless and vulnerably housed people across the UK a means by which to earn a legitimate income, took the decision to safeguard its network of vendors and the public by asking that they stop selling on streets across the whole of the UK with immediate effect on 20th March for the foreseeable future.
Following announcements by the government regarding the easing of restrictions, the organisation last week confirmed that its network of over 2,000 vendors will be back out selling the magazine across England, Scotland and Wales, for the first time in 15 weeks since lockdown.
The Big Issue Group (TBIG) has set-out a health and safety plan of action which ensures that vendors are able to sell the magazine safely and customers are able to buy with confidence.
According to TBIG:
- Your local vendor might be selling in a slightly different location than normal to ensure the safety of the you, the general public and the vendor
- TBIG is providing vendors with PPE through generous contributions from partners and the public to their COVID-19 Appeal and donations from PPE supplier ViraxCare. All vendors will be given, face masks, visors, latex gloves and anti-bacterial gel
- TBIG have also provided vendors with new bags to house their magazines safely
- TBIG is accelerating the move to cashless payment, by securing contactless card payment equipment. Moving as many vendors as possible to cashless payments through card readers and an existing partnership with iZettle will help to facilitate social distancing and also ensure vendors are financially included, now and in the future
- TBIG is doing everything it can to build stronger businesses for vendors coming out of this crisis. They are supporting vendors back to selling, with 10 free magazines to get them up and running
- TBIG is increasing the cover price of the magazine to £3 to ensure vendors make more money from selling the magazine. Vendors will now buy the magazine for £1.50
- Vendors purchase magazines from frontline staff in offices around the country and will follow strict health & safety procedures in these offices including temperature testing
- Vendors will be supported by frontline staff who will adhere to strict health & safety procedures. Including but not exclusively working to split rotas and teams. They will maintain social distancing and work behind sneeze guards and offices will be fitted with a range of PPE and cleaned twice a day
- Vendors who are in the vulnerable category or become ill with COVID-19 will be supported both financially and emotionally, until a time when it is safe for them to return to selling
Lord John Bird, founder of The Big Issue said: “First- off, we want to thank everyone who has supported us and our vendors along the journey we have been through, the generosity of the wonderful British public, our corporate partners, investees, other social enterprises and charities, celebrities, the media and many many more.
“These essential funds have meant that we have been able to support vendors while they have been unable to sell the magazine safely on the streets.
“We have undertaken a huge health & safety review and put in place a range of measures designed to ensure vendors are able to sell safely from 6th July. We want to ensure the public feel 100% safe when choosing to buy from our vendors and have followed the government COVID-19 health & safety guidelines.
“The Big Issue exists to offer a hand up, and in keeping with that spirit our vendors are passionate about getting back to earning their own income and being in control of their own finances and lives once again. We can’t wait to be back.”
Mike Danks, who usually sells the magazine in Finsbury Park or Sainsburys in Green Lanes, London: “The Big Issue has helped me to get back into socialising and meeting people and to get out and about. The staff have also helped me a great deal to sort out my life, which seems to have fallen apart for a while. I am excited to get out and about and meet people again and make contact.”
Will Herbert, who usually sells outside Budgens on Upper Street, in Islington, London, said: “I miss my customers dearly. I had some really lovely customers and I can’t wait to see them. The Big Issue has provided us with the PPE kit to keep us all safe in this drastic situation we find ourselves in at the moment.”
Patrick Foster, Trustee for The Big Issue Foundation, said: “It is of paramount importance that we protect our vendors and their customers alike as much as we can. Therefore, it has been brilliant to be able to facilitate a generous donation and ongoing discounted range of safety equipment including face masks and latex gloves through Viraxcare. It will ensure that the public can buy the magazine, a bastion of the British High Street for 29 years, with confidence and the vendors can continue to earn a legitimate income in the safest circumstances possible.”
During lockdown, the organisation rapidly innovated, to provide readers with alternative ways to purchase the magazine and support vendors across the UK whilst they could no longer earn an income. An urgent appeal was launched asking the public to give to an appeal fund or to subscribe whilst vendors were unable to sell the magazine.
The Big Issue Group also launched an app, available on Apple Store and Google Play and secured listings in major retailers, with half of net proceeds from the appeal going directly to vendors.