An unbelievable busy time at The Big Issue Foundation around the UK has seen education, awards, volunteering, photography and much much more.
Our offices are busy as ever this time of the year, but we are ready to tackle the holiday rush in full force. In preparation for the cold season we are aiming to reach out to as many of our vendors as possible and raise awareness about health services during Health Week. For those who are aware of the health problems they may have, it’s a good wake-up call, as for the others, prevention remains the best medicine. With the help of a new addition to our team, Ana, originally from Eastern Europe, it means vendors can access new information, and a more intense and structured approach on future aspirations. For us, it facilitates access to a better cultural insight, often accompanied by a life story that would have been lost in translation otherwise. We therefore have a better chance at tailoring our interventions to needs.
BRISTOL & BATH
We have managed to get some great volunteer translators in Bristol so have been able to do loads of intensive work with our Romanian-speaking vendors. We have been holding a drop-in every Monday and have seen a great increase in our Roma vendors accessing relevant services. We had Sales and Money Week in the office where vendors were able to access budgeting workshops, legal advice and some additional sales training. We also took a group of vendors to Windmill Hill City Farm for an afternoon of volunteering – two signed up for long-term volunteering. We have also extended our region to Weston-Super-Mare and are in the middle of building this up, we hope to have ﬁve new vendors in the town soon. We have made some links with Citizen's Advice and the day centre there to recruit and support people. Recovery College has also launched this month and we have taken vendors down to enrol to access education and volunteering. We welcomed a new Service Broker in Bath at the start of November by the name of Lewis Stuart. Lewis has been a cover worker in Bath and Bristol since 2009, so has lots of experience working alongside Big Issue vendors.
DORSET AND HAMPSHIRE
Here in Dorset we have recently appointed a new member of staff (Stephen Fatuga) who will be working taking services out to vendors selling the magazine in Dorset and Hampshire. The new Service Broker and distribution staff will be working in partnership with agencies distributing the magazine. This post is complementing an existing service in Bournemouth working with over 60 vendors. In the Bournemouth office we held our Big Open Door open evening. This was attended by a mix of guests from members of the public, JP Morgan, local community groups, Bournemouth and Poole College and Bournemouth University’s head of regional community partnerships. In October we completed a week of activities working with Bournemouth.
In Oxford, we have been preparing for our annual Health Week. We've created packs of important information about local services and health advice and put these together with some health-related goodies! Our canvas bags have thermal hats, gloves and socks, they have toothbrushes, paste, soap and hand cream and some stationery items. Our Oxford vendors will receive a pack each and be invited to different free activities which include a haircut and health-signposting session, a breakfast and healthy eating advice, a lunch at a local mental health partner and various outreaches and drop-ins from providers.
Six vendors participated in a photography competition to participate in World Homeless Day, part funded by the Vendor Support Fund to pay for cameras so they could document their lives. Images will be exhibited across Birmingham city centre. Vendor Ben came third in the competition with his image of vending in the city centre. We are jointly working with the No Wrong Door network, a key delivery strand of the Big Lottery-funded Birmingham Changing Futures Together. It is a group of organisations working together to help and support people with complex needs. No Wrong Door ensures service users can access a whole system of support through one referral. We are offering ‘taster sessions’ and have recruited an ex-vendor to offer guidance to new vendors.
We continue to be very busy at the Nottingham office coordinating the work with the vendors in the city and nearby areas. Joint work with other organisations continues to grow and develop and is absolutely key to linking our vendors in with appropriate services. We have trialled a drop-in at the office with Wellness in Mind, who provide information, advice and support for anyone experiencing difficulties with their mental health. We now have good links with them to ensure quick and appropriate access for our vendors. We work closely with the Homeless Health Team who provide outreach health care and were involved in the recent Tuberculosis Health Event which raised the awareness of the impact of TB and gave people the opportunity to speak to doctors and nurses about any concerns. This is particularly important for people who are homeless or living in unsuitable accommodation. We are thinking about how to keep our vendors as healthy as possible with the weather getting colder.