There’s been a lot happening over the last month across the country: Mindfulness training, corporate placements, sales training videos, a sociology study and the death of a much-loved colleague…
DORSET & HAMPSHIRE
After a tough time, Bill Webb (pictured), our Bournemouth vendor moved into a local authority flat. Bill said: “I found myself back in my tent last August feeling pretty down. However I was persuaded by the team in Bournemouth to engage with Street Services, and by October they found me a place in supported accommodation which saw me indoors for Christmas. I was advanced on the housing list due to the supported accommodation losing its funding and was very lucky to be offered the first place I saw. The flat had no furniture but thanks to The Big Issue Foundation’s Vendor Support Fund and also Homes for Heroes (which I was put in touch with by The Big Issue Foundation), Chloe my dog and I now have a fully furnished and comfortable home with a lifetime tenancy at a rent we can afford.” Two Sociology Student from Bournemouth University recently completed a 20-day placement with us studying high-selling vendors and their techniques. We’re utilising their findings to create bespoke, in-depth sales training to support new and- low-selling vendors. We’re also using their customer buying profiles to plan how and where we raise awareness in the most effective way. We are delighted to highlight the exceptional endeavours of James who sells consistently in the Christchurch area and is very friendly towards staff and vendors alike. He has recently saved towards his replacement passport with the help from the Vendor Support Fund which he is using to travel to Calais and volunteer with refugees. Well done, James!
We have welcomed Sam Wood, a History student from the University of Bristol, to our team on work experience. Sam will be helping out in the office and going out on outreach every Thursday. He will be supporting our GRT (Gypsy, Roma, Traveller) drop-in group on Thursday mornings, with a focus on addressing issues this community faces and linking them up with relevant services that fully understand the barriers our GRT vendors face and can provide support to overcome these. Victim Support held an informal information session at the Bristol centre, so that vendors know where to get support if they have been affected by a crime.
In Bath we introduced a sales training video for new vendors. This has got a really positive response and is a great tool for helping vendors during their first couple of days on pitch. The Bath office also hosted a group of National Citizen Service volunteers for two homeless help action days. They screen printed 200 Big Issue Supporter bags for vendors to give away with magazines to their customers. And finally, we are very pleased to report that we now have four lovely vendors in Weston Super Mare: Pete, Robin, John and Matthew. We ran some sales training workshops and have linked up with services in the area including 1 in 4 People (a mental health support organisation), Addaction and North Somerset Citizens Advice Bureau so that we can support our new vendors to move forward.
The future is looking bright for three vendors who have just started corporate placements. Nicolas is the first Romanian vendor in London to succeed in a corporate pitch, and we hope many others will follow. Phil, who is an experienced broadcaster, is hoping to enrich his resume and receive some training during his time at Simmons and Simmons, with the end goal of returning to the microphone, and we are here to support him through the journey. While filling up these placements, our team has also been very busy creating new possibilities for those we work with. The oldest London food market, located in Southwark, now hosts two permanent pitches, occupied by Keith and Paul. The skills learned during time spent administering such pitches are invaluable for both. On the subject of increasing employability, Rob has nailed his interview for a trainee barista with Change Please, an organisation that trains people at risk to prepare and merchandise coffee from mobile carts as a means for attaining financial inclusion. We are just waiting for a start date, and hopefully he will be one of many referrals made to them. Both vendors and staff are taking part in a Mindfulness-based living course that we are hosting in partnership with Heart UnLimited. This will be running for eight weeks in Waterloo at one of The Big Issue distribution points. The aim of the sessions is to equip participants with better tools to manage stress, anxiety, and self-awareness. The impact this type of self-reflection could make cannot be overstated.
Birmingham’s New Street Station now has its second Big Issue vendor on the designated pitch inside the station! Eftenoiu Paun (pictured) attended an interview with New Street’s manager, where we explained Paun’s dedication to work and the long hours he has worked since he started selling The Big Issue. He is thrilled to be selling in the station, in the city he now calls home. We took him on the proviso he would attend our ESOL class, which he did for two years. He then decided that Birmingham’s streets would be 'his school' and so continued his learning through talking to customers and making friends. He has lived in a squat, slept rough outside Birmingham Museum and lived on a friend’s sofa since he arrived in the city. As of today he has been offered accommodation with a provider he was referred to over a year ago. This provider is offering a room specifically for people with no recourse to public funds and he has arrived at the top of their waiting list. He is going to look at the room and hopefully sign the paperwork, meaning he'll have secure accommodation for six months. Mihai has been accepted on to the Ready for Work scheme and is due to start his work placement at Marks and Spencer at the end of March. He has accessed the Vendor Support Fund to get some smart trousers to wear for his work placement. The Birmingham team has continued to attend multi-agency meetings. Our partnership work with city centre enforcement, railway station staff, West Midlands Police, and British Transport Police is focused on preventing and resolving issues that arise from rogue vendors and beggars bullying our vendors. This work strengthens our position in the city and will hopefully help with recruiting new vendors.
We are extremely saddened by the death of our friend and colleague Danny Derby. He was much loved by the vendors and Big Issue workers alike and he had a genuinely calming and thoughtful approach to working with people. Danny worked for The Big Issue for a number of years and we are left with many happy memories of him. We all miss him very much and his family and friends are in our thoughts. We have successfully used the Vendor Support Fund to help people with getting ID, in particular their birth certificates. This is something we can offer when we first meet people, which helps with building relationships with vendors. Having verifiable ID has helped many people with setting up bank accounts, getting access to accommodation and generally feeling more confident in accessing other services and support. Lack of ID was previously identified by vendors as a barrier they were experiencing regularly. Vets in the Community continue to provide a fantastic fortnightly free vet clinic at The Big Issue office aimed at people who are homeless or vulnerably housed. A number of our vendors use this invaluable service to ensure their animals are healthy and well.
With the opening of the new Westgate shopping centre in Oxford later in the year, exciting recruitment opportunities are around the corner. As such, employability has been the focus in our office and we are thinking of new ways to engage vendors in taking those first steps to getting work ready. We are working with a local education provider to accredit our vendors’ customer service skills. Taking inspiration from work undertaken by the Bath office, we will be facilitating the provision of a City & Guilds Level 1 award in Employability Skills. This will be a great opportunity to recognise the excellent work our vendors are doing out on pitch while enhancing their CVs and increasing their employability. Beyond this we will be looking to support our vendors to access further routes into vocational training.