Big Issue Dave Martin (1)

Big Issue vendor Dave Martin with a customer.

The Big Issue Group and The Big Issue Foundation have confirmed that an urgent appeal, launched in response to the COVID-19 crisis, has provided over £500,000 in support for its vendors.

Unity Trust Bank was one of a number of businesses to support the fund, which enabled the provision of food vouchers, meter top-ups and other emergency aid for over 1,600 vendors across the UK – more than a fifth of whom are based in the Midlands region. Frontline staff also provided additional emotional support for vendors who suffer from mental health issues and loneliness, during what has been an extremely difficult and isolating period.

The announcement came as vendors made their return to work on Monday 6 July – more than three months after they were asked to stop trading on streets as a safeguarding measure. The nationwide lockdown meant that vendors were unable to generate a legitimate income through sales of the magazine, so an urgent appeal was launched to the public in March, asking for donations to ensure they still had access to support.

Unity Trust Bank, whose headquarters are based in Brindleyplace, immediately responded to the charity appeal by purchasing a three-month subscription for each of its 110-strong workforce. The donation not only helped to provide a lifeline for vendors, but also aimed to educate the team and other businesses on the wider societal challenges being faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Holly O’Connor, The Big Issue’s Regional Manager for the Midlands, commented: “Our team would normally distribute magazines to 370 vendors within the Midlands, who are reliant on sales to be part of the community, in addition to making a living. The variety of requests we’ve had over the last three months has been a real eye-opener – the majority are everyday things we all take for granted.

“One vendor couldn’t get surgical dressings for his leg because the local pharmacy had sold out, so we sourced some for him. Another vendor needed to contact a support group via video, and we were able to provide him with a smartphone. This also means that he is now able to process cashless payments.

“It’s clear just how relevant we still are, and how much people rely on our support as an organisation. We’re extremely grateful for the generosity that has been shown by the public and companies such as Unity Trust Bank, who answered our appeal to subscribe to the magazine. It has shown how one small contribution can really make a huge difference to someone else’s life.”

Paula Rogers, Corporate Responsibility Manager at Unity Trust Bank, added: “Unity’s values are strongly aligned with those of charities and community organisations. This is reflected in our people, and we are dedicated to ensuring they have opportunities to gain insight and understanding of the wider challenges being faced within local communities.

“Coronavirus has had a massive impact in every corner of society, and we’re incredibly proud that our subscriptions have helped to provide a lifeline for some of those who are most in need and ensure they are now ready to safely return to work.

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Shaun Tate
Article by Shaun Tate
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