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The Big Issue

The number of people in despair is growing, says Big Issue co-founder.

The Big Issue – the "street paper” which has been bought and sold for personal profit by homeless people for 20 years – is now to be sold by jobless people as well to give them an income and sense of purpose.

This was announced by John Bird, co-founder of the paper, who said that as the effect of the spending cuts and depressed economy continued to bite more and more people were losing their jobs.

"Allowing them to sell the Big Issue will hopefully keep them from being stuck on benefits,” he said.

Mr Bird said it had been decided to lighten the criteria for Big Issue vendors because many people had approached the Big Issue organisation asking if they could join the ranks of the 3,000-odd vendors even though they were not homeless.

"It’s a sign of the times,” he said, adding that he could also see more people from all walks of life becoming homeless in the future – even currently well-paid professionals.

Mr Bird said that he felt it was the wrong time for the Government to be getting tough on people claiming benefits. Although he is in favour of social security reform, it should not go hand in hand with spending cuts, particularly with local authorities threatening to close down temporary accommodation like hostels and night shelters.

"We are going to see a lot more people in despair in the coming few years,” he said.

Big Issue vendors earn money by buying the weekly paper for £1 and selling it for £2, in the scheme which has been adopted around the world and helped re-habilitate many thousands of homeless people.