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The Big Issue of Poverty in the UK

Jonny Clark

2nd October 2012

This article in the BBC about the 21st anniversary of the launch of the Big Issue newspaper acts as a timely reminder that we can find our very own examples of absolute as well as relative poverty in the UK.

The Big Issue was launched in the early 1990s as a self-help method of aiding the homeless. Homeless people were allowed to purchase copies of the newspaper at a reduced price and then sell them on at a profit which they could keep. The idea was a signal of the difficult situation that had befallen the economy at the beginning of that decade but the newspaper remained popular even during the boom times that arrived soon after. A recent change in policy of the charity that runs the Big Issue has meant that vendors no longer have to be solely homeless - now unemployed people can sell the paper as a means of attempting to stave off the dire situation faced by so many relatively poor people with regards to potentially losing their homes through incapacity to pay a mortgage or rent. It could be argued that this change of policy might represent the particularly harsh nature of the current recession or even illustrate that government budget restrictions are having to be supported by charities such as the Big Issue foundation.

PS. You might find this short clip interesting as well if you are discussing the causes of poverty. This is a short talk from the deputy-director of a think-tank called Demos who are setting up a project to research the causes of poverty and the possible solutions to its problems.

More resources:

Living with poverty in Africa and England (BBC news, May 2013)

Jonny Clark

Jon Clark has been teaching economics and business studies for over 25 years primarily in the Further Education sector. Before joining tutor2u, he was a senior manager at South Cheshire College in Crewe.

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