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Big Issue Group partners with Specsavers to help vendors

Big Issue Group partners with Specsavers to help vendors access vital healthcare

The opticians and audiologists also become the sole sponsors of the iconic Big Issue red tabards


On Monday 7th November, Big Issue Group (BIG) and Specsavers have announced a major new partnership which will see the company offer all Big Issue vendors free access to eyecare, as well as becoming the sole sponsor of the iconic red tabards.

As part of this partnership, all Big Issue vendors will be offered a £64 Specsavers gift voucher, which will give them access to a sight test, an overall eye health ‘OCT’ scan and eyewear. In addition, all vendors will be offered free ear wax removal.

Specsavers’ support of BIG is part of its broader ambition to break down the barriers that people experiencing poverty and homelessness face in receiving healthcare, as for many, a lack of permanent address prevents them from accessing NHS services  Alongside its partnership with BIG, the company will be working with homelessness charity Crisis and developing its long-standing partnership with Vision Care for Homeless People.

George Anderson, a Big Issue vendor who sells outside the BBC building in London’s Portland Place, was one of the first to benefit from the partnership. George has had the same glasses for 15 years.

He explained: “My glasses are falling apart, and they slip off continuously. There’s no grip anymore. One day they blew off in the middle of Regent Street. Luckily, they were totally undamaged apart from a broken nose clip. There have been disadvantages to having the same glasses because my eyes have changed. I find I’m having to peer over my specs rather than through them, particularly in dim light, if I’m using a card reader or selling the Big Issue at night.”

George continued: “The primary reason for leaving it so long was just cost – I was fearful. I suppose there was a slight ignorance on my part. I never went into a place like Specsavers to enquire. I just assumed it was going to be too expensive for me to deal with.”

New glasses would make a huge difference to George. He has a degree in science and before the pandemic hit was editing scientific articles on Biomedicine, but his old glasses have made writing hard.

Steve Potter, who sells the Big Issue outside Green Park tube station in London, also spoke of the importance of having the right glasses: “As you get older, you start to notice things get blurry. I had to hold the paper far away just to try to focus a bit. It was getting worse, and I was straining my eyes quite a lot. I was getting migraines, even when watching TV. I used to read papers and that, but I struggle now.”

“This partnership is good for vendors. Maybe they’d be too shy before or couldn’t be bothered. But now they’ve got access to it, they can go and get their glasses.”

Russell Blackman, Big Issue Group’s MD, said: “People that are experiencing homelessness often have significant eye care needs and yet face considerable barriers in accessing the care they are entitled to. Our partnership with Specsavers will help to break down those barriers, ensuring our Big Issue vendors can access that essential eye care provision.

“Improving eye care is absolutely essential for skills building, confidence and finding work, so we are delighted to be working with Specsavers on this new initiative that will help to change lives through better sight. As our proud new sponsors of our iconic Big Issue vendor tabards, it brings two highly respected British brands together, working in partnership to support the most marginalised in society.”

Peter Bainbridge, UK Managing Director of Specsavers’ optical business, said: “Because of the circumstances they find themselves in, many homeless or vulnerably housed people don’t have access to eye and hearing care that can make a huge difference to their future prospects. They have a much higher prevalence, not just of uncorrected refractive error, but of conditions that if left untreated, can lead to permanent sight loss.

“By offering Big Issue vendors free eye care and sponsoring their tabards, which give them improved visibility on the streets, we can help to make a difference. We will also be offering them free ear wax removal to help improve their hearing health.”

To read more about the new partnership please buy a magazine from your local Big Issue vendor or find out more at

Find out more about Specsavers at