Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

John Bird, Big Issue, ‘Entrepreneur’, Foe of the Idle Poor, Enters the House of Lords.

with 33 comments


His Birdship’s Latest Book.

John Bird, the founder of the Big Issue, is to join the House of Lords as one of four new non-party-political peers. The homelessness campaigner was among those selected by the House of Lords Appointments Commission to sit crossbench.

Bird, who set up the street magazine in 1991 as a way for the homeless to earn money, said he hoped to inject some new ideas into policy making.

“Mine will be a voice in the legislative process for the thousands of people the Big Issue has helped over the past 24 years and continues to help today through our philosophy of social entrepreneurialism based on self-help,” he said.

“I believe that one of the complexities of modern policy is that sometimes the best thinkers, like the Big Issue, are left outside the box. Yet if we are to have social opportunity and social justice for all, the thinking within the box needs to change.”


Here are some of the new ideas Lord Birdship – as we will have to get used to calling him –  has promoted in recent years:


In December 2007, Bird agreed with Westminster Council who declared that they were opposed to the presence of soup kitchens on the streets of London. He said:

“We have to stop supplying people with the means of being emergency refugees on the streets… no one has ever got off the streets simply because they’ve been fed a good bowl of soup.”


Then this:

Big Issue founder Bird under fire for proposing benefit cuts 2010.

An outspoken social campaigner who founded a magazine sold by homeless people has called on the Prime Minister to cut state benefits.

John Bird, founder of homeless charity The Big Issue, urged David Cameron to reform Britain’s benefits system which he believes traps the worst-off in poverty while fuelling addictions.

Bird believes that before they receive benefits the unemployed should be involved in community work, and that this would help them back into work

However his idea that people must work before they can receive benefits was condemned by Citizens Advice Scotland, the umbrella body supporting Scottish citizens advice bureaux, as “beset with flaws.”

And the Poverty Alliance, the anti-poverty network in Scotland which unites, among others, charities and community groups, said the assumption that people living on low incomes did not want to work was “simply discrimination” .

Bird maintained society had made it possible for too many to live on benefits without helping themselves gain the experience and confidence needed to find work

‘”That’s not only damaging to individuals, it’s damaging to society.”

He added: “The drug crime industry would be lost without the support of the welfare state.

”The drinks industry and fast food outlets such as Macdonalds would be hard hit without the government pounds being placed in their tills by benefit claimants.”

As would “existing government structures that misguidedly make life easier for the poor entrench poverty, exclusion and hopelessness.”

And this,

People who are unemployed are to be allowed to sell the Big Issue on the streets alongside the homeless for the first time.

As public sector cuts and the economic downturn fuel job losses, the co-founder of the magazine, John Bird, told Society Guardian he wanted those who find themselves out of work, and the long-term unemployed, to have the chance to earn an income rather than get stuck on benefits.

He predicted “the most unlikely people”, including well-paid professionals would become potential Big Issue sellers in the coming years.

Guardian 2011.

On the programme Benefits Street. February 2014.

Benefits Street has rocked the benefits boat. More than any single TV programme I can remember, it shows a dark, dirty and destructive underside of benefit.


It’s a free system, given freely, replacing people’s need to look after their own means of making a living. The state, using our money, buys the time of benefit recipients, and then stands back and watches as some go down the tube.

The benefit system needs to change. It cannot be an endless alternative to work. It has to come with strings attached. People on benefit must help people in the community who need our help – the old, the disabled and the needy.

Benefit needs to be of benefit to the beneficiary. It must help them get prepared for an independent life. Training, job preparation and volunteering are keys to changing people’s lives so they can get out.

More on his Birdship’s ennoblement in the Big Issue.


John Bird said: “Mine will be a voice in the legislative process for the thousands of people The Big Issue has helped over the past 24 years and continues to help today through our philosophy of social entrepreneurialism based on self-help.

“I believe that one of the complexities of modern policy is that sometimes the best thinkers, like The Big Issue, are left outside the box. Yet if we are to have social opportunity and social justice for all, the thinking within the box needs to change.”

John Bird founded The Big Issue in 1991 as a street magazine to be sold by the homeless with half the proceeds of every sale going to the vendors, thus giving them the opportunity of earning money through their own efforts rather than depending on handouts.

Since then the magazine has put over £100 million directly into the pockets of homeless individuals, sold almost 200 million copies and has helped thousands of homeless people move themselves away from poverty.

In 1995 John Bird launched the Big Issue Foundation, a charity that supports Big Issue vendors in dealing with the issues that have caused their homelessness or have developed as a result of their living on the street.

He continues to serve on the Board of Directors for The Big Issue. In 2001, with The Big Issue chairman Nigel Kershaw, he launched Big Issue Invest the social investment arm of the Big Issue which provides finance to help develop social enterprises and charities.

John Bird continues to serve on the Board of Directors *for The Big Issue and is a global speaker on motivational and social issues.

Baroness Morris of Yardley, who along with Baron Alton of Liverpool, nominated John Bird, said: “I’m delighted that John Bird has been appointed as a cross-bench member of the House of Lords. His work with members of our community who face considerable challenges and his successful track record in helping people to overcome them means that he will bring great experience and knowledge to the Lords.

“More than that, he has the determination and the tenacity to argue for what he believes to be the right way forward in key areas of social policy.”

Bird was a member of the Workers Revolutionary Party.

But, “Bird revealed in 2010 “My guilty secret is that I’m really a working class Tory. There, I’ve said it. I’d love to be a liberal because they’re the nice people but it’s really hard work – I can’t swallow their gullibility and I think their ideas are stupid. I’d love to be someone who wanders around in a kind of Utopian paradise seeing only the good in everybody but I just can’t. I support capital punishment for a start. I know this will destroy my reputation among middle-class liberals but I’m 64 now and I should be able to breathe a bit. Wearing the corsetry of liberalism means that every now and then you have to take it off.”


* It would be interesting to know for what trifling emolument he graces the Big Issue Board,  and what his Birdship earns from his toil as an “entrepreneur”, hard at the coalface of after-dinner speaking, blessing the poor and admonishing others less entrepreneurial than his self. 


Written by Andrew Coates

October 13, 2015 at 4:09 pm

33 Responses

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  1. Yet another Tory, who is against those on benefits, because he thinks there shouldn’t be a safety net.


    October 13, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    • Not forgetting “you’ll be paid only if you work”


      October 13, 2015 at 5:24 pm

  2. enigma

    October 13, 2015 at 6:18 pm

  3. Up to two hundred disabled people a week are losing their right to a Motability vehicle, due to draconian welfare changes.

    Estimates suggest that between 150 to 200 disabled people lose their right to a Motability vehicle each week, after being transferred from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP).



    October 13, 2015 at 6:36 pm

  4. Has anyone come across Bird’s past impersonations of Idi Amin? Unremarkable political satire at the time but probably wouldn’t do his image any favours now…


    October 14, 2015 at 10:21 am

    • I think that it’s a different John Bird Dan. Bird & Fortune, quite well known as satirical comedians on telly & radio. They had their own TV show once & also contributed to Spitting Image.

      I don’t think that the Big Issue John Bird has the intelligence to be witty or satirical. He’s just a thuggish, ideological oaf. No wonder he’s ended up in the Lords.


      October 15, 2015 at 9:50 am

  5. He is a phoney: a big gob who thinks that everybody should be like him, a tale from Samuel Smiles Self-Help.

    In reality he’s been helped every step of the way by charity, and has exploited it to rise to the House of Lords.

    What I can’t stand is his ‘advice’ on ‘tough love’ – cutting benefits, and workfare.

    Andrew Coates

    October 14, 2015 at 11:57 am

    • And just suppose everyone was like him and tried to do the same, the majority would be stopped at the earliest time because they the greedy wouldn’t have anyone to exploit. as goes for many other things we know which is stopping people from making a better life for themselves.


      October 14, 2015 at 12:18 pm

  6. Drugs, drink and fast food, how soon until benefit cards or healthy welfare cards appear here and everywhere else, they will be watching how the trials go in Australia.


    October 14, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    • I’m dreading the introduction of pre paid cards,it will be so embarrassing and you won’t be able to buy the things you need.


      October 14, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      • Maria, more info.

        The Healthy Welfare card, as it is known, would be used to divert 80% of payments for people on Newstart, youth allowance, disability support and carers’ allowance onto an electronic debit card that would be blocked from being used to buy alcohol or for gambling. The remaining 20% of benefits would be paid as cash.



        October 14, 2015 at 6:56 pm

      • Wonder if they will work at the self-scan… or you will have to wait at at a ‘special’ checkout…


        October 14, 2015 at 9:56 pm

      • Even then a lot of shops don’t have a self-scan the ‘German discounters’ to name but three… then again, you can bet your last Aldi or Lidl that almost everyone in the queue would have one of these cards, so it is not as if anyone would give a flying fuck. Then again would you be able to use these cards in a ‘discounter’ or would it only be ‘designated’ shops such as Tesco, Asda and Tesco?


        October 14, 2015 at 10:00 pm

      • And what about Marks & Sparks and Waitrose for the ready-meals and wine? 😀


        October 14, 2015 at 10:02 pm

  7. Tim Farron blasts David Cameron’s ‘assault on social housing’

    Lib Dem leader says prime minister is ‘choosing to turn a blind eye and ignore the most vulnerable people in Britain’

    “Cameron is now attempting to do what he could never do before – to launch an all-out assault on social and affordable housing. If his plans go through unaltered he will destroy in just six months what has taken thirty years to rebuild since Thatcher. This will be death of social housing as we know it.”



    October 14, 2015 at 1:21 pm

  8. As Jeremy Corbyn stood for his second PMQs today, the mocking Tory laughs told us everything we need to know about their enduring Bullingdon Club-style politics. Old habits die hard, it seems. But Corbyn opened strongly, with an issue that unites the Labour party: the cuts to working tax credits which penalise the lowest earners, known colloquially as the Tory work penalty.

    Again, the Tories laughed at the name ‘Kelly’, so apparently unbelievable do they find the first names of Corbyn’s constituents; they soon fell silent, however, as they heard of her struggle as the mother of a disabled child earning minimum wage in a 40.5-hour-per-week job. Corbyn tackled the bullyboys by pausing at their laughter this time. ‘Some may find this funny,’ he said, as he continued to talk about mass inequality and the housing problem in London. It was a subtle highlight of something glaringly obvious: for millionaires protected by Tory policies, inequality bolstered by unfair taxes and buy-to-let properties really is hilarious.


    Andrew Coates

    October 14, 2015 at 3:06 pm

  9. Thanks for the info enigma, very interesting.


    October 14, 2015 at 7:47 pm

  10. The new social prescribing: ask not what your government can do for you.

    A community-based referral: it’s a means of enabling primary care services to refer patients with psycho-social, emotional or practical needs to a range of local, non-clinical services, often provided by the voluntary and community sector, and it’s aim is to improve people’s mental, physical health and wellbeing using community interventions.


    And here in W Sussex, a few people on ESA/PIP are to go to a meeting in the local JC next month to help 18 – 25 year olds, to look for work and be mentors. now it is the unemployed helping the unemployed to find jobs etc,


    October 14, 2015 at 7:48 pm

  11. I don’t want to die

    I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all

    Freddie Mercury

    October 14, 2015 at 9:52 pm

  12. Doncaster man prosecuted for sleeping rough.

    A homeless charity has hit out at a decision to prosecute a man for sleeping rough in what is thought to be the first criminal prosecution of its kind in Doncaster.

    Specialist housing advisor Vince Bell of M25 said: “It is of significant concern that the police and local authority are using what can only be described as Dickensian measures to tackle rough sleeping in Doncaster.



    October 15, 2015 at 11:07 am

  13. OT: Barmy at DWP & Important Thing to know about Consent

    Just had a barmy at DWP on signing. DWP wanted email reciepts of jobs applying for – asked how getting receipts would improve my chances of getting a job. No reply except Mantra, “Just Trying to get you a Job”, when pointed out as a civil servant MUST reply to any questions posed to them, repeated Mantra and started looking worried. Then said was raising a sanction due to me not supplying receipts. I again laid out the position, got Mantra again, with added “Why don’t you use UJM”. I asked what part of No is not understandable. Colleague stepped in [nasty piece of work she is] and told her had no interest in talking to her, called me rude and insulting. Ignored her. Advisor’s Manager & Guards arrive. Continue going round and round with Manager now saying make it a direction. I started blatently recording at this point asking questions: Can a person be forced to use UJM, answer Yes or No? No direct answer. Pointed out in my papers I lay out the position under their own rules. Again No answer. Mantra time! On being informed that recording said what I was doing was illegal – Jobsworth guard said that (which manager agreed). and would get me out. Pointed out touch me its assault. Asked Manager what act sas recordng is illegal, stated THEIR rules said it is. Good luck with that. Jobsworth Said would call police. Said fine mentioned would be wasting police time to them. Guards backed away after that. Next up senior manager popped up and repeated Mantra. Was told by advisor had my email address. So I said fine. Explained again and ordered HER the senior manager to explain things by email. Oh did I mention the Sanction became a direction… then I asked where is the direction at the end and even that diseapered… I wonder why. The senior manger was still there when I pointed that out.

    Oh did I mention that I recorded actually from when I sat down at start? It will be interesting to see what comes – if anything. For not replying is further proof of collusion, maladministration, targetting myself, harrassment etc etc in a misconduct in public office, and breaching various parts of the civil service code. All of the individuals concerned are under that threat if I need to go down that route.

    Anyone facing a sanction Doubt should be aware of this: ” A Civil Servant MUST be able to explain, face to face and in writing a decision they have reached/made/contemplating.” Its Part of their contract.

    Finally I left then a little Love Letter which is where consent comes in. On back of printed jobs I hand over for their records I scrawled “any signing, the Particulars of agreements and Contracts must be supplied so they can be inspected”

    The CONSENT part:
    NO ONE can be forced to sign anything. Any Agreements & Contracts must be supplied on Demand, including any applied Particulars [that’s anything else that might impact the deliver/signing of the contract]

    As an illustration, when you sign for a Mobile Phone, you get a complete copy of that Contract and can if you like take it away to inspect & check its validity. Now it gets interesting the same will apply to DWP, providers etc. They must include everything, including payments.


    October 15, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    • Gazza:

      Mate, sounds like you’ve got a right one there. Just email this turd the UJ toolkit. Paragraph 76 states:

      76. We cannot specify to a JSA claimant how they provide us with records of
      their jobsearch activity and Universal Jobmatch will not change this – it is
      not therefore possible to require JSA claimants to give DWP access to
      their Universal Jobmatch account.

      Note: “We cannot specify…” Don’t these fuckers ever read their own documentation? Hmm…clearly not.

      jj joop

      October 15, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      • Remember this was the Manager and Senior Manager unable to reply while I was recording them.

        It tells you all you need to know:
        “Hey, I’m going to sanction you!”
        “Why, reason not in your rules.”
        Frown appears.
        “I Pointed out its not in your rules before in writing and no one has replied as I requested”
        “Hey, I’m going to make this a Direction”
        “Fine, explain as I said before how you can make this decision.”
        Frown again. “Hey isn’t it a wonderful day. Come back for this 2 hour CV course, and we’ll sign you up for a month long one for over 50’s.”
        “What? You threaten Sanction, unable to coherently explain, down grade to Direction, now nothing?”
        “Please go away”


        October 15, 2015 at 2:33 pm

      • JJ loop

        The best thing about it is that I have being giving them a printed list with the name of the job applied for, the date and contact details [email] just in case they wanted to check, from the very beginning.

        So if someone wants to raise a sanction doubt I simply ask what checks have you carried out and the evidence to back up such a claim. I know I’ll just get silence.

        I have recorded Every Visit – they don’t know that. And have in writing an attempt to Defame me. Now would you trust that shower to not try anything under the sun? I don’t.

        This was a blatant try at applying a Sanction by bamboozolling me.

        Family say I’m just picking. Really? I’m just covering my own back.


        October 15, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    • This information relating to the DWP Decision Makers Guide Paragraphs 21592-21595 might help.


      21592 Evidence of job search includes
      1. Evidence in writing from employers, employment agencies or other bodies that the claimant has contacted or
      2. Copies of letters that the claimant has sent to employers or
      3. The claimant’s uncorroborated written evidence or
      4. The claimant’s own verbal evidence, recorded by an officer of the Jobcentre Plus office.

      Vol 4 Amendment 30 February 2010

      21593 Corroboration of claimants evidence is not essential.

      (I do not have time to write everything out).

      As stated in the DMG, your job search does not have to be corroborated unless the evidence provided is inconsistent or unlikely.

      I do not know if this will work, but if anyone gets threatened with a sanction for not providing proof you could ask if they insist on corroborated evidence, if they always abide by a Decision Makers decision and since they will have to answer yes show them a copy of paragraphs 21592-21595 and point it out. If they persist you could tell them that you will send a letter to your MP stating that they are deliberately ignoring the Decision Makers Guide. The MP will probably send the complaint to the Jobcentre Area Manager who will vent their wrath on your adviser/manager. That should shut them up. Jobcentre Area Managers do not like receiving complaints from MPs. You can also send a copy if you need to undertaker a Mandatory Reconsideration. I always record everything secretly concerning the DWP, providers, Courses, etc. I have not yet had the opportunity to try this out.


      October 19, 2015 at 1:24 pm

  14. The cover up.

    Treasury select committee member describes official analysis, which fails to show how poorer families will be hit, as ‘obvious sleight of hand’

    The Treasury document came under fire after it emerged that the impact of the tax credit cuts had only been considered for families already in receipt of credits, as opposed to the population as a whole.

    The new figures were handed to the Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny committee on Thursday, but Matt Whitaker, the chief economist at the Resolution Foundation thinktank, pointed out that key numbers had been withheld.



    October 15, 2015 at 4:59 pm

  15. Call to reinstate work experience in England’s schools. .

    Ministers should reinstate compulsory work experience for pupils in English schools, business leaders have urged.



    October 15, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    • Ah, more free labour – this time from children, welcome back to the Plantations… I wonder who’ll be the Planation Foreman and Owners…. hhhhmmm What could be the connection between past british slave owners and this… Could it be being Rich/Conservatives?


      October 15, 2015 at 7:17 pm

  16. New photography exhibition shows the tough reality of the now barely legal squatting movement.

    Squatting has withered since its 1970s heyday. As a historic show of photos opens in London, Charlie Gilmour wonders if the movement is ripe for reinvention in the new era of eviction, bedroom tax and homelessness.

    In London, the number of rough sleepers has increased by 79 per cent since David Cameron came to power in 2010. Many others are only a payslip away: according to the English Housing Survey, private tenants in the city are handing over an average 72 per cent of their income for rent.

    And it’s not just landlords who are raking it in. Bailiffs are making a killing too. Thanks, largely, to rising rents, the bedroom tax, and cuts to housing benefit, tenants are being booted out of their homes at the highest rate since records began.



    October 15, 2015 at 6:52 pm

  17. A worrying culture where turning up for work is seen as more important than employee health and wellbeing.



    October 15, 2015 at 8:07 pm

  18. Mental illness is all in the mind 😀 😀

    David Rahman Noodles

    October 16, 2015 at 9:25 am

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