Big Issue’s frontline teams throughout the UK are acutely aware that for many of their magazine vendors, especially those who are homeless, accessing essential eye care can be fraught with challenges. Obstacles like digital exclusion, the absence of a permanent address and lack of ID can make registering with an optician for routine eye care a low priority amid other pressing daily life concerns.
Bridging the Gap: The Big Issue and Specsavers Partnership
To tackle these barriers to eye care for homeless people, Big Issue has teamed up with Specsavers. Now, all 1,200 Big Issue vendors who receive one-to-one support each year are entitled to vouchers that cover the cost of eye tests and glasses at Specsavers, along with complimentary ear wax removal services.
In Bristol, Big Issue’s south-west frontline team and the Specsavers Merchant Street store colleagues have piloted knowledge exchange sessions, learning about each other’s work: why eye health is important and its specific implications for people who are homeless, and how to break down hurdles that might be holding them back from making eye care appointments. “We are looking at how we engage vendors in Big Issue’s wraparound frontline support services at the most relevant stage to ensure greater engagement, reassuring them as to what the eye test process will be like, which can include providing additional support for the appointment,” explains Russell Blackman, MD of commercial and publishing at Big Issue.
Tackling Language and Cultural Barriers
A key priority is demystifying the process, such as producing large posters for Big Issue offices showing images of vendors at their appointments, illustrating what a positive experience it can be. Language and other cultural barriers, for example in Roma vendor communities, are specific challenges: “We are exploring the idea of a dedicated open evening session for Roma vendors so that they can find out more,” says Blackman, “and we will ensure that all of our posters and leaflets are translated into Romanian.”