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Trust awards six figure grant to the Big Issue

Big Issue Foundation has been awarded a grant of more than £163,000 to provide vital money and energy advice to members of the Roma community struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

The funding has been provided by the British Gas Energy Trust – an independent charitable trust that supports families and individuals facing financial hardship and energy debt, directly and through local and national money and energy advice services and charities.

Big Issue Foundation’s vision is to end poverty and exclusion for Big Issue vendors and the communities they come from. This includes the provision of support to all vendors so they can understand how to maximise their earnings, move forward in life, and manage their finances to build somewhere they can call home. This work is essential, now more than ever, due to the ongoing cost of living crisis impacting Big Issue vendors – 100% of which face poverty daily.

With the grant money from the British Gas Energy Trust, Big Issue Foundation will be able to make a real difference to the lives of 500 Roma individuals and their families, over the next 18 months, through the introduction of a specialist Roma energy and finance support hub to reach this marginalised community. This funding will allow Big Issue Foundation to boost its services, ensuring vendors experiencing the most complex barriers, can access the help they need.

This new bespoke service will provide an immediate response to members of the Roma community directly and significantly impacted by the energy cost crisis, while helping them to address wider financial issues and build longer term financial resilience. Tailored energy and money advice will be available over the phone or at fortnightly in-person drop-in sessions.

A recent consultation with Roma Big Issue vendors found extremely low levels of literacy and numeracy in addition to a disenfranchisement from main-stream infrastructure – leading to exclusion from key services, high poverty levels, and a concentration of people living in over-crowded, poor quality housing without routine access to basic essentials.

Tracy Griffin, Big Issue Foundation CEO, said: “We are grateful to be working alongside the British Gas Energy Trust and its other grantees during this very challenging external environment. This support will ensure that those furthest away from understanding and accessing support can get the help they desperately need, to keep the lights on, cook a warm meal, and heat their homes over the next 18 months. Inclusion is at the forefront of our mission and this support will enable us to work together with a marginalised group of individuals to bring them closer to their community and the support available.”

Jessica Taplin, CEO of the British Gas Energy Trust, added: “The rising cost of living means more people are experiencing financial difficulty for the first time, and are struggling to pay their bills. Whether you’re with British Gas or another energy supplier, it’s important to know that there is help available to you.

“You can apply to us for a direct grant or access financial support and advice via the charities and projects whose vital work we help to fund. Accessing credible advice from the right places is critical – and that’s why a dedicated, bespoke service is needed to overcome low literacy levels and the language barrier in the Roma community.”

Since the start of the cost-of-living crisis, Centrica – the parent company of British Gas – has put together a support package for households worth more than £25m, which will continue to grow. This funding includes 18-month grants paid to more than 20 advice centres and charities across England, Scotland and Wales, including The Big Issue Foundation.