Specsavers partners with the Big Issue
Through the agreement, Specsavers will offer Big Issue vendors free access to eye care and ear wax removal, and will sponsor the red tabards worn by vendors
10 November 2022
Specsavers is to begin offering Big Issue vendors free access to eye care through a new partnership with the social enterprise, Big Issue Group, which works to provide social and economic opportunities for people experiencing poverty.
Big Issue vendors will be offered a £64 Specsavers gift voucher, providing access to a sight test, an optical coherence tomography scan, as well as eyewear. Vendors will also be offered free ear wax removal.
Specsavers will become the sole sponsor of the red tabards, which provide vendors with increased visibility in public.
Russell Blackman, Big Issue Group’s managing director, shared that the new partnership would help to break down barriers to care, explaining: “People that are experiencing homelessness often have significant eye care needs and yet face considerable barriers in accessing the care they are entitled to.”
“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,” Blackman commented.
Specsavers will be working with the homelessness charity, Crisis, and developing its long-standing partnership with Vision Care for Homeless People, it said.
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,” adding: “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.”
Through the partnership, Bainbridge said, “we can help to make a difference.”
Accessing eye care
George Anderson (pictured above-left), a Big Issue vendor who sells outside the BBC building in London’s Portland Place, was one of the first people to benefit from the partnership.
Anderson had been using the same glasses for 15 years and explained that the glasses were “falling apart” and would “slip off continuously.”
Noting that his eye sight has changed, Anderson added: “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.”
“The primary reason for leaving it so long was just cost – I was fearful,” Anderson said. “I just assumed it was going to be too expensive for me to deal with.”
The Big Issue Group highlighted that, for Anderson, who has a science degree and was editing scientific articles on biomedicine before the pandemic hit, “new glasses would make a huge difference.”
Steve Potter (pictured above-right), a vendor who sells the Big Issue outside Green Park tube station in London, described his changing needs: “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.”
Commenting on what the partnership could mean for vendors, he said: “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.”