Big Issue vendor, Mark Siequien and ex Big Issue vendor, Harry Bowyer, have been presented with education bursaries by Lord John Bird, founder of The Big Issue and Ros Morpeth, Chief Executive of the National Extension College (NEC) in Trinity Square, Cambridge, to mark a unique partnership between the two organisations.

Big Issue vendor, Mark, was presented with a bursary to cover the Business Start- up course and ex- vendor, Harry, was given a bursary to cover his enrolment on the Art Techniques course.

Set up to reach people and places the rest of the education system can’t, the NEC allows would-be learners to sign up for online courses. Based in Cambridge, the distance-learning charity provides course materials and tutors to help students through their work remotely, keeping in touch by email or Skype.

Big Issue Invest, the social investment arm of The Big Issue Group, recently helped finance the work of the NEC via Impact Loans England, a £5 million lending scheme aimed at enabling social enterprises to access loan funding of between £20,000 and £150,000, launched in 2016. The programme is funded through the Growth Fund, which is managed by Access - The Foundation for Social Investment, with funding from Big Lottery Fund and Big Society Capital.

The Cambridge-based education charity the National Extension College has helped thousands of adults and young people across the UK improve their skills and qualifications since it was set up in 1963. NEC delivers its courses online, enabling it to reach students who are unable to attend regular classes for whatever reason, including through illness, disability, or because they are in prison.

Lord John Bird, founder of The Big Issue and cross-bench peer, said: “It really is quite tremendous to be able to be here today and able to offer Mark and Harry the opportunity to access courses that will allow them to follow their passions. This will hopefully lead to positive outcomes for them both.

He added: “We are very grateful to Ros and everyone at the National Extension College for supporting some of the most vulnerable people in society. We look forward to working together to inspire, support and further our mission to dismantle poverty through the creation of opportunity.''

Ros Morpeth, OBE, Chief Executive of the National Extension College, said: “The ability to learn and to embrace change is the currency of the future. Learning gives you confidence in your abilities and opens up a world of possibilities. We are delighted to welcome Mark and Harry to NEC and look forward to supporting them on their chosen courses. It is an honour to work with The Big Issue Group. We have enormous respect for its work and achievements.”

Big Issue vendor, Mark Siequien, said: “It's amazing that The Big Issue and the National Extension College have been able to help me with this college course, I have no formal qualifications at all so this course will not only help with my CV but will help me to move on and start a business of my own.

“The support I have received from The Big Issue over the last 6 months has really given me the confidence I need to tackle any problems that may lay ahead of me.”

Ex- Big Issue Vendor, Harry Bowyer, said: “Selling The Big Issue gave me a sense of purpose. I like Bridge Street where I sold it and I was inspired to take many pictures of the Round Church as its proximity to my pitch was perfect. I have lots of pictures of the church taken with a fisheye lense, my favourite.

“Getting the bursary is like having Take That turn up for my next birthday meal. It means so much. Hopefully more people like John will appreciate my work and want to hang my pictures on their walls.”

Mark and Harry will begin their courses in the coming months.

Founded in 1963 by Michael Young and Brian Jackson as a pilot for the Open University, the NEC is an educational charity which is part of the Open School Trust.

The NEC provides adults of all ages and backgrounds the chance to embark on GCSEs and A Levels, as well as a wide range of vocational and business courses. 

About Access:  The Foundation for Social Investment exists to bridge the gap between charities and social enterprises and social investors. Access does this through two main programmes: the Growth Fund which blends grant from Big Lottery Fund and loan from Big Society Capital and is focused on enabling the provision of the simple and affordable investment products that charities and social enterprises tell us they need; and the capacity building programme, which provides charities and social enterprises with the support they need to get ready to take on investment.

About Big Lottery Fund:  The Big Lottery Fund is the largest funder of community activity in the UK. It puts people in the lead to improve their lives and communities, often through small, local projects. It is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised by National Lottery players for good causes. Every year it invests over £650 million and awards around 12,000 grants across the UK for health, education, environment and charitable purposes. Since June 2004 it has awarded over £8 billion to projects that change the lives of millions of people.

About Big Society Capital: Big Society Capital is a financial institution with a social mission, set up to build the social investment market in the UK, so that charities and social enterprises can access appropriate repayable finance to enable them to grow, become more sustainable and increase their impact on society. It is doing this by building a diverse social investment market: encouraging investors to lend or invest money to achieve a social as well as a financial return. Since it was set up as an independent organisation in 2012, Big Society Capital has invested, along with its co-investors, over £285 million in specialist organisations who lend to charities and social enterprises.

About Big Issue Invest: Big Issue Invest is the social investment arm of The Big Issue. We extend the mission of The Big Issue by providing finance and support to social enterprises and charities seeking to dismantle poverty and create opportunity for people across the UK.   We invest between £20K and £3 million in organisations seeking repayable financing options, helping them to scale up and maximise their social impact. Since 2005, we have invested more than £30 million in 300 social ventures and we currently manage or advise on more than £150 million worth of social funds.

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