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5 June 2014updated 24 Jun 2021 1:00pm

Iain Duncan Smith says the Big Issue helps “benefit tourism”

The Work and Pensions Secretary has criticised the Big Issue for "immediately" allowing immigrants from Europe to claim tax credits by being self-employed as sellers of the magazine.

By Media Mole

The Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has lamented that the Big Issue is aiding “benefit tourists”. The Times reports that he said the magazine, which is sold by homeless people, is being used by “more and more” migrants as a way to claim benefits. His view is that southern and eastern European immigrants when they arrive can “immediately” claim tax credits by registering as self-employed, as sellers of the magazine.

Answering a question during a Q+A after a speech in Berlin, Duncan Smith commented on the Big Issue as an anecdotal example of benefit tourism in Britain.

You need to deal with the perception and there is a core element of truth that in that influx a number of people did find themselves drifting in and out of benefits.

A good example of that is the Big Issue, a magazine which is a brilliant idea by a brilliant individual who himself was homeless. It is wonderful. But actually what is happening progressively, more and more, is people mostly from southern and eastern Europe have actually ended up being Big Issue sellers and they claim, as self-employed, immediately, tax credits…

We had a reasonable influx of Romanians long before we opened the doors on January 1. They came in on the self-employment level and that is an issue that needs to be dealt with. So [when] I talk about benefit tourism in a sense, we are talking about in-work benefit tourism

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The Big Issue hit back by insisting the problem was “not of its making”:

If the government feels that the rules applying to in-work and out-of-work benefits need changing, then they need to look at that carefully. In the meantime, it is wrong to promote the idea that the Big Issue is doing anything nefarious or harmful in adding to a problem which is not of its making. 

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