The Big Issue will be sold by the unemployed as well as the homeless, the street magazine’s co-founder John Bird (pictured) has confirmed.

The magazine which is bought and sold for personal profit by homeless people will now be sold by jobless people to provide them with an income and a sense of purpose.

Bird said that as the effect of the spending cuts and depressed economy continued to bite more and more people were losing their jobs.

“Allowing them to sell the Big Issue will hopefully keep them from being stuck on benefits,” he said.

Bird said it had been decided to widen the criteria for Big Issue vendors because many people had approached his organisation asking if they could join the ranks of the 3,000-odd vendors even though they were not homeless.

“It’s a sign of the times,” he said, adding that he could also see more people from all walks of life becoming homeless in the future – even currently well-paid professionals.

Bird said that he felt it was the wrong time for the Government to be getting tough on people claiming benefits. Although he is in favour of social security reform, it should not go hand in hand with spending cuts, particularly with local authorities threatening to close down temporary accommodation like hostels and night shelters.

“We are going to see a lot more people in despair in the coming few years,” he said.

Big Issue vendors earn money by buying the weekly paper for £1 and selling it for £2, in the scheme which has been adopted around the world and helped re-habilitate many thousands of homeless people.