John Bird, the social entrepreneur and founder of The Big Issue, has been appointed to the House of Lords as a crossbench peer.
The appointment was one of four announced yesterday by the House of Lords Appointments Commission, the independent non-statutory advisory body that makes recommendations for non-party political peerages.
After launching The Big Issue magazine in 1991, in 1995 Bird set up the Big Issue Foundation, the charity that supports Big Issue vendors in dealing with the issues that have caused their homelessness or have developed because of it.
In 2001 he set up Big Issue Invest, the social investment arm of The Big Issue, which provides finance to help develop social enterprises and charities.
In a statement, Bird said he would speak up in the House of Lords on behalf of homeless and marginalised people.
"Mine will be a voice in the legislative process for the thousands of people The Big Issue has helped over the past 24 years and continues to help today through our philosophy of social entrepreneurialism based on self-help," he said.
"I believe one of the complexities of modern policy is that sometimes the best thinkers, like The Big Issue, are left outside the box. Yet if we are to have social opportunity and social justice for all, the thinking within the box needs to change."
Nigel Kershaw, chair of the Big Issue Group, said: "It is a testament to his character and vision – and to the changing world we live in – that John becomes probably the first peer ever appointed on a lifetime of experience that includes being raised as an orphan in a slum, illiteracy, sleeping rough and being jailed as a young offender.
"In spectacularly turning around his own life by becoming a trail-blazing social entrepreneur, John has inspired millions with The Big Issue’s mission to provide a hand-up to thousands of people too often forgotten by society."