Free bus travel deal will help North Staffordshire jobseekers
JOBSEEKERS can catch the bus for free this month in the latest attempt to help them find work.
First and Arriva are among the transport companies offering the free travel throughout January as part of the Bus for Jobs scheme.
It is open to people who have been out of work for between three months and a year and follows complaints that jobseekers cannot afford bus fares to get to interviews.
First Bus is offering the free travel across the region in the same week as most of its fares are increased.
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First Bus managing director Giles Fearnley said: "I'm proud that First Bus and our fellow bus operators have joined forces and are doing our bit to help jobseekers access employment opportunities across the country.
"More people travel to work by bus than all other forms of public transport combined and this initiative underlines how important the bus industry is to the future of the UK economy."
First Potteries marketing manager Ady Culpin, pictured, added: "All jobseekers with a valid Jobcentre Plus travel discount card can travel for free on all First buses operating in the North Staffordshire and South Cheshire area throughout January.
"This is a great idea that I hope will be well received and will go some way to assisting people who are actively looking for work and need transport to get to an interview or training course."
More than 800,000 unemployed people will qualify for the unlimited free bus journeys across the country.
Latest figures show 7,776 people in Stoke-on-Trent claimed Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) in November.
There were 2,115 JSA claimants in Newcastle, 1,166 in the Staffordshire Moorlands and 5,521 in Cheshire East.
National bus firms Stagecoach and National Express are also supporting the Bus for Jobs scheme.
Unemployed Jade Wheeler, aged 20, of May Bank, said: "I think this is a great idea.
"People don't actually realise how hard it can be to get a job if you don't have transport.
"I would have to get a bus to an interview if I was going further afield than where I live."
Jade currently receives income support as she looks for a job in photography or temporary bar or restaurant work.
She added: "At this point I would pretty much take anything, but travelling around is an issue if you rely on public transport.
"If I can get an interview lined up in January I would definitely use the service."
The Jobcentre Plus card is available to people claiming JSA, incapacity benefit, Employment and Support Allowance and income support.
Claire Haigh, chief executive of Greener Journeys, which is behind the Bus for Jobs scheme, said: "This scheme will help get people on the move and into work or training.
"In difficult economic times, this new scheme will provide a helpful start to the New Year, enabling job hunters to travel around more easily in search of employment, to job interviews with prospective employers, and to training courses which will help them find work."
Neil Couling, work services director at the Department of Work and Pensions, said: "I welcome this initiative, which will support thousands of jobseekers by removing the cost of travel.
"This scheme is a really positive way to start the New Year for those looking for work, and I am pleased that so many people will benefit from the scheme."
For full details of participating bus companies and routes visit www.busforus.co.uk.