On yer bike! Moped plan to help jobless in Stoke-on-Trent
JOBSEEKERS could be lent mopeds to help them get to work.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council has secured £20,000 of EU cash for an extension to its £2 million Home to Work initiative.
The scheme aims to help unemployed people who face transport problems after being offered a job or training.
Mopeds could soon be available to people who live too far from work to walk, and where there are no public transport links. Applicants are currently lent push bikes or bus passes, depending on their needs.
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Councillor Ruth Rosenau, cabinet member for regeneration, planning and transportation, hopes expanding the scheme to include a six-month loan of a moped will help more people get back into work.
She said: "Job creation and economic growth are two of the key aims we set out to achieve when we launched the Mandate for Change.
"By helping people travel to their employment, through Home to Work, we are delivering on these pledges."
She added: "We are hopeful that extending the Home to Work initiative to include the six-month loan of mopeds will help people to take their first step on the career ladder or return to employment."
Home to Work was set up in 2011, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the Local Sustainable Transport Fund and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust.
An additional £20,000 has been granted by the ERDF to fund the mopeds but it will go ahead only if a suitable company bids for the contract to lend the mopeds to the jobseekers.
To be eligible for assistance people must live in the city of Stoke-on-Trent, be applying for a job, have a job or a job offer in North Staffordshire and be aged 16 or over.
Nearly 500 people are benefiting, including 388 who have a bus pass, 95 who share taxis and three who have been lent a bike.
Simon Harris, chief executive of Stoke-on-Trent CAB, welcomed the extension. He said: "Transport problems can be an issue for many people who are trying to get into work, particularly those who work shifts and find public transport is not running at the time they work.
"Also, many jobs are in out-of-town business parks, which can be difficult to get to if you don't have your own vehicle."
But Gill Brown, chief executive of social charity Brighter Futures, does not believe lack of transport is a major cause of unemployment in Stoke-on-Trent.
She said: "Any cost-effective scheme which helps people get into work has to be a good thing. Stoke-on-Trent does have lower rates of car ownership than other parts of the country, and public transport can be poor here as well.
Also, there often aren't very good transport links between where people live and where the jobs are, so this scheme could help with that. But whether lack of transport is as big a problem as the lack of jobs, I don't know. What we really need is a boost in private investment."