Rt Hon Alan Milburn supports transport scheme to help people get to work

Lynne Copestake with Rt Hon Alan Milburn

The Rt Hon Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility & Child Poverty Commission, has put his support behind a transport initiative aimed at helping people in South East Northumberland who are struggling to get to work.

Wheels 2 Work is an initiative from Go Smarter Northumberland, the sustainable travel initiative that supports people who are struggling to get transport to work, or are unable to accept a job because they can’t get there.

The scheme provides people in South East Northumberland who are employed or enrolled in apprenticeship training access to scooters so they can travel to their workplace.

Rt Hon Alan Milburn, Chair of the Social Mobility & Child Poverty Commission said:

“For many people, especially those living in rural areas, access to transport can be a significant issue. It’s particularly difficult for those who have to rely on public transportation in an area where services can be limited.

“We need to remove any barriers to employment and support people in the workplace. The Wheels 2 Work scooter hire scheme provides a real solution to the problem, its affordable and can make a significant difference to people’s lives.”

Scooters can be loaned through the scheme for as little as £20 a week. As well as the appropriate safety equipment, users are provided with compulsory basic training (CBT) by a local motorcycle agency, insurance, maintenance and breakdown cover.

The Go Smarter initiative has been successful in supporting many people who have experienced difficulty getting to and from work. Lynne Copestake from Ashington, Northumberland, loaned a scooter through Wheels 2 Work for six months before purchasing one of her own.

“I work at a care home in Bedlington and because of the hours I do, I often found getting to work a problem,” said Lynne.

“I learnt about the scheme from a colleague and I didn’t waste any time in getting in contact. The team couldn’t haven been more helpful; they provide a fantastic service. The scooter I loaned through Wheels 2 Work was an absolute lifeline, I didn’t have to rely on anyone else to get me to work and it gave me so much independence.”

Since April 2014 the initiative has directly supported more than 850 people to get back into work by helping them to use sustainable transport to travel to work, including scooter and bike loans, cycle skills training, free bus tickets and travel training.

Cllr Ian Swithenbank, policy board member for streetcare and environment at Northumberland County Council said:

“The reality for many people living in Northumberland and other rural areas is that you can find yourself becoming dependent on the car. Whilst public transportation does service many areas it is not always the best option for people who work unsociable hours, have a long distance to travel or who have a complex journey that requires a lot of changes.

“The scooters available through Go Smarter’s Wheels 2 Work scheme can be a lifeline for many people and can help secure long term employment.”

Wheels 2 Work scooter loan scheme can also help users plan their journey to work and support them as they start to use the service.

In addition to the Wheels 2 Work scheme, Go Smarter works with schools and businesses in South East Northumberland to encourage pupils, staff and employees to consider more sustainable modes of transport as an alternative to the car. Greener, healthier and cheaper forms of transport including walking and cycling also provide economic benefits for the wider economy by reducing congestion on the roads supporting businesses.

For more information about Wheels 2 Work please visit www.wheels2workassociation.org or email nalsw2w@northumberland.gov.uk.