Wheels 2 Work helping young Bridgend people on the road to employment

Young unemployed Bridgend people hampered in their search for work or training due to a lack of transport are being given a leg-up from a motor scooter hire scheme.

Bridgend Community Transport’s ‘Wheels 2 Work’ project is loaning the scooters to people in the county borough aged 17-25 who want to take up employment, training or volunteering opportunities but have difficulties accessing public transport.

Following an award of £2,660 from the EU-backed South East Wales Community Economic Development (SEWCED) programme for a feasibility study investigating the viability of such a scheme, South Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael gave BCT a grant of £15,800 towards the purchase of six new Honda scooters.

As well as helping users to have more independence, the project is also giving them compulsory basic training and protective clothing to make them confident and ensure their road safety, awareness and motoring skills.

Supported by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and run by a six-Valleys local authorities’ consortium of Merthyr Tydfil, Bridgend, Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Torfaen, SEWCED has invested £8.9m in 126 social enterprises since it began in 2010, helping to create 22 social enterprises and 123 full-time jobs.

“Lack of transport has been identified as a significant barrier for younger people living in the Bridgend area who want to progress employment, training or volunteering opportunities,” said Bridgend Community Transport Interim Business Development Manager Graham Cartwright.

“We’re delighted we can finally help unlock barriers and create opportunities for younger people looking for a job or who want to get to work or training. We know it can be frustratingly difficult and expensive for them to travel, with public transport often unavailable or not running at the required times.”

Bridgend Community Transport – formerly known as OTED – is the only not-for-profit community transport provider in Bridgend County Borough, delivering an affordable, accessible bespoke minibus service for community groups.

It has 13 accessible vehicles serving a registered 133 community groups and 329 individuals, with more than 25,000 passenger journeys taking place each year. The organisation also coordinates a ‘non-accessible’ voluntary car service where volunteers drive their own cars and clients pay them directly on a not for profit basis.

Candidates applying for a scooter loan have to live or work in the county borough; possess a full or provisional driving licence; have a job or job offer, or been offered a place in further education or an apprenticeship; are unable to make their journey ‘reasonably’ on foot or by public transport and have £140 to cover the set-up costs and first week’s hire

The scooters are loaned for up to six months and the charges include motorcycle training, fully comprehensive scooter insurance, breakdown cover, servicing and maintenance, protective clothing and equipment, and ongoing support from Bridgend Community Transport staff.

Stephanie Lewis from Maesteg (pictured) had been unemployed for a while and was finding it difficult to get a job in her chosen field, as transport was a problem. A friend suggested she get in touch with the Wheels 2 Work project and, following an interview, she was given the loan of a scooter.

“Within days I had the offer of employment and after completing my training, I’m now working full-time in a job providing care in the community,” Stephanie said. “Thanks to Wheels 2 Work and the scooter – my baby, as I like to call her – I’m able to work in a job I love. Being in work has increased my confidence and independence.”

Councillor Hywel Williams, Cabinet Member for Communities at Bridgend County Borough Council, said: “Bridgend Community Transport staff work alongside each participant to provide them with help and advice on road safety and scooter maintenance, as well as on saving and budgeting with a view to funding their own transport arrangements at the end of the agreement.

“This is an excellent initiative which supports employers by giving them access to a larger, better skilled and more reliable work pool with the additional community benefit of reductions in anti-social behaviour that may be caused by lack of opportunities for employment and training in the 17-25 age group.”