Social mobility and, in particular, moving people off welfare and into work, often depends on transport infrastructure. If people on isolated and deprived estates cannot get a bus or a train to the nearest city or town, they may be stranded without work and without hope.
Philip Hammond, former Secretary of State for Transport
People claiming benefits frequently have no access to a car and must rely primarily on public transport to access opportunities.
Some 74 of the 100 most deprived neighbourhoods in England are in our city regions, which also contain three out of the five most deprived local authorities in the country. During the recession, unemployment, particularly among young people, has risen sharply in our areas, with secondary centres, such as Barnsley and Rochdale, hit particularly hard.
This means people must increasingly travel outside of their local area to reach opportunities for work but having this flexibility can be difficult without a car - just 36% of Job Seekers Allowance claimants have access to a car or van compared to 75% of all households.
It can also be difficult to understand how to get to unfamiliar places using public transport and, combined with limited travel horizons, this can place unnecessary restrictions on job search activity. Furthermore, there is the challenge of paying the high cost of public transport fares.
Now, more than ever, it is crucial that people have the transport tools they need to find and retain employment – the surest route out of poverty. WorkWise schemes, led by PTEs in a number of our city regions, have been helping to equip jobseekers with these tools.
WorkWise offers travel advice and personalised journey planning to enable people to understand where they can get to using public transport and therefore, what job opportunities they can consider. It also offers free tickets and passes to reach interviews or for the first ‘make or break’ weeks of a new job when money is short. These schemes have helped thousands of people reach and sustain employment and evidence from WorkWise in the West Midlands suggests that more than 80 per cent would have struggled to access these opportunities without it. Funding for WorkWise is usually short-term, leaving these vital schemes in an unstable position.
If our cities are to succeed in connecting people to jobs, longer-term investment is needed in schemes like WorkWise that help break down unnecessary barriers to employment. Investment could also be directed towards, for example, development of bus routes connecting areas of worklessness to areas of opportunity.