Citizens Advice Scotland have welcomed the news that some unemployed benefit claimants are to get free bus travel – something CAS has long been calling for. But we also say the scheme should be made permanent, and extended to include all unemployed people, not just some.
Details of the scheme announced today, including the restrictions, are at: http://www.busforus.co.uk/busforjobs
CAS Chief Executive Margaret Lynch says,
“We are delighted that the government has finally conceded our request that people on benefits get free bus passes. However we would wish to see free bus passes provided to all jobseekers, not just those who have been out of work for more than 3 months and less than 12.
“I personally visited Lanark CAB recently and was told of claimants who were paying £12 in bus fares every time they had to sign on. If the Jobcentre called them back for an interview they could be out of pocket to the tune of £24 in one week. When they only get £71 a week to pay for everything, this is a massive financial penalty.
“We would like to see this scheme extended to include all bus routes. We don’t see the point in offering this to some but not all of Scotland’s unemployed. Unemployed people need access to free transport not just to sign on and attend job interviews, but to play a full part in the life of their communities.”
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Excerpt from Nairn CAB transport survey report:
2 months ago Nairn CAB published the results of a survey examining how much money local people spent on transport. This included people in work as well as jobseekers, and also included car-users as well as those reliant on public transport. But the results were very revealing, and showed just how much of your income can go to transport if you live in a rural or semi-rural area. The report is attached, but here are some of its main findings.
The issue of rising transport costs affects a wide range of ages.
- 60% of responders travel primarily by bus.
- 86% of responders had no form of discounted travel, in the form of a bus pass or similar.
- 100% of responders had noticed a rise in transport costs in recent years.
- On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the most severe, 77% of responders said transport costs had a level of impact reaching 4 or 5 on their search for work.
- 94% of responders indicated they would be reluctant to search further afield for work due to high costs.
- 91% of responders said that having free access to discounted travel would help them in their search for work.
Cost of travel
When asked, “How much do you estimate you spend on travel each week?” people responded:
- £1-10 (40%)
- £11-20 (37.1%)
- £21-30 (5.7%)
- £31-40 (8.6%)
- £40+ (8.6%)
If we take £10 as a common expenditure, this works out as 14% of an over 25’s weekly JSA of £71. For those under 25, the percentage is higher (18% of their JSA of £56.25). On top of this, the JSA may have to cover the cost of maintaining a phone (for communication with potential employers), childcare costs incurred whist searching for work, and some contribution to the general running of a household. With travel taking up a high percentage of the JSA, even a little help in this area would help ease financial pressures.
Those spending in the £21-40 bracket are likely to be car users, and adding this up over the course of a year, it comes to quite a substantial amount of money, even more if we take into account insurance and road tax. Improvements to the reach and reliability of bus services might make public transport a more appealing option to these people, and could save them money in the long run.