Hundreds of job-seekers and students have been helped by a Melton scheme which provides bikes and scooters for them to get to interviews, workplaces and college courses throughout Leicestershire and Rutland.
Wheels 2 Work is part of a nationwide initiative to help people who can’t afford their own transport and who often live in rural areas not well served by bus routes.
It was introduced nine years ago with just eight mopeds but it now has more than 170 vehicles and is the largest operational such scheme in the country. It was originally for young people aged 16-24 but now anyone can benefit.
The project, managed by Melton Council, will get renewed funding from next month from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF), which started contributing to the scheme in 2012.
Those involved gathered at a reception at the council’s Parkside offices on Friday to celebrate the success of the scheme and to discuss its future direction.
Wheels 2 Work co-ordinator Rob Bindloss said: “Since 2006 we have helped over 400 people get back to work or find work for the first time. It’s not just young people who benefit from the scheme. It is equally debilitating for a 50-year-old who is out of work as it is for a 16-year-old who has never had a job and we are now helping people of all ages.”
He talked about various individuals who had benefited, including an unemployed young man who lived in Eastwell but who needed his own transport to get to an interview at Old Dalby.
Mr Bindloss added: “He used one of our scooters to get to his interview and he rang me yesterday (Wednesday, February 25) to tell me he had got the job. So now he will be going to work on a Wheels 2 Work scooter.”
Those who go on the scheme pay a monthly fee for use of a vehicle, ranging from 50cc or 125cc scooters to electric bicycles, which works out a lot cheaper than using public transport or buying their own machine. A helmet, jacket and gloves are provided free of charge.
Jake Thomas Coggins went on the scheme six years ago when he was 16. He was facing paying a £600 annual bus ticket to take him from his Asfordby home to study at Brooksby Melton College, delivering him late every day for his first lecture.
“A friend told me about this scheme and I ended up hiring a scooter to get to college,” said Jake. “It was a life-changer for me. I was able to do my course and now I actually work at the council.”
Wheels 2 Work schemes have not worked all over the country but in Melton there are always around 90 per cent of their vehicles being used at any one time.
Harry Rai, Melton Council’s head of communities and neighbourhoods, said: “We now have the largest operational Wheels 2 Work programme in the country - it’s been a huge success.”
Rutland and Melton MP the Rt Hon Alan Duncan, among those who attended the council reception, praised the work of the scheme. He said: “It’s a really good scheme. It gives people who are just starting work or who are looking for work the ability to travel. People also get the use of a vehicle for social purposes so it is very liberating for them as well.”
l For more about the Wheels 2 Work scheme visit www.w2wleics.co.uk