HC Deb 21 October 2002 vol 391 cc109-10W
Mrs. Lawrence

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to help unemployed people for whom transport difficulties are an obstacle to getting back to work. [73091]

Mr. Nicholas Brown

We recognise that the cost and availability of transport can be a barrier to work for unemployed people and have measures in place to help jobseekers overcome such difficulties and move into work.

Jobseekers can receive help with the costs of travelling to job interviews through the Travel to Interview Scheme. Last year, the scheme helped nearly 40,000 people attend interviews. In my hon. Friend's constituency, following a survey of local people, Jobcentre Plus and the Local Authority will be setting up a working group, involving the bus companies and local MPs, to improve the bus links for people who are in work or looking for work.

New Deal participants can also receive help to meet the costs of travelling to their work or training placement. Through an agreement between Jobcentre Plus and the Association of Train Operating Companies, New Deal clients can receive a reduction in the cost of rail travel. Similar agreements exist with other transport providers at regional and local level. In the Jobcentre Plus District serving my hon. Friend's constituency, this has led to the availability of reduced fares with 9 public service operators, including First Cymru.

The Adviser Discretion Fund, which we introduced in July 2001, allows New Deal Personal Advisers to spend up to £300 to help individuals overcome barriers to work, including transport problems. The help provided can include, for example, paying for travel passes or helping with the cost of taxing a car. Up to May 2002, well over 120,000 awards has been made from the Fund.

Employment Zones and Action Teams for Jobs are also helping overcome transport difficulties, for example, by giving grants to clients for the purchase of scooters, bicycles or other vehicles to help them get to work. They can also help with the cost of taxing or insuring vehicles. In addition, they have helped to set up and subsidise bus routes to take jobless people to areas where work is available and run car lease schemes.

To build on this success, in April we launched the Transport Projects Fund, worth £5 million a year. Action Teams can bid for additional money from the Fund to support innovative transport projects that will benefit the local community.

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