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Free bus travel for people who are out of work
3:30pm Monday 7th January 2013 in Ledbury
THOUSANDS of unemployed people across Worcestershire are being handed free bus travel for the whole of January.
People on unemployment benefits for between three months and a year can travel across the county and beyond without paying a single penny.
The Bus for Jobs scheme, which aims to help about 4,000 people in the county and up to 800,000 nationwide, is aimed at encouraging job hunters to attend interviews.
All routes covered by operators First, Arriva and the National Express have signed up to the scheme, taking in almost every service in Worcestershire.
That includes most routes going through Malvern, Great Malvern, Ledbury, Worcester, Droitwich, Pershore, Evesham and outerlying journeys including those to Stratford, Rubery, Kidderminster and Bridgnorth, among others.
Stagecoach, which provides services in Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Birmingham, is also part of the scheme, so jobseekers can go into other counties if they need to.
The scheme has been launched by the Department for Transport, which says 70 per cent of routes in the UK are covered for the whole month.
Councillor John Smith, cabinet member for highways and transport at Worcestershire County Council, said: “I think it’s fantastic and hope it makes a difference.
“I sit on a charity in Evesham and we’re often getting people come to us and say they’ve got a job interview in Worcester or somewhere like that but cannot afford the fare.
“It is a real problem and we try to help them out.
“Buses are not cheap these days and the costs of getting around can be an issue.” It is being done in conjunction with Greener Journeys, a body which represents an alliance of bus and coach service providers.
Claire Haigh, chief executive of the group, said: “In difficult economic times, this new scheme will provide a helpful start to the new year.
“It will enable job hunters to travel around more easily in search of employment, to get to job interviews with prospective employers and also get to training courses which will help them find work.”
Transport Minister Norman Baker said: “Good bus services play a huge role in boosting economic growth.”
The latest data shows 10,114 people in the county are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance.
This is 552 lower than the rate at the same stage last year.
Residents interested in the offer are being asked to contact their local JobCentre Plus.