Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin ‘Wheels 2 Work’ is the latest winner of Prime Minister’s Big Society Award
It is an innovative scheme enabling job seekers living in rural areas without public transport to travel to work. As the first scheme of its kind in the country, it has helped over 2,500 find a way to travel to work in the area.
Shropshire’s rural landscape means public transport is limited in the area, and many people including younger job seekers find it difficult to rely on public transportation to get around. Wheels 2 Work tackles this problem by enabling people to access jobs in urban areas without having to relocate.
Run by Shropshire Community Council, Wheels 2 Work initially focussed on loaning mopeds to facilitate travel. Over the last 16 years, they have developed a whole range of options including bicycles, electric bikes, and have expanded their remit to help young disabled job seekers with driving training.
The model has been so successful it is now replicated by 35 Wheels 2 Work schemes across the country, running a network of 2,000 mopeds.
Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Wheels 2 Work’s success includes:
• helping over 1,700 people in the area to find a way to travel to work over the last 16 years
• saving the economy an estimated £2,900 per client over a 6 month loan period (source: Wheels 2 Work in 2010 - Review by The Motor Cycle Industry Association)
• winning the first ever Community Transport Association’s Best Social Enterprise of the Year award
Commenting on the award Prime Minister David Cameron said:
Wheels to Work does a great job of tackling the basic issue of making sure everyone who needs to travel to a job is able to do so. This is an invaluable service without which many of these young people would have to move away from their friends and families. It also helps young people to find employment and stay in the rural villages where they have grown up which is important in maintaining these diverse and vibrant local communities
The fact that the scheme has now been replicated around the country is a testament to how effective it is and how important it is to rural areas. It’s fantastic that the service has now extended to help people with disabilities find jobs and independence too. I hope Wheels to Work continues to grow and give even more people the chance to work and live wherever they want to.
Davina Allen, Development Coordinator for Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Wheels 2 Work, said:
We are delighted to win this award, and be recognised for the success of the Wheels to Work scheme. This scheme has made a life changing difference to so many people over the years and we’re proud of all they have gone on to achieve for themselves, their families and communities.
At the moment we’re expanding our electric bike fleet. Electric bikes (ebikes) offer a great option for rural areas where steep hills make a 10 mile commute by push bike out of the question for most people. Electric bikes are very cheap to run, easy to ride and an environmentally sound option, with a negligible carbon footprint. We work with our clients during their six month ebike loan, giving them support and guidance they need to save money for their own transport.”
Wheels 2 Work also helps rural employers recruit and retain staff, particularly for positions requiring shift work, which in turn helps boost the local economy.
Chris Mason is a 29 year old manual worker from Clungunford, an isolated village in rural Shropshire. He was walking up to 15 miles a day in order to work at the Shropshire Spice Company in Clun. Chris joined the scheme in November 2012 and now has an electric bike on loan. This has enabled him to save money for an ebike of his own. He is currently trialling new ebikes for Wheels 2 Work and has provided feedback to inform the purchase of a new fleet in the next month.
Elizabeth McDonald is a 41 year old carer from Telford. Elizabeth had been unemployed for 4 years before securing work as a career at a residential centre for a people with learning and physical disabilities in Ironbridge. In her first month of employment she spent £250 on transport, often using taxis when she needed to work a night shift or spending 3 hours each day on buses and walking. Elizabeth joined the scheme in January 2013 and now has a 50cc moped on loan, saving her time and money, and giving her independence back. She has already started saving and plans to be in a position to buy a 125cc moped at the end of her Wheels 2 Work loan.