Memorandum submitted by the Motor Cycle Industry Association

The MCI would like to comment on one of the points to be considered by the Committee.

Services and programmes to support those most at risk of becoming "NEET", and to reduce the numbers and address the needs of those who have become persistently "NEET"

The MCI is currently designing a programme to help develop support for Wheels to Work (WTW) schemes and to raise awareness of the benefits to young people afforded by these schemes.

Despite support from all sides of the political spectrum, including both the Prime Minister and leader of the opposition, WTW schemes all over the country are finding it increasingly difficult to find sustainable funding. The 'ad hoc' methods by which most schemes are funded results in an inability to plan for the long term. Experienced staff move on and mopeds are sold off only to be replaced again when funding does become available; resulting in increased set up costs. Funding for the National Coordinators post ceased a couple of years ago.

Although guidance issued to Jobcentre Plus staff results in a high volume of referrals, these referrals do not come with the funding to support the schemes.

MCI feels that Government should support WTW as part of any services and programmes to support those most at risk of becoming "NEET". We welcome recent interest from the DfT and the establishment of a group to consider next steps, but in the longer term, MCI would like to see the position of national coordinator re established and other actions which can result in direct support for WTW programmes.

 

1.      An Overview of Wheels to Work.

For people living in rural areas, the lack of transport can be a major barrier to accessing training, employment and education opportunities. Young people can face a situation where without a job they cannot afford to buy a car or motorcycle, and without a vehicle of their own and where public transport is inadequate or only available at certain times of the day they cannot travel to work or take part in a training course or education. Some Wheels to Work programmes have different names, but the philosophy is shared. These schemes generally operate a loan system of a personal mode of transport, such as a moped, electric bike or bicycle, or provide another means for an individual to make their journey. This might be a minor grant towards vehicle repairs, subsidised driving lessons or provision of general travel advice. Individuals who have taken part in Wheels to Work have commented on how supportive the scheme has been, how it has opened doors that would have previously been closed and how training has enhanced their career prospects.

 

2.       Who can benefit from the schemes?

Schemes require clients to have a firm offer of either employment, training or further education in order to qualify for assistance, although some schemes do encourage applications before the placement is secured. The second main criterion is that there is no suitable alternative transport solution available. For many clients this could mean that they are required to work shift patterns that are outside the times of public transport provision.

The majority of schemes primarily cater for young people under 25 years of age and many of the schemes have upper age limits for clients. However, schemes can prove successful for clients of all ages and evaluations have shown important work some of the schemes are undertaking with older clients. Of note, one local Wheels to Work scheme coordinator reported that their scheme had been most successful in working with older clients to achieve longer-term transport solutions. Other schemes reported that by working with older clients they had seen long term cycles of unemployment broken.

 

3.      How the schemes are funded.

Following changes to the Countryside Agency as a result of Defra's Rural Strategy in July 2004, the funding that many Wheels to Work and Wheels to Learning schemes received was intended to be transferred to Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). However, in reality, most schemes are funded from a number of different sources. Wheels to Work/Wheels to Learning schemes can help a number of organisations achieve their objectives, including local authorities, RDAs, Jobcentre Plus, Connexions and Learning and Skills Councils, and many schemes are supported by funding from a combination of these and other organisations.

In December 2004 the Countryside Agency commissioned the consultants Steer Davies Gleave to undertake a forward thinking review of twelve of these rural Wheels to Work/Wheels to Learning schemes.  For each of these schemes, the researchers undertook interviews with the scheme coordinator, clients of the scheme and a range of other stakeholders. Their full report can be downloaded from the Commission for Rural Communities website: http://www.ruralcommunities.gov.uk/files/CRC13-Wheels2Work-thewayforward.pdf

 

4.      Financial benefits

Evaluation has shown that Wheels to Work, by providing access to opportunities, can evidently turn an individual around from being a 'drain' on the economy, to being a contributor towards the economy, paying national insurance and buying petrol. Looking at indicative costs to agencies to support jobseekers, some idea of the financial benefits of enabling an individual to access an otherwise inaccessible education, training or job opportunity can be appreciated.

 

5.      Some case studies

A 17 year old man lives in a Dale's village with his mother. He was offered an apprenticeship as a trainee gamekeeper based on a farm estate 12 miles away. Due to the unusual working hours of a gamekeeper public transport was not a viable option. Cycling was also not an option as a 24 mile round trip on top of a day's manual labour was deemed too much. The young man heard about the scheme from the local motorcycle dealer (who supplies and services the 'Wheels to Work' fleet) and rang the Co-ordinator, after assessment he was offered a moped for a six month period. Upon starting his apprenticeship the young man worked all the overtime he could and after 4 months had saved enough to buy a small second hand car. He has returned his moped to 'Wheels to Work' and is continuing with his apprenticeship. Without a 'Wheels to Work' moped he would have been unable to start his apprenticeship.

Lucy is 17 years old and is currently attending Preston College on a Media Course. She lives with her mum and sister in Kirkham and was struggling to get to college and was at risk of losing her placement until her local Youth Centre told her about Wheels to Work.  Lucy referred herself to the scheme by telephoning a Project Worker.  An appointment was made to visit Lucy at home and discuss Wheels to Work with her mum.  Lucy fulfilled the required criteria and was accepted on the scheme.  Lucy took her CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) but needed more training as she lacked confidence on the road.

Lucy has had her moped for just over 3 months now and loves the freedom and confidence her moped has given her.  Lucy says "Apart from getting me to College on time, I have been able to visit friends I haven't seen since moving to Kirkham.  I am really grateful to Wheels to Work for all the help and support given."

Lucy has decided that she would like to purchase a moped when she has completed the scheme and is currently saving up towards this.

December 2009