Manchester City Council are reporting that a pioneering scheme to help jobseekers get to interviews has already helped 900 Wythenshawe residents in its first year.
Since July 2010 to August this year almost a thousand pre-paid tickets for public transport have been issued to jobseekers so that they can afford to go to job interviews.
Of that number, a third (330) who were successful in gaining a job, were also issued with a bus pass to cover them until they received their first wage packet.
Councillor Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, with responsibility for employment and skills said: "This scheme is a lifeline for people who want to find work, but can’t afford to keep going to interviews. From our research we know that 80% of the people who had the travel passes have said that they would not have been able to attend an interview or fund the first month’s travel without it.
"These are tough times and helping people into jobs is a Council priority. We can’t allow transport to be a barrier to work, otherwise applicants will only be limited to small geographic areas and less opportunity. "
One person, who has benefitted from the scheme is 29-year-old Mark Hughes from Northern Moor.
Mark had been unemployed for a year before he got a job at McDonald's in central Manchester. He’d previously had retail experience and his last job had been as a bar manager at a pub which had been forced to close down.
During his 12 months of signing on he’d become despondent about the number of interviews he’d attended, how much it had cost and the rejections that followed. After he got his new job he was issued with a bus pass via the job centre, which tided him over until his first pay packet.
Mark says: "Having that pass meant that I didn’t have to worry about finding the money to get to work and it meant that I could start the right way, on time for each of my shifts. It also meant that I could afford to get to the training course before I started my new job. It made a really big difference to me when I needed it."
Mark is now on a permanent contract with McDonald's and is currently working on deliveries, though this position is due to expand and develop. He is relishing the camaraderie with new colleagues and the sheer relief of breaking a cycle of unemployment.
"I can’t tell you how relieved I am to have this job,” he says. "It’s a fresh start and it’s my time to grasp an opportunity. This is one of the best jobs I’ve had. I got really down while I was signing on. All my friends and family kept believing in me, but I just wanted to stand on my own two feet. Last Christmas, the only present I could afford to buy was for my Mum.”
But, this year’s Christmas is set to be a completely different prospect for Mark.
"I’m looking at starting an NVQ at work which means I will be able to do different jobs at McDonald's. And this year, I’ll be able to buy all my family a present. That’s the best gift anyone could have given me.”