Unique project offers free travel to over 300 young people in Newcastle and Gateshead
Young people who have recently left local authority care in Newcastle and Gateshead are to be offered free travel on the local bus and Metro network to help give them the best start to adult life.
The pilot scheme, the first of its kind in the country, is a partnership between Newcastle City Council, Gateshead Council, Nexus and bus operators, with funding from the NHS's North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board.
Providing free transport is a major contribution to tackling poverty among young people new to living independently, and is the latest commitment to Newcastle’s recently launched Evry plan. Evry recognises the challenges facing children, young people and families and unites more than 20 partners from health, education, business, cultural and charitable sectors in an ambitious city-wide mission.
This scheme will offer more than 300 young people aged 18 to 25 a Pop smart card with an annual Network One season ticket, providing a year’s free travel across all local public transport in Tyne and Wear.
Many care-experienced young people have raised the impact of travel costs on their wellbeing, opportunities and social mobility. 20-year-old Stephen from Newcastle said: “It'll help getting to work because it takes away that barrier of having to pay. Especially if people start a new job, which I've actually done in the last couple of months. That initial pressure being taken off my shoulders is important, so I can focus on what I need to do at work.
"It also helps with mental health, which I think is more important than ever. I know from experience, as soon as you have people cooped up inside regularly, things start to become difficult. People like me need to be able to stay positive about themselves and be able to achieve what they want to do, or even just go and spend time out with friends. Now we can.”
Cllr Sylvia Copley, Cabinet Member, a Growing City, Newcastle City Council said: “This is a fantastic project and shows our commitment to putting children and young people at the heart of our city. By continuing to work with partners we can provide excellent services that support our young people, give them access to employment and learning opportunities, and confidence in their future.”
The young people will be regularly surveyed to see how free travel helps support them into education, training and work, and allows them to maintain friendships and social contacts.
Cllr Martin Gannon, Chair of the North East Joint Transport Committee and Leader of Gateshead Council, said: “We cannot overstate the difference that free transport will make to care experienced young people in our area, who are juggling the challenges of learning to live independently with the rising cost of living.
“This new scheme will make it easier for them to access learning, training and work opportunities, and most importantly will help them to develop the skills to live full, thriving and independent lives as adults.”
Sam Allen, Chief Executive of the NHS's North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board, said: "Young people leaving care have made it clear that transport is a real issue, and we know this can affect their health and wellbeing. This scheme can make a real difference in helping young people look after their health and reduce the risk of isolation, as well as opening doors to training, learning and jobs."
Steve Walker, Managing Director, Stagecoach Northeast said; “As public transport operators alongside our Authority colleagues we are pleased to be supporting this project via the multi modal ticket offering so these young people can get to work, education leisure and other opportunities without having the additional worries of cost at this time.”
If the pilot is successful, it could be extended to around 1,000 young people across Tyne and Wear, Durham and Northumberland using funding from the Government’s Bus Service Improvement Plan.