According to Transport For London, the Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card is eligible to all those claiming one of the following benefits:
“Jobseekers Allowance: if you’re aged 18-24 and have been unemployed for six to nine months
Jobseekers Allowance: if you’re 25 or over and have been unemployed for six to 12 months
Incapacity Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance or Income Support: if you’re actively engaged with an adviser in returning to employment”
The pass entitles the holder to half private transport on tubes, buses and trains, and is part of a national scheme designed to help meet the costs of fares to interviews, Jobcentre appointments and other jobseeking travel expenses.
A recent Freedom of Information request revealed that just 490 passes had been given out in the North London Jobcentre Plus district between the four months from 1st November 2011 till 29th February 2012. This is despite over 7000 Jobseekers Allowance claimants being eligible for the card in the region and thousands more sick or disabled claimants.
Many claimants have taken to the internet in frustration at being unable to access the card, which one person says is “one of those fantasy magical things, like unicorns”.
Astonishingly there is no mention at all of the scheme on Direct.gov.uk, the government website which provides information on benefits and jobseeking.
With prices rocketing, simply travelling to a job interview may prove unaffordable for many claimants. Even for those lucky enough to hunt down the elusive pass, the miserly scheme only lasts for three months and cannot be renewed. Claimants on the Work Programme are not eligible as the private contracters like A4e and Serco are responsible for providing help with fares (stop laughing).
There is even evidence that some welfare to work companies are not even paying the fares for people to attend Work Programme appointments. This is despite it being a contractual requirement for them to cover all transport fares incurred as part of the Work Programme.
Jobcentres themselves will sometimes reimburse travel expenses incurred in attending interviews, but this is entirely discretionary. Expenses are not normally available for distances of less than 25 miles, are usually only paid in arrears after proof of both the interview and travel has been provided and even then they might say no.
Iain Duncan Smith is happy to hand out billions of pounds to the welfare to work parasites running his shambolic Work Programme. Yet even the most basic requirement for those looking for work, the money to attend a job interview, is unavailable.
Housing Benefit cuts mean many claimants are now paying significant amounts of rent out of the £70 a week available on Jobseekers Allowance. When Council Tax Benefit is scrapped in many areas next year this will mean an additional expense. Due to the introduction of Universal Credit, claimants will need home computers and broadband, or will be forced to spend a fortune in internet cafes. With the cost of gas, electricity and water all rising, even simply putting enough food on the table is a daily struggle for many claimants. Sadly the fares needed to attend an interview may be a luxury many unemployed people can no longer afford.
Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid
Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid