Have you seen this card before? I’d be very surprised if you had because the DWP have made almost no effort to tell you it exists. You are able to claim if you have been unemployed for six months or more without referral to the catastrophic work programme (9 months for 18-24 year olds and 12 months for over 25s). It also extends to those claiming incapacity benefit, ESA or income support (provided you are found fit for work). In November last year, the New Deal railcard was quietly re-named the Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card.
This lovely piece of green plastic entitles you to 50% Off Anytime Day and Off-Peak Day tickets (including Off-Peak Day Travelcards for travel starting outside London Zones 1-9). Including weekly, monthly and longer period Season Tickets and Travelcards (up to 3 months in length).
You can link it to your Oyster Card and get the same amount off (PAYG) fares in zones 1-6. Brilliant! Where do I sign up? You simply visit your local Job Centre Plus, assuming of course that staff will know of this scheme. My personal adviser certainly did not.
One of the many stipulations for claiming JSA involves you searching for work with ninety minutes of your home. Within this three-month gap, I had interviews that proved rather expensive in places like Poole and London. Whilst I had a 16-25 railcard, I could have saved more had I been made aware I was eligible for it.
I challenge you to visit your local job centre, ask a member of staff, and find a leaflet inside that explains this scheme. There was never anything in my local centre. Maybe I looked in the wrong direction or asked the wrong question. Should we be expected to know this? I fear many like me now on the work programme (or yet to be referred) do not know about this card.
It was recently announced that some of the biggest bus companies (Arriva, First, Go-Ahead, National Express and Stagecoach) and some local operators will offer free bus fare to the unemployed. This scheme will cover 70% of the country. However, according to this Stagecoach press release, you need to fall within the remit of the discount card to apply. Therefore, those, like me, on the work programme, once again miss discounted travel.
Iain Duncan Smith famously told us to “get on the bus” to find work. Well, Mr Smith, in rural areas near me services are cut and I’m no longer eligible for discounted public transport. Thank you. Thank you very much.
It’s hard enough affording most things on £56.45 a week without navigating the expensive dysfunction of public transport.