Transport mustn't add to the poverty trap

10 July 2012: Today we're publishing three pieces of research which show much still needs to be done to make sure poor transport doesn't trap people in poverty.

The research shows that cuts in government support for public transport and a lack of clarity about how to improve the accessibility of jobs and services is making the situation worse. Those on low incomes are much less likely to own a car but face many of the problems that our society's dependency on the car causes with low income communities facing much higher likelihood of being killed or seriously injured on our streets and much worse air quality.

We also show the problems of poor transport for those looking for work, drawing on evidence from Citizens Advice bureaux. Cuts to bus services are making it increasingly difficult for job seekers to get to the jobs on offer, particulary if they live in a rural area, an edge of town estate or if the job includes work in the early morning, evening or weekends.

And what makes this worse is the attitude from some Jobcentres who don't recognise the difficulties and impose sanctions on job seekers for not trying hard enough to find work - a situation that could get worse with the new Welfare Reform Act.

We're also publishing research funded by pteg on the impact of cuts, looking at the Marchwoord area near Southampton and the Burbank estate in Hartlepool. That research brings home what the impact is when buses and cut and people have no other option. Above all, cuts mean a loss of independence and affects people's ability to get on and not just get by.

One quote from the interviews sums up that loss of independence - "I think you just kind of give up…You get to the where you think, what’s the point, why bother?"

There are three simple things that could make a difference and ensure good transport and accessibility tackles social exclusion:

  • Government departments like the Department for Transport (DfT) and Department for Work and Pensions should come together with local government and transport operators to overcome the transport barriers to those looking for work, drawing on the good practice that has already been developed
  • The DfT should develop proposals for the reform of bus policy (including financial support from central and local government) which takes account of those on low incomes and include sufficient funding for concessionary fares schemes
  • The DfT and Department for Communities and Local Government should promote effective accessibility planning so that jobs and services are located in places that people can get to easily without having to have their own car

We're also hoping that our research will be a useful for the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee inquiry into transport and the accessibility of public services, which has just been announced. The Committee's Chair Joan Walley MP is speaking at our launch event for the research.

You can read the summary of the research and the full reports on our website's research section here.

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