Believe Housing helping customers get own set of wheels for work or training

Customers of believe housing who struggle to travel to work or training can now apply for their own low-cost mode of transport.

The affordable housing provider has awarded £40,000 to Wheels 2 Work County Durham, a moped-loan scheme which helps people access employment, or education that would otherwise be inaccessible due to poor public transport connections or out-of-hour work patterns.

The grant is paying for eight electric scooters – the first zero-emission vehicles in the Wheels 2 Work fleet – along with safety kit, vehicle insurance and training for users, as well as subsidising some of the hire costs for tenants.

The SEAT Mo 125 electric scooters, provided by Pulman SEAT, run off a detachable battery which is on wheels and can be charged at home. It costs just £1 to travel about 100 miles.

It is hoped that the scheme will support about 16 believe housing customers to gain or secure employment or education over the next year, with the first two already feeling the benefits of having their own set of wheels.

Michael Willis, 47, of Murton, used to get lifts to and from work at a Sunderland supermarket from wife Debbie. Their teenage daughter would have to get out of bed at 4am, or stay up until nearly midnight, to travel with them.

He said: “It was difficult enough for my wife, who works different shifts at the same place, but it felt awful having to get our daughter up at all hours.

“It’s brilliant now, I’m not relying on anybody else and can just go to and from work and let my wife and daughter get the rest they need.”

Chris Pounder, 54, of Crook, had been offered a job but could only accept once he had a Wheels 2 Work moped.

He said: “Getting there would have been almost impossible. It would be at least two bus rides and a walk, and that is without factoring in the difficult shift times.

“I had only been out of work a couple of weeks, but I hated it. It was two weeks of boredom and I needed to get up and out to work so I was earning again. It also puts me in a stronger position to find a permanent or better job.”

Kimberley Batey, Community Investment Coordinator at believe housing, said: “We’re really excited about supporting this project, which can now help more of our customers hire the affordable transport they need to get to and from their place of work or training.

“It is also important to us to help Wheels 2 Work move to electric vehicles, as we are committed to protecting the planet by reducing emissions and improving energy efficiency.”

Wheels 2 Work Project Manager Liam Weatherill said: “We’ve helped more than 300 people since the scheme was piloted with Durham County Council in 2016.

“We were doing a good thing but not in a green way, until we got the support of believe housing.

“The relationship we’ve formed with believe housing will be taken forward, as we plan to link up with its employability team to work with customers we can support.”

Durham County Councillor Mark Wilkes, Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Neighbourhood Services, said: “This is an amazing example of different partners coming together to achieve something really positive.

“It will help get people into work and helps tackle the environmental issues we face.

“It is wonderful we have got housing providers like believe housing being so proactive by supporting it.”

Paul Adams, Fleet Director for Pulman Group, said: “We are delighted to provide SEAT MÓs for this fantastic initiative. When Wheels2Work approached us to provide an e-scooter for their scheme, the fully electric SEAT MÓ was the perfect solution. With a generous range of up to 87 miles, it’s ideal for a daily commute.  The benefits are twofold; converting the Wheels2Work’s fleet from petrol to zero emissions full electric vehicles and helping those residents who would not be able to take up employment, due to time or transport challenges, by providing them with a means to get to work.

“This partnership is a great example of local businesses and the council coming together to support a charity that is making a real difference in their community. We are extremely proud to be part of this scheme and delivering a fantastic customer experience.”