Young care experienced people in North Somerset can now sign-up for a free WESTfares bus pass.
Launched during national Care Leavers Week 2023 (25 October to 1 November), the pass offers the young people unlimited free bus travel across the West of England Combined Authority and North Somerset areas until the end of March 2025, or until turning 22 (whichever is first).
Offered to all care experienced young people aged 18-21 in North Somerset, the WESTfares pass will make it easier to travel across the region, and support independence whilst helping keep costs down during the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
The council will distribute individual codes allowing young care experienced people to sign-up for the WESTfares pass online. All the main bus companies, including First and Stagecoach, have signed up to the initiative, and WESTlink on-demand buses will also offer free travel. To find out more about the travel offer visit www.westfares.co.uk.
Acting as a corporate parent, North Somerset Council is committed to helping young care experienced people to make use of available local services. By offering unlimited free travel, the council can help young people to attend work, appointments or social engagements whilst building new routines that incorporate travelling by bus.
Bethany Swann, North Somerset Council’s young director said: “As a care experienced young person a barrier for getting out and doing things can be as simple as not having access to public transport due to lack of funds. Having these passes means you don’t need to prioritise between the things you need and a day out to Bristol for example! For me personally it means I can take my dog on more exciting walks in different woodlands across the West of England and it gives me the ability to go and visit friends who live out of area to me.”
Cllr Catherine Gibbons, deputy leader of North Somerset Council and executive member for children’s services, families, and lifelong learning said: “The council is committed in acting as a corporate parent for our young people, and free transport across the region helps to remove a barrier to independence. This new initiative will help to ensure our residents are given the best chance possible to succeed.
“These travel passes allow use of our bus network for work, key services, and to visit some of the excellent attractions in our region! It’s fantastic that we are able to provide specialist support to care experienced young people, better equipping them to look to the future.”
To ensure young people’s needs are met in North Somerset a monthly forum is hosted, offering an open space for all care experienced young people to come and discuss their thoughts. The views from this group are then shared with decision makers at North Somerset Council. To become a part of this group, contact your leaving care PA, or contact the duty worker at the Town Hall in Weston-super-Mare.
The council also provides a Care Leavers Job Club on Wednesdays between 2-4pm that provides help with looking for work, education, suitable clothing and transport, or financial support for work experience or volunteering. Find out more about the council’s corporate parent support here: Care Leavers | North Somerset Online Directory (n-somerset.gov.uk)
Also available under the WESTfares offer, all residents of North Somerset can claim their Birthday Bus pass to travel for free during their birthday month until the end of July 2024. Travel is unlimited, giving access to the wider West of England by bus. Apply for your birthday bus pass at www.birthdaybus.co.uk and plan your journey at travelwest.info.
Working in partnership, North Somerset Council and the West of England Combined Authority want to encourage everyone to ‘walk or wheel’ where possible, helping reach their carbon neutral goal by 2030. When that’s not possible, they want bus travel to be the first choice over car usage, helping ease traffic congestion and creating a greener way to travel.
WESTfares is part of the Bus Service Improvement Plan, delivered by North Somerset in conjunction with the West of England Combined Authority thanks to funding from the Department for Transport.
Roads Minister for the UK Government Richard Holden said: “People up and down the country deserve a modern, reliable, and affordable public transport system. That is why we have provided North Somerset Council and the West of England Combined Authority with over £105 million to boost its bus services.
“Supporting the council with introducing the WESTfares bus pass is fantastic for local care leavers, who will now be able to get to work, school and visit loved ones for free.”
More information on the Bus Improvement Service Plan can be found on the council website: Bus service improvement plan | North Somerset Council (n-somerset.gov.uk)