Tell us a bit about Wheels to Work… 
One of the main barriers that people face when accessing work, education or training is a lack of public transport availability. So we can help to remove those barriers by providing bicycles, e-bikes and mopeds to those in need. This encourages people to look for a job or a training opportunity that they really want to do - they’re not just going to settle for working in the village shop because that’s where they can get to, they’re going to do something that they really want.  

Why are you involved in the project? 
To make a difference. Helping the community is something that's always been really important to me, and enabling people to feel part of their community and thrive in it by accessing work or education is really valuable. One of the most rewarding bits of my job is seeing people literally transform their lives. They go from having very little to having a full-time job, which is often the catalyst for more security for them - nine times out of ten it will lead to them getting their own home, being able to sustain their bills. It helps to tackle all of the things that cause so much anxiety for people. We can help to alleviate issues by what is ultimately a relatively small thing, but one that can have a really huge impact. 

What are you most proud of from your time working on this project? 
I've got four people that will always stick with me. Firstly, we had a young mum who had lost access to her daughter because she didn't have anywhere to live. But through Wheels to Work, she was able to gain employment. She saved up to get her own home and she got her daughter back. 

Secondly, we had a young lad who was straight out of care. He didn't have any parental guidance, and while he did have some support from the care leavers system, it wasn’t enough. He got a job and needed our help to get there, so he rented a moped off us for six months, and then got his own place. He had a little baby and he is just thriving. To see that was huge.  

We also had a young, unaccompanied refugee who had come to Derby, and he didn't speak a word of English. He was really frightened, and his foster carer came with him to the office. He wouldn't even fill out an equal opportunities form because he was so worried about people knowing where he was and having information on him. But anyway, he did it. He got on the scheme and was thriving; he did a year with us and at the end of the year he was in a position where he could buy his own bike.  

Finally, we had another lad who was also a care leaver with very little support from the system. He was on the scheme for six months, never missed a payment, extended up to a year and then bought the bike off us. In that same week, he had just had a mortgage accepted to buy his own house. That was really nice.  

How is the service managing at the moment? 
Funding is incredibly tight at the moment. With COVID a lot of funding pots have been taken up by other services that have needed that support. But the demand for our service is still very much there. At the beginning of COVID we went down to having just 35 mopeds, but by the end of last year we’d almost doubled our fleet to 70 to expand our service. That shows the level of demand that we have.  

We've also got a few other plans in the pipeline, which will hopefully enable us to become even more sustainable than we currently have been. Most excitingly, we have our upcoming Peaks & Dales e-bike hire service, which will provide another potential income stream, as well as allowing tourists in Derbyshire to have a more sustainable, enjoyable holiday.  

To find out more about Wheels to Work, you can visit their website