I don't possess a bus pass for a couple of reasons. One is that few buses operate in these parts and the other is my concern with these cards being called 'National Entitlement Cards' which really means they are national identity cards. The sample card on the Scottish Government's website actually states 'OneScotland accessing public services'. To read more about these cards it's worthwhile reading Dr Welford's site. As he suggests the Scottish Government may like to investigate how the data gathered is shared. Many won't realise these cards are anything other than a pass for free bus travel.
But that's not the point of this post. It's reported West Yorkshire Probation Trust spend nearly £300,000 a year on free bus passes for offenders. The offenders are asked to make a voluntary contribution of £2 towards the cost of each £19.50 pass but last year the council only collected £19,500, leaving a shortfall of £276,500.
The trust said yesterday: "We don't sell bus passes to offenders, but a contribution towards the cost is requested. It is acknowledged that contributions are not received for every bus pass provided.
"But our objective is to ensure there are no transport barriers preventing an offender complying with probation or court requirements. The trust supports the use of public transport."
In a country where pensioners are dying of hypothermia because they're too frightened they won't be able to meet their ever increasing heating bills and at least 500,000 spent Christmas Day in bed to keep warm, why should taxpayers be paying convicted criminals' bus fares? How many other probation trusts - now the responsibility of Criminal Justice Social Work Services in Scotland - do this throughout the UK?
I know one person who, after being made redundant some months ago, is desperate to find a job. He's not well off and has a young family, but every day he's in the queue for the 8am bus to either Dundee or Perth. He pays his own fares. They use up the bulk of his Job Seekers Allowance. His attitude is that most jobs will be in the cities and he's better placed for an interview if he's 'on the spot'. When the weather was better he cycled each day. I've no doubt he will find a job soon because of his determination and skills, but the job-seeking experience doesn't come cheap to his family. Yet offenders have free travel connected with probation or court requirements.
I wonder how many of the West Yorkshire Probation Trust's clients could cycle or walk to comply with the law's needs.