Young care leavers are accessing free bus travel across North Somerset and the West of England Combined Authority areas thanks to the WESTfares pass.

Over 400 applications have been submitted for a pass since its launch in November for national Care Leavers Week.

In total, over 26,000 free journeys have been taken.

North Somerset Council is assisting young care leavers to engage with employment, maintain social activities and create supportive relationships.

This initiative is sponsored by bus companies like First and Stagecoach, along with WESTlink on-demand buses.

Every user is eligible for free travel until March 2025, or until they turn 22.

One user said: "It has allowed me to see my family in Weston whenever I would like, feeling more supported and building better relationships with them as previously I would have to ask for a bus ticket, and it made me feel embarrassed to ask."

Other respondents mentioned how the pass has aided in their search for employment.

One recipient of WESTfares pass said: "This has allowed me to look for jobs in Weston-super-Mare town centre and other areas instead of just in my area in Yatton, this has opened up more opportunities for me."

North Somerset Times: Over 400 applications have been submitted for a pass since its launch in November

The scheme also helps care leavers develop self-reliance and learn new skills.

A caregiver noted: "The bus pass has allowed him to learn about safety on buses and try out some smaller bus routes around his accommodation.

"As he has autism this is allowing him to learn independent skills and know the bus routes, so he will be able to do them independently in the future."

Cllr Hannah Young, executive member for highways and transport at North Somerset Council, said: "It’s fantastic that young care leavers are signing up for a WESTfares pass and using the scheme to travel for free across our region.

"The WESTfares pass is helping young people enjoy social activities and to see more of what North Somerset has to offer."

For those seeking to apply for a pass, more information is available on the WESTfares website.

Cllr Catherine Gibbons, deputy leader of North Somerset Council and executive member for children’s services and families, said: "The council is committed to making sure our young residents are given the best chances to succeed.

"It’s great that young care leavers can access new opportunities through the WESTfares pass."

Moreover, North Somerset Council hosts the Care Leavers Forum.

It's an opportunity for care experienced youths to share thoughts and feelings about their past and present experiences.

The council is committed to a greener way of travel to help reach their goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

Until December 2024, single bus fares across North Somerset are capped at £2 for adults and £1 for children.