Driving instructors are “relieved” but cautious as they are told the date on which they can return to the roads of Wales.
The long-awaited news that driving lessons can resume on April 12 has been welcomed by instructors who have already been reporting bookings for weeks, or even months in some cases, to deal with huge backlogs.
Many struggled with little financial support during the pandemic, and repeated lockdowns have meant months with little to no income for some instructors, who are often self-employed or working under a franchise model.
The news is part of the ongoing easing of restrictions announced by the Welsh government. Read all the key dates here.
Andy Stoneley, a qualified driving instructor at M4 Driving School in Newport, survived on Universal Credit payments covering less than half of his regular salary and said he had just “gotten rid of it” .
The 35-year-old father-of-three said: “It’s good that we have a date, I’ve already had a full schedule for two weeks and I’m ready to go.
“I am claiming universal credit which is around £ 1,000 per month, less than half of my usual salary. I am not taking time off because I am self-employed and was not entitled to the [Self-Employment] Income assistance plan.
“We saved and saved with a little salary that my wife also brought, but it was difficult. If a third wave comes, we will have to do as we did in the other blockages.”
Andy added that the Newport Council had provided local grants he could use, but knew of other franchise driving instructors who were unable to access any financial support.
Lucy Parry, 50, runs the Learn with Lucy driving school in Caldicot, Monmouthshire. She said it had been a “rush” to have all of her students enrolled since the date was announced.
“I had a student who had booked a weeklong class for the first lockdown, which was canceled, and again in the second and now I can’t book them so they lost over a year of conduct.
“I have a six to seven month backlog for people whose tests have been canceled now and the point is people can’t take a driving test until April 26,” she said.
Lucy added that she spent all of her savings to continue going through the lockdown and although she was able to apply for income assistance, she has not received a payment since December. .
“I bought a brand new car and only worked on it four weeks before the first lockdown. Luckily I had a little bit of savings to live on, but there’s no money at all now.
“The backlog is horrible, so I’m going to be back to work seven days a week. What worries me is that it’s about a third wave, so I hope we don’t get back to a rhythm with it. students and eventually we’ll come back to square one with another lockdown, ”she added.
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Peter Jones, 68, of Llansamlet, said he was “one of the lucky ones” because he was able to get grants and have his pension to rely on.
“It’s been a hell of a time financially. I had already paid for my car and I don’t have a deductible so I survived. Some instructors have hire-purchase and franchise fees to pay and I don’t know. not how they ‘I did it,’ he said.
Peter teaches under the brand name Pass with Pete in the Swansea area and said he has students who have been waiting for a test for over a year.
“One of mine had booked a test on March 3 and it was canceled and his theory test certificate expires at the end of March. They have not extended those, so he will have to take a new theory test to book. a practical internship.
“They extended the MOT for six months but they didn’t do it with theoretical tests and I don’t think that’s very fair,” he said.