Driving instructors in Wales say they are struggling to survive not knowing when they will be able to return to work as calls for clarity have been made by those working in the industry.
Driving lessons have been suspended since March 20, with only key workers allowed to take lessons and take tests.
In England, since July 4, learner drivers have been able to resume lessons, but Wales has its own rules on when testing and lessons can resume, and there have been no signs of an announcement to solve the problem.
Haydn Balch, who runs Haydn Balch Driving School in Garden Village, Swansea, described his frustration at the lack of information being passed on to those working in his industry.
During the coronavirus pandemic the government has paid the self-employed 80% of their annual earnings, up to a maximum of £2,500 a month, the amount depending on your own personal self-assessments which you have filed over the course of three year.
The 50-year-old, who has been a freelance instructor for just over three years, admitted he was ‘coming to the end of his rainy day fund’ and had heard of some colleagues who had had to going to food banks because of their desperate situations.
“Boris Johnson has allowed England to resume driving lessons, but Mark Drakeford has not,” he said.
“It costs around £2,500 to train as a driving instructor, some have paid for that and then all of a sudden it pops up and they haven’t been able to work. There are a lot of people who have lost money. money and we’re not getting answers from the Welsh government.
“I’m coming to the end of my rainy day fund. It’s been a struggle, I haven’t worked at all.
“I only received payment in June, so between March and June I had no income.
“I’ve heard of some driving instructors who have had to resort to food banks because of the situation they’re in, it’s really bad.
“A lot of people don’t realize that the self-employed don’t make a lot of money – there are always bills coming out but no money coming in.
“It’s going to set learners back a long way, because they haven’t had a class for a long time, and if they don’t have regular classes in the future, it’s going to make them lose confidence and they’ll end up back in the box. A. For others, the inability to learn to drive means they cannot progress and find a job.
When discussing ways to make driving lessons safer in the future, Balch has a few ideas in mind.
“It’s going to be a lot harder for social distancing, they’ve talked about putting screens in the middle of cars, but that’s something we can’t do, what if an instructor needs to get behind the wheel suddenly?” he said.
“We can drive with the windows open to circulate the air and let students know ahead of time and make sure they are dressed appropriately. Masks can also be worn and fewer lessons can be taken, some le morning and others in the afternoon to give the cars time to be properly cleaned in the meantime.”
Mr Balch said he felt it was unfair that tattoo parlors were told they could prepare to reopen from July 27 but could not teach.
“If you’ve been to a tattoo parlor, he doesn’t know you from Adam,” Mr. Balch said.
“With our students, we know where they live and we can track and trace much better than stores.”
On Wednesday July 15, Mr Balch and Martin Lindsay of I’ll Drive School of Motoring in Llanelli, organized a driving demonstration through the streets of Cardiff, and a letter will be delivered to the Senedd.
“The idea is to shed light on the fate of our case,” Mr. Balch said.
“We’re all going to meet at IKEA and then go to the Senedd. A letter has been written to Mark Drakeford which is going to be delivered and then we’re going to the Welsh office in Cathay’s Park. It’s going to be a little rally around Cardiff People don’t like learner cars the best of times, they’ll really love it when there’s around 50 of them together at once on Wednesday!
“It will be a peaceful protest just to highlight our plight and if anyone sees a convoy of learner driver cars it may make them wonder why. There will be instructors taking part from all over South Wales , and there are some from Pembroke , Aberystwyth and Bristol who will take part.
“We just need a clear clarification from Mark Drakeford on when we can start work which would put a lot of people at ease. We all have a rainy day fund but we want to know how long shoot it.
“If we’re talking about three months, maybe we should wrap up the business and go get something else. We want clear clarification. Throughout, we haven’t been mentioned, it feels like we’re the ‘forgotten industry.’
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are working closely with the DVSA on how to restart driving lessons in a way that is safe for everyone involved. We are in the process of agreeing dates for this to happen.