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Crewe driving instructor says lockdown has taken its toll on their mental health

A 'black cloud' of uncertainty is how Samantha Thomas has described the months of waiting to find out when she could continue her job as a driving instructor.

Like many she was forced to cancel lessons in March, following Government advice in response to coronavirus.

But she says that following that announcement, she and thousands of colleagues across the country heard nothing for weeks.

She said: "There was always a black cloud and question mark over whether we would be able to carry on.

"I have been in contact with quite a few driving instructors who have really struggled with their mental health.

"Very sadly we lost one driving instructor to mental health issues a few weeks ago.

"It really has been a very forgotten industry."

While unable to continue lessons, Samantha filled her time by volunteering, and baking cakes for staff at Leighton Hospital.

But she still faced financial challenges as she waited for news.

Samantha said: "Being self employed and not being able to work for 4 months with no income, I had a little bit of help from the Government grant scheme initially, but that was not paid until July.

"Then I was very fortunately in the position of being able to apply for a bounce back loan, which I got."

Since it was announced on 25 June that lessons were able to resume from 4 July, Samantha says she has received 187 calls from potential students.

But she says now tests have restarted this week, she's also been getting messages from current learners who have been struggling to rebook those that were cancelled during lockdown.

So far only 3 of 22 pupils who were waiting to reschedule them have been able to book in.

Centres are holding fewer tests each day, adding to the delays.

Samantha says she has had to make changes to how she teaches to get students ready for the exam.

She said: "PPE is not mandatory for the students on lessons, however masks are now mandatory for tests.

"That has been quite a challenge, getting students used to it, as well as driving - because as we know, it is a challenging skill."

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