A leading driving school has called for driving lessons to be added to the list of essential services which can continue during lockdown, claiming their suspension is jeopardising jobs.
The move echoes the decision taken during the first lockdown when all driving instruction and testing was stopped for four months.
However, Ian McIntosh, CEO of RED Driving School has warned that the decision could have significant consequences for learner drivers and instructors as well as causing another major backlog, and has urged the Government to allow lessons to continue.
Following the Government announcement on tougher national restrictions from Thursday, driver and rider training and tests will be suspended in England from 5 November until 2 December 2020.
We will be providing further guidance and contacting those affected as soon as we can.
— Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (@DVSAgovuk) November 2, 2020
He argued that with learners and the industry still feeling the impact of the delays caused by the first lockdown, a further suspension of lessons could harm learners' employment prospects and put driving instructors’ livelihoods at risk.
He said: “We understand the difficult position the government is in and recognise the importance of stopping the spread of the virus for the health and safety of the nation. However, we have worked tirelessly to make sure driving lessons are safe. The driver tuition industry has already faced months of uncertainty and financial hardship this year and to stop driving instruction for a second time is a mistake.
“Driving lessons should be considered an essential service and be allowed to continue throughout lockdown, as long as safety measures like mandatory face coverings are observed.
“Many of our learners need their licence for work purposes because their job requires driving or because public transport doesn’t suit their work schedule or location. Others need to learn to drive for childcare purposes or to attend medical appointments.
“Many instructors have already endured months of financial hardship having not qualified for the government’s Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. It is incredibly disappointing to see the lack of support being offered at this time to self-employed instructors, especially those who will lose their income in the run-up to the Christmas period.”
Mr McIntosh also warned that another four-week halt in lessons and testing will compound the backlog which has seen hundreds of thousands of learner drivers struggle to secure lessons and tests.
He added: “There is already huge demand for lessons following the first lockdown, and the DVSA has been unable to cope with the testing backlog. The latest stoppage will only worsen the strain. Before March’s lockdown, 4,000 driving tests were held per day – meaning nearly half a million tests were cancelled or delayed during the initial lockdown period. Since lockdown was lifted, RED has had over 200,000 enquiries from new students, more than double what we’d normally see at this time of year.”