A Driving Instructor's Blog

ADI

I received an email alert from DVSA today (as should most other instructors have done). Basically – and except for key workers – all tests are off until further notice. The essential part is reproduced here:

Driving instruction and driving tests

Other than emergency training and tests for critical workers, driving instruction and driving tests have not yet been able to restart because the risk of transmission of the virus in vehicles is higher.

In his statement on 10 June, the Prime Minister reiterated that the government will remain cautious and measure the effect of the changes it makes. The Prime Minister explained this means moving slower than we’d have liked in some areas.

Driving instruction and tests will only restart when the government is confident that the assessment of risk warrants it, subject to the 5 tests and further detailed scientific advice.

In the meantime, I want to re-emphasise that you should continue to limit driving lessons to critical workers who are preparing for an emergency driving test.

Once again, I would like to thank those of you who have been able to offer driving lessons to critical workers during these unprecedented times.

We will, of course, share more information with you as soon as it’s available – including the dates that driving instruction and driving tests can restart.

Any change to this is wholly dependent on what COVID-19 does next, and what the government decides as a result. That is unlikely to occur before July at the earliest, and I have texted all my pupils this afternoon indicating that we are unlikely to be doing lessons before August at the earliest.

One of my pupils has already received a cancellation email – and it is a cancellation, not a rescheduled date. That ought to be telling you something.

I have highlighted in bold the part DVSA emphasises in its email. For anyone too stupid to understand it, it says you should only be giving lessons to key workers who are preparing for a driving test.

I am awaiting the usual clowns arguing ‘yes, but it says should, not MUST’ (a reference to the terminology used in the Highway Code, where the difference is between advice or Law). I’d point out to these idiots that even going against advice can often lead you towards the hard legal aspects. Quite easily. In this case, by working when you shouldn’t you’re probably making the delay for everybody else longer, as you help COVID-19 spread.

Just remember. Apart from the money-grabbing aspect, there is absolutely no point teaching people at the moment if they cannot book a test. Try as you might to sound philanthropical about it, you’re doing it for you, not them. And it shines through like a beacon. Even if you do go ahead and work – and it cracks me up to see all these people who’ve been saying we can, and they’re going to start again ‘on Monday’ every week without fail (but haven’t) – what will you do once your pupils reach test standard? It’s likely there’ll be no tests until September – maybe longer if the shit hits the fan again, which you working is likely to help happen – and that’s three months away. By then you’ll possibly have blown your chances with SEISS (Part 2) and run out of people to teach. And that’s even assuming you can run a full diary right now (with most pupils not being as clueless as you and staying safe), and having to sanitise the car with a gallon of sanitizer every hour.

Share

COVID School of MotoringThey get, worse. They really do. Why do people who are usually unable to even do their own accounts insist on reading into things, and then create concerns among others?

A few weeks ago, it was announced that the SEISS scheme would be paid for a 2nd and final time, and you’ll be able to apply in August. Bear in mind that SEISS is not something created specifically for driving instructors – it is for self-employed people. It may come as a surprise, but there are more self-employed people out there than there are driving instructors. A lot more.

The Government website states:

This scheme is being extended, and you’ll be able to claim a second and final grant in August 2020.

We will work out your eligibility the same way as the first grant. If you make a claim for the second grant you will have to confirm your business has been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020.

This grant will be a taxable grant worth 70% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering a further 3 months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.

You can claim for the second and final grant even if you did not make a claim for the first grant.

It is the part about ‘on or after 14 July’ which has steamed up a few pairs of bifocals. Apparently, if you twist it around enough, you can convince yourself that they aren’t paying you for June.

Look, it’s really simple. In August you will be able to claim 70% of your average monthly business profit (not 80%, like last time), for a further three months of missed work. It’s up to you whether you include June in that, but it’s still three months – it says so in black and white.

The part about having to confirm your business is affected is fairly obvious – because of the aforementioned belief that SEISS is only for instructors. That condition was in there from the moment they announced it on 31 May, and is more relevant to the vast majority of self-employed people who could be working fairly normally by that time.

If you’re one of those instructors who has been itching to get back – and even if you’re one of the ones who has spent the time since March spamming every message board going telling people ‘technically, we can work’, even though you haven’t – if you are working before 14 July then it’s your problem if HMRC decides you are not affected and therefore not eligible. Just as it would be for me.

The problem here is that it is obvious to anyone with any sense that driving instructors should not be working right now. Even if you manage to cram all the good things you’ve read into a toothpaste tube and squeeze them out into a convoluted sentence that leads you to conclude you technically can work, you shouldn’t be. Even if you dunk your car in a bath of sanitizer between lessons you shouldn’t be. And even if you conduct lessons wearing a deep-sea diving suit you shouldn’t be. Because the virus is still there, at quite a high level, and you will be shut in a tin box with strangers less than half a metre away from you for hours at a time. The only thing you’re thinking of is money – which explains why some people are prepared both to go back to work as soon as they can and try to claim SEISS on top.

I know full well I will not be working on 14 July. Even if I technically can.

They’re going to take it off you again

No. They. Aren’t.

Jesus, how thick do you need to be? If you were eligible in the first place – by not working at all, and not getting a mountain of income from stocks and shares, or a pension – the first SEISS is yours, as long as you didn’t lie to them. If you did lie, it serves you right if you have to pay it back.

The criterion was that if more than 50% of your income over the last three years was from self-employment, you were eligible for the SEISS. That’s how it was for me – initially, 100% of my income was from self-employment over the last three years, and half way through it switched to 70% self-employment and 30% private pension. My PAYE account, along with my self-assessment, shows HMRC clearly what my income was. I had purposely dialled back on work because of my pension – with hindsight, and for purely financial reasons, I wish I hadn’t. But that’s irrelevant. Even if I’d always had that pension, I’d still have been eligible.

In August, and unless I am am working normally, I will be eligible again. I may have to prove that, but it would be no issue at all doing so.

The only way you’d need to pay anything back is if it turned out you’d been working normally throughout the period. If they caught up with you on that, it’s up to you to sort it out. You shouldn’t have been working, and if you were and still claimed, you only have yourself to blame.

Share

Antique slide-tile gameDoes anyone remember that toy you used to get in Lucky Bags? It was a small plastic plate with 15 sliding tiles in it. The Sixteenth position was empty, and the idea was to slide the other tiles into the space and eventually end up with all of them in numerical order.

I wonder if anyone would be prepared to manufacture the one I came up with, above? From what I keep reading, I think a lot of instructors would find it useful for running their lives right now.

It’s easier than the old version. They’re not supposed to go in any order, or anything. You just move them around randomly for a bit then ask a question about the one in the top left-hand corner.

Share

Virus imageI’m still amazed by the number of people who are prepared to go out and behave like nothing is wrong now that lockdown rules have been eased.

These people are simply too thick to realise that the virus is still out there. I was looking for a simulation of the situation we’re in and came across this little tool. It’s COVID-19 simulator – not a fancy or professional tool, but a basic example of the exact situation we are in right now.

Basically, the red dot is someone with the virus. The blue dots are uninfected people. When you click the ‘play’ button, the dots start moving randomly, and each time one of the blue dots touches the red dot, that one also turns red. Watch how quickly the whole population becomes infected. Forget the green ‘recovered’ people later, because right now no one know if or for how long those people remain immune, or if they can still transmit the virus (which they can if they are contaminated, even if they’re not infected).

That is what anyone who is desperate to start teaching again (or queue for 5 hours outside IKEA) is both exposing themselves to, and then exposing the rest of us to.

Obviously, if none of the blue dots ever come into contact with the red dot, then there is no spread.

Just consider that in the real world that is the UK right now, there were another 1,570 confirmed cases today – red dots – some of whom will likely have been on beaches and pushing past people in supermarkets at the weekend. The UK has stopped publishing the number of active cases, but it is likely to be somewhere close to 250,000. That’s a quarter of a million red dots, and many of those will also have been in contact with at least some blue dots before they came down with it. And with every man and his dog claiming that they’ve also had it in order to go back to work, how many blue dots will they have been in contact with?

Quite simply, until the number of red dots is so small that your chances of coming into contact with one is unlikely – or until there’s a vaccine – going back to work is fraught with danger.

Share

Image of virusIt has been announced that the SEISS will be paid again in August. This time, it will be 70% instead of 80% of the average income over the last three years. For me, that should be around £3,000.

As I have said before – and if you are eligible – it is far better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Note that the article says applications will ‘open in August’. Logically, this means we’re going to have to put up with almost three months of people asking when they can claim, and why it hasn’t been paid yet, just like last time – even though HMRC had made it crystal clear numerous times. Oh, and those who won’t have heard about it, and still won’t have even at the end of July, who will then start blaming HMRC. Come on, people. We have something called ‘the internet’ these days – they don’t use messenger pigeons anymore!

Share

Ethanol - molecular modelAs I mentioned some weeks ago – Jeezus, it was the day before we stopped work – it is easy to make your own hand sanitizer.

The best kind contains alcohol, and it has to be at least 60% alcohol to be classed as effectively anti-bacterial. So any holistic fruit extracts people are using are both not as good (if at all), and not affected by what I’m going to say next.

In keeping with the usual social media ethic, a lot of slightly wrong, wholly fake, and completely true information is being posted on virtually every topic imaginable, and many people are unable to decide which is which. The latest one concerns hand sanitizer being kept in the car in hot weather, and the circulation of photoshopped images more or less showing the craters left in roads after a bottle of it spontaneously ignites.

The images are almost certainly faked, but there is a risk with storing any flammable liquid in the car during hot weather, and I’ve mentioned that before in my article on how to make your own screenwash concentrate. The risk is proportional to how much of it you’re storing and the temperature it gets up to.

Alcohol-based sanitizer typically contains 70% ethanol. Pure ethanol has a flash point of 13°C, which means that at that temperature or above, a combustible vapour exists above it which would be ignited in the presence of any spark or flame. In an enclosed space, it would be explosive. A 70% solution of ethanol in water is slightly less dangerous, having a flash point of 21°C. In sunny weather, the inside of a car can easily exceed 30°C – especially if it is parked on a driveway with the windows closed. However, the autoignition temperature (where it just catches fire anyway), even of pure ethanol, is close to 400°C. You’re not going to get craters in the road driving on this planet!

It is therefore a scientific fact that any alcohol in the car will evaporate, and the vapour will be in an enclosed space. Depending on how much alcohol you had in there to start with, any spark – such as static from touching the car chassis (we’ve all felt that), or smoking – could ignite it.

Fair enough, a small 20ml bottle wouldn’t produce much vapour, so the chances of any ignition at all even with a blowtorch would be almost non-existent. But a 500ml one – especially if you were also carrying spare bottles of it – definitely could. As I said in that article about screenwash, my advice would be never to carry neat or nearly-neat alcohol (or any other flammable liquid) in the car when it’s hot, and only a minimal amount at other times, since if there was a spill in a crash it could easily lead to a fire.

In the case of sanitizer, it is not neat alcohol, but it is a high concentration of it nonetheless. It would be safest not to leave it in the car – keep it in your bag, and carry it with you when you park up. Keep it out of the sun, and preferably in the boot (though I can think of reasons why that might not be the perfect place for it, either).

Oh, and if the alcohol evaporates, it means the sanitizer isn’t 70% anymore, so it will stop being effective for its intended purpose.

And one more thing. If your sanitizer contains isopropyl alcohol instead of ethanol, it is still potentially flammable.

The bottom line is that there is a small risk. Be careful.

Share

Asda Cashback PlusSince we went into lockdown, my bank has changed its interest rates, and they are certainly not for the better. It’s no big deal, and I fully understand why they’ve done it.

But one change on the financial front which was a pleasant surprise involved my Asda Cashback credit card. I’ve written about this before, but since I get all my groceries and fuel from Asda, getting 2% cashback on everything from there (0.2% anywhere else) has been a great way of reducing fuel costs. The only minor niggle has been you have to print off a voucher and can only use it in-store – and not to buy fuel directly.

Anyway, it turns out Asda’s relationship with Creation (the company who manages the card) is ending in July, and my account will automatically switch from Asda directly to Creation from that date. As I was reading the letter, I was waiting for the bad news about losing my cashback or having the rate reduced. But there wasn’t any. In fact, what will happen now is that I’ll get 2% cashback on purchases from anywhere, and the money will be credited to my balance every month! I pay the whole lot off monthly anyway, so there’s no interest.

I’ve currently got cashback to the value of about £50 in my Asda account (I’ve been getting weekly grocery deliveries online), and I’ve got until September to redeem that in-store.

Share

virusAlmost every one of these has ‘so can I start teaching again’ after it.

Loads of people have had COVID-19 without realising it

Official ONS statistics suggest 0.25% of the population has had COVID-19 as of the time this claim was made. That’s not ‘loads’. It’s actually a very small proportion – one four hundredth of the population, in fact.

Update: The government is now saying up to 20% ‘have had it’. I’m not sure how they know that, since only 3 million tests have been done, and most of those were on people in hospital, on the frontline, or with symptoms. Test 3 million people who are in the thick of it (or in hospital), and you will get far different results compared with testing 3 million people who have been in almost complete isolation for the last two months.

It’s just flu

Tell that to the 35,000 of the 0.25% (or 20%) who have died from it in just a little over three months.

I’ve had it, so I’m safe

And you can now leap tall buildings in a single bound. But assuming you have had it – a lot of ignorant people are convinced they have because they had a ‘bad cold and a cough’ around Christmas, and ignore the ONS figure of only 0.25% (or latest government claim of 20%) of the population likely to have – you can still spread it around. And no one is sure yet if you can get it again – which you probably will be able to, based on other coronaviruses.

I’ve had it, so I can’t pass it on

Yes you can. Perhaps not by coughing it out, but certainly by picking it up on your hands and transferring it by touching things.

The government said most cases are very mild

Yes. And 0.25% (or 20%) of the population has apparently had it, and 35,000 people have died as a result. Multiply 35,000 by 400 (or 5), and that’s potentially how many could die if the whole population got it based on what’s happened so far. It’s unlikely to be as high as that, but it’s still a Big Number.

Share

Virus imageToday was my day to make my claim. I had already checked to see if I was eligible for the grant, and had been given today as the date to make my claim.

The claim procedure was absolutely straightforward. Not a single hiccup along the way. The amount I was awarded was exactly what I’d calculated I would receive – around £3,500.

(Update: claim made Friday, payment made immediately after midnight Tuesday).

I note that quite a few instructors have been confused by the request for the ‘billing address’ of the account money is being paid into. Clearly, these people have never actually purchased anything on the internet before, since you’re asked for your billing address almost every time you make a purchase. Anyone still waiting to do their claim, the billing address is typically the address where the named person on the bank account you have specified lives (if you made it more complicated by living at a different address and using an account of someone else, you sort it out). In my case, it was straightforward – my billing address is always my home address – but it shouldn’t be that hard to work it out even if you’re one of those people who has a registered home address, a 2nd address, a business address, a holiday home, a caravan, a camper van, and a pony in a field somewhere. It isn’t the address of your bank, although from what I have heard, HMRC has turned off its stupid filter to allow for those who have decided – and even tried to argue – that it is.

Update: I am seeing lots of people making confusing statements about the way this payment is handled. To clarify.

You were given a date and time from which you could apply. Once you placed your claim – and assuming you entered the correct details in order to get paid – you were told it would take up to six days. That’s six working days, and most banks don’t include weekends as ‘working days’. Once your claim was made, the process was silent, and no emails relating to it’s progress through the system were sent out.

Once the payment was made to your nominated bank account, you may or may not have received a text, email, or other notification via your bank’s app. It would depend on the bank, the app, any settings you may or may not have set, or if you were still in the Dark Ages and insist on receiving paper statements through the post as if the internet didn’t exist. For example, my payment was made at one minute after midnight on Tuesday, and my banking app sent me a notification several hours later – as it does for any deposit into or payment from my account. This notification (or otherwise), in whatever form, is from your bank, and not HMRC.

Some banks are faster than others. It depends on whether they handle the ‘faster payments’ system, for one thing. Mine does, and deposits appear almost instantly. But it can take some time – sometimes a day or two – for other banks to process payments.

Amusingly, I did get an ‘update’ email from HMRC, addressed to me personally and containing my claim reference number, confirming I was eligible, and that my payment was ‘being processed’ and should be expected within ‘3 working days’. That arrived at 3am this morning – over a day after I’d been paid! It didn’t bother me in the slightest, nor do I feel the need to launch into an attack on anyone over it. However, it did add that you shouldn’t phone HMRC until the specified time period has elapsed – and I would point out that ‘six working days’ from a claim made last Friday potentially runs until next Monday.

Finally, bank account details and email addresses are very, very precise items. If someone asks for your email address, they have to have precisely your email address – not something ‘like’ what you seem to remember it might be, sort of. If you give the wrong one, you won’t get any emails. It’s that simple. And the same with a bank account and sort code numbers. If you entered them incorrectly when you made your claim, there’s a good chance the money has either gone to someone else (if the numbers matched) or the payment has failed. If you don’t get your payment after six working days, you’ll have to try and contact HMRC to sort it out. And don’t be surprised if you have to claim all over again.

Share