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proven problematic – owing to the seasonal nature of my work not aligning with implausible payroll technicalities written into CJRS legislation, I am unable to be furloughed by my employer. Coupled with governmental suggestions in past weeks that the hospitality sector will likely be the last to be released from a ‘locked down’ state, I now face an indeterminate period ‘laid-off’ with little to no income. Turns out I am in good company. Whilst channeling my plentiful spare time into lobbying the government for amendments to the scheme, I found myself connecting with a number of old friends and new acquaintances in outdoor roles who find themselves similarly adrift, albeit each with varying circumstances. It goes without saying, that there are worse things going on in the world right now. But in an industry where many workers are already living on the edge financially, it seems there isn’t much of a margin for hardship. But these are buoyant, resilient individuals by nature, accustomed to adverse conditions and self-preservation, so I asked the questions – how will they stay afloat amidst a mass exodus of tourists, would-be mountaineers and have-a-go climbers? How does a person, whose entire existence is dependent on the outdoors, manage when the world has been told to stay INDOORS? Ian Prior also worked seasonal contracts as an instructor


for an outdoor education company based in Staffordshire. He quickly found his calling and started working on obtaining relevant qualifications with a view to making the jump from his job at a Secondary School to going full-time in Outdoor Education. Ian secured his dream job as a senior instructor, due to start on 30 March, but as his resignation period played out, so the impact of Coronavirus drove life as we know it to a grinding halt. With just nine days’ notice left, Ian was left staring into a


financial crevasse when the Secondary School he was working for closed under governmental social distancing rules and the outdoor education company to which he was appointed was forced to put a freeze on recruitment, leaving him without work. Ian asked his previous employer to rescind his notice, but was declined. Through no fault of his own, entirely due to unfortunate timing, Ian found himself ineligible for furlough as he was on neither employer’s payroll at the time of lockdown being announced. Ian has since found temporary key-work as a residential support worker. “It’s been an incredibly stressful and frustrating period, especially considering the years of seasonal work and NGB training I have already invested,” he said. And whilst government directives regarding the re-opening


of such facilities remain ambiguous, Ian is dubious as to whether his job offer will still stand once ‘normality’ resumes. “The outdoor education company has said they’re looking to get me on board when all this is over, but, all things considered, I’m taking that with a generous pinch of salt.” The biggest losers in these schemes are not only recent job changers, seasonal workers and new starters, but also directors of small companies and the self-employed. Simon Bluer is a freelance outdoor instructor, living the


vanlife with his dog Hunter. He works predominantly in North and South Wales. We first met in Spain last year, and as he puts it: “Our sunny cragging days seem another world away now.” Like me, Si headed back to the UK in March in order to fulfill work commitments. He managed two weeks’ worth of excursions before the true extent of the Coronavirus pandemic began to materialise in the UK and, one by one,


P James of Gibbon Adventures.


the cancellations started to roll in. Under the SEIS, he is entitled to a governmental grant which he expects to receive in June. However, Si estimates that this grant will cover only a quarter of what he would expect to earn based on his bookings up until then. “Because the work is seasonal, and also being self-employed I have business expenses that are offset, so don’t count towards my ‘profit’ – which is how the grant is worked out.” He adds cheerily: “But it’s much better than nothing!” For the time being, Si has joined the ranks of 1.4 million others who have applied for Universal Credit at the time of writing this article, and that will do for now. Whilst Si maintains that he is in no way amongst the hardest hit, it remains a relative unknown as to just how long and to what degree social distancing measures will be in place for, and how long it will be before it is ‘business as usual’ again for outdoor instructors. In


“SOME 500,000 UN-FURLOUGHED WORKERS IN THESE SECTORS ALONE ARE STILL FIGHTING FOR SOME FORM OF FINANCIAL SUPPORT.”


the meantime, he is hoping to snag a more permanent place for he and Hunger to hang out and a job to keep them going. James Monypenny is the director of Gibbon Adventures,


a small company providing climbing courses and guided expeditions in Snowdonia.


“I’ve basically had zero bookings and 100% cancellations or undefined rescheduling since lockdown. I'm still waiting to see what will come of universal credit and if I'm eligible for self-employed support. Sadly it's all very slow, and I’m very thankful I worked a bit this winter.” Whilst we can hope that by their very nature and comparatively low transmission risk for the virus, outdoor and mountain pursuits are being cautiously resumed significantly earlier than the anticipated re-opening of the hospitality sector, the forecast is still uncertain as to when related business might begin to trade again, as services remain shut and overnight stays forbidden.


“It's hard to know what to do going forward, because of the ill-defined future government plan.” Many individuals in the industry saw the ‘unprecedented’ governmental aid packages on offer as glimmers of hope on


SUMMIT#98 | SUMMER 2020 | 51


PHOTO: HANNAH MITCHELL


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