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Covid 19 restrictions have 'removed my livelihood'

By Ali Gordon
BBC News NI

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image copyrightDee Brotherston
image captionDee Brotherston runs football coaching sessions for children across Northern Ireland

When Dee Brotherston launched his business at the beginning of 2020, he had big plans.

The football coach from Newtownards, County Down, had worked in the industry for more than 15 years and was excited about going out on his own.

But in March the UK went into lockdown, forcing him to pause his plans and now, like many other business owners, he is back in the same position after new Covid-19 rules were introduced.

"The impact this has had on my mental health has been significant," he said.

"I had some really tough days in the first lockdown. Not knowing when we could open, scraping by financially, was a real struggle."

With no income, and three children at home, he was forced to ask for some financial help from close friends and family members.

"That in itself is degrading when you are a proud working man and you have to ask for help because your livelihood has been removed through no choice of your own," he told BBC News NI.

"All these feelings and thoughts have came back again now and the uncertainty and insecurity is extremely worrying."

image copyrightDee Brotherston
image captionDee says supporting his family is his priority

Under new restrictions, hospitality businesses will be limited to takeaway and delivery services for four weeks from 18:00 BST on Friday.

No indoor sport or organised contact sport involving mixing of households can take place, other than at elite level, and most mass events involving more than 15 people are cancelled.

Gyms may remain open for individual training but no classes are permitted.

From Monday, schools will close for two weeks and will not remain open to facilitate childcare for children of essential workers, like they did the first time round.

'We followed the rules'

Dee had planned to run a Halloween football camp, which would provide a significant income boost, but this has now been scrapped, like his Easter and summer schemes.

image copyrightKickabout Kidz
image captionHoliday camps, which usually generate increased income, have been scrapped

He had already paid the venues upfront and an additional £800 for advertising.

"When lockdown was initially lifted, we then invested in a bespoke one-to-one coaching program," he said.

"Social distancing was in place and when it was two children, they were from the same household.

"We wanted to follow the rules as closely as possible."

As lockdown restrictions lifted a little more, he paid a solicitor for a Covid-secure policy "at significant cost" so he was able to book venues with Covid-secure policies.

He also appointed a Covid officer and brought in extra health and safety measures, such as extra hand and equipment sanitising and limited numbers.

"But with the latest lockdown and new restrictions, we have had to close once again," he said.

"This again impacts the fact parents have paid for a course that we are in the middle of and once we open again we will reimburse the missed sessions therefore impacting us financially again.

"We have been told that this will be for four weeks but the last time we were told it would be three weeks and four months later we still weren't open."

image copyrightKickabout Kidz

In the last five weeks, more than 100 children have attended his sessions across Northern Ireland and its owner says that it has not recorded a single case of Covid-19.

Dee has a message for politicians: "Your decisions have put people on the breadline and, in these times of hardship, it's a real slap in the face that not only have your own financial situations been untouched, you gave yourselves a pay rise. That makes me angry."

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More on this story

  • Schools to close and tight new hospitality rules in Northern Ireland