‘Life changed and I’ve had no income since Christmas – that were here again is awful’


As we look back on a year of lockdowns, we are asking people in different situations to describe how their lives have been affected.

Nik Elvy, 46, is a self-employed outdoor educator and solo parent of three from Bodmin, Cornwall.

She relied on tax credits to boost her low income. Working five or six days a week when lockdown started, all of her bookings were cancelled – and she found herself struggling to get by…

It feels like life changed on March 14, 2020 – that’s when my eldest daughter came home from university because of Covid and my work got cancelled.

I’m low-income anyway but, suddenly, I had no income.

I got some self-employed money from the Government – £900 for three months, which doesn’t really cover it – and my benefits carried on but they’re designed to top up my income, not to be the income.

I usually work five or six days a week. I’ve built up my work, built something that worked for me, over years, so to see it go was awful.

Nik Elvy near her home in Cornwall
Nik Elvy near her home in Cornwall

I usually get working tax credits and child tax credit and housing benefit to help but that became my main source of money.

It’s such a shock. You’re in a situation where you’re forced to stop working through no fault of your own.

In the past, I knew I could always diversify, always find something, but that hasn’t been possible this year.

We just had to do without. My car broke down at the start of lockdown and I couldn’t fix it, so we couldn’t go to a supermarket.

This is a super-rural village with no shop or public transport. For a while we had no fresh stuff. It wasn’t easy, I had to be creative with what I could buy online, but there was no fresh fruit or veg.

It cost more as there wasn’t any choice and all the kids were at home. I know some people have been able to save money but, for us, it has definitely cost more.

I took part in a project called Covid Realities, to connect to other people and share my experience of what was happening. My daughter was home from uni but still paying for uni so couldn’t contribute. I had to try my best.

Nik Elvy at her home village of St Wenn in Cornwall. 5th February 2021
Hard-working Nik has fallen on hard times due to the pandemic and lockdown

We didn’t bend the rules and make excuses to go out. We started off with a timetable of jazzy things to do. That lasted about a week, then we gave up.

We tried to make content online to keep people amused and we’ve got a garden we can sit in.I just tried to keep everything perky for everyone, to keep everyone’s spirits up in the house.

Then the summer came and Cornwall was busier than ever. Lockdown opened up but we didn’t. It felt like a lot of people wanted to leave Covid behind, forget about it and come here.

So it might have felt normal for other people but we had so many visitors. It was absolutely rammed. It made a lot of people who live here quite stressed.

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Anywhere we might normally go we avoided because it was packed. It was not very nice.

When we got to autumn I was able to work. I was working seven days, in a panic. I felt I had to do as much as I could as we might end up back in lockdown again.

One of my kids said after the first lockdown that she had been worried [about returning to school]. I hadn’t realised. Most days we have seen no one else at all, so the leap to being with hundreds of people is a big deal.

They need some events that help them to adjust but, no, it’s straight in with returning and getting tested.

The Mirror is looking at Our Year in Lockdown
The Mirror is looking at Our Year in Lockdown

Finding myself in lockdown again has been challenging. We’re completely stuck and isolated but the first lockdown helped me prepare for this one.I managed to get subscriptions for a veg box scheme. It’s more expensive but kind of essential.

The biggest thing I’ve learned is that there are circumstances where my willingness to work hard can be irrelevant.

Mostly we have survived because I work hard but lockdown has been a wake-up call. Everything changed.

I need to try to find new ways to work. I am waiting for March 31, when outdoor recreation is permitted, but it will land on the Easter holiday. The bulk of our work is term time so, in reality, we might not start until half way through April.

I still haven’t heard about the latest self-employment grant and I have had no work income since Christmas.

Psychologically, the fact that we are here again, with all the financial worry, again – it’s awful.

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