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Barbers breaking lockdown rules are 'disgrace to the industry', Shrewsbury barber says

By Rob Smith | Shrewsbury | Coronavirus | Published:

A Shrewsbury barber who is relying on Universal Credit to survive said that barbers continuing to cut hair in secret are "a disgrace to the industry".

Rhys Whitehouse

Rhys Whitehouse, 27, has been a barber for four years but four months ago he became self-employed, meaning he "slipped through the cracks" of government support during the coronavirus lockdown.

Rhys, based at Hinces in Shrewsbury, said: "I've been barbering for four years roughly, I began as an apprentice at a salon in Shrewsbury and attended Wolverhampton College, gaining an NVQ level 2 in barbering.

"After this I began work at a reputable barbershop in Dawley, in Telford, as an employee and rose to shop manager within a year, I was there for almost three years before taking the decision to move to self-employment as of January this year.

"Like with any small business, I've taken a hit, as I am a sole trader with not even two months worth of books. I slipped through the cracks and it has resulted in me only qualifying for Universal Credit.

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"The government was able to accommodate those who are employed and those self-employed who have completed a tax return. Unfortunately I fell into a niche category. However, in times of such oversights, personally I've been able to forgive. I'm thankful I've been able to qualify for at least some form of income to cover my outgoings.

"A global pandemic isn't exactly discriminative and I'm not about to storm Downing Street in a hazmat suit shouting 'what about me?'... when there's been 30,000+ Covid-19 related deaths and basically every one of my family and friends are either frontline at Birmingham hospital, managers of care homes in Wolverhampton, key workers specific to individuals at risk, managers of food banks or funeral celebrants; some of which need desperate funding, PPE or recognition.

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"Obviously this isn't sustainable. If all goes to plan we could reopen from July 4, fingers crossed."

He said he has been "desperately" trying to find ways to bring money in and is grateful for Universal Credit.

'They are shamelessly being advertised'

But, he said, many barbers in the region have not been as scrupulous. He has seen adverts on social media 'buy and sell' groups as well as private barber forums, as well as on the social media profiles of other barbers.

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"I know of several in the Midlands [continuing to cut hair] and I have suspicions of others but I'm not about to name names as all evidence is circumstantial, and any hard evidence should go directly to the police.

"They are shamelessly being advertised all over selling sites and social media and I'd rather not give them more publicity.

"Most barbers in the area are in contact with each other in one way or another and most of us will publicly shame the ones who are arrogant enough to assume that they are above a global pandemic.

"These barbers are using this opportunity to try to gain new clients by flouting these laws, charging a small fortune and performing the service with no PPE and likely no ways of effective sanitation... but often clients have also actively been seeking them out for the sake of having a fresh fade for their one hour of exercise a day.

"The need to break these laws comes exclusively down to vanity from the client and greed from the barber.

"If you're a barber advertising and cutting on the low, you're a disgrace to the industry which is already criminally unregulated as it is.

"I can't wait to see my clients again and be stood back behind the chair but more so I can't wait for my loved ones to be safe.

"It's just a case of sacrifice, be grateful and do your part. Stay home and be accountable for your actions so when you're asked about this in years to come by future generations, you aren't embarrassed by your own answers."

Rob Smith

By Rob Smith
Reporter

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star based at Ketley in Telford.

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