CRT launch a “Boater Census”

The Canal & River Trust is launching the first ever Boater Census and is asking every boat licence holder to take part and help paint a picture of who boats on the charity’s waterways.

The Boater Census has been designed with input from boater representatives on the Trust’s Council to help understand the different needs of those who live on or who use their boats for leisure on the 2,000 miles of waterways the charity looks after in England & Wales. The anonymous data will be available to share with other organisations, such as local authorities and health service providers, to help them understand boaters’ needs and ensure they are met.

Matthew Symonds, head of customer service at Canal & River Trust, said: “While we know quite a lot about the boats that are on our network, for example the size, type and even their age, we know much less about the people onboard and their circumstances. The Boater Census will give us a comprehensive overview of the people who boat on our waterways, what they are using their boats for, and the challenges that they might face.

“From the conversations we have on the towpath, we know that some boaters face specific challenges, for example raising a family on the water, boating with a disability, or difficulty accessing services such as doctors’ surgeries. The information from the Boater Census will prove invaluable in informing our work so we are more able to understand and support the needs of different boaters and, alongside boating groups and other partners, we will use the information to find common themes and identify areas where we can help. It will also add weight to the work we do with other organisations who may not be familiar with the practicalities of life afloat.

“The Boater Census is short, easy to complete, and completely anonymous, with no data attached to any boater. We are asking boaters to take part and help us build a picture of life on the waterways in the 21st century, 250 years after they opened to navigation.”

Tracey Clarke, co-opted boater representative to represent the views of disabled boaters on the Trust Council, said “For those of us who live on the water, we know that there’s a huge diversity of people in the boating community. However, very little information about them is formally recorded and that makes it much harder provide evidence to those who make decisions about the services that boaters need. I hope boaters will complete the census to help fill this gap in information about who’s on boats on the Trust’s waterways.”

Dave Mendes da Costa, also a boater representative on the Trust Council, said “Spending time on the water is a great experience, but life on a boat is not without its challenges. I know how hard it can be to access basic services like a GP and have seen the obstacles which many face when bringing up children aboard or acting as carers. This census provides the first opportunity for boaters to give the Trust a full picture of these challenges, whether that’s finding places to maintain our boats, access to health services or barriers to claiming benefits. The more boaters who complete the census the better the Trust can understand our needs so I’d encourage everyone to take part.”

The Trust will be sending a unique e-link to the Boater Census to every boat licence holder who has provided an email or mobile phone number. This will be sent out in phases during August. All answers will be anonymous and cannot be linked to individuals or boats.

Boaters are encouraged to complete the census survey by 30 September 2022, and the Trust will send out reminders ahead of that date.


These are CRT’s FAQs

Why don’t you ask more information about boaters when they license their boats?
To get a boat licence there is no requirement to disclose information about who is on your boat and what you are using your boat for.

How have you come up with the questions in the census?
We have worked with boaters from our Navigation Advisory Group and the elected reps to the Trust Council to develop the census survey questions.

What’s the difference between the boater census survey and the Trust’s annual boater survey?
Our annual survey asks a sample of boater’s questions about their views of our waterways, but it doesn’t ask about who’s on your boat or what you use it for. The annual boater survey is only sent to around 10% of licence holders, whereas over the coming months we will be inviting all boaters to complete the boater census survey.

Doesn’t the UK Government census tell you what you need to know about boaters?
Unfortunately the information from boaters captured in the UK census is put in the same category as people who live in other types of mobile homes, so we can’t extract any useful information solely about boaters.

Do boaters have to complete the census survey?
We’re encouraging boaters to complete one census survey per boat so that we capture as much information as possible about everyone on board. It’s really important to note that we can’t trace the survey responses to individual boats or boaters so your answers are anonymous, so please answer as fully and honestly as you can.

What will you do with census survey findings?
the information in the census survey will help us better understand the needs and challenges of boaters on the Trust’s waterways. With this information we will be better able to plan how we meet these needs, and also engage other agencies (such as national and local government, health providers, public services and other partners), to meet the needs of boaters.

When do people need to complete the census survey by?
We’re encouraging people to complete the census survey by 30 September 2022, but for those who haven’t completed it by then, it will remain open for a little longer and we’ll be sending out reminders.

How do I complete the census survey
We’ll be sending a unique e-link to the census survey to every boat licence holder for whom we have an email/or mobile phone number. We’re asking boaters to consider everyone on board their boat when completing the census survey.

Do I have to complete the census in one go?
If you receive your unique link to the survey via email as long as you’ve clicked ‘next’ all your answers will be saved, then you can use the same link to the survey to complete it later. Unfortunately, if you received your unique link via text message, you will have to complete the census in one go.

Can the census survey be completed on a paper form?
Unfortunately not, the census survey questions will direct people to different follow-on questions depending on the answers you select. It’s too complicated to replicate this is a paper survey, but if you can’t complete the census online, please get in touch and we will try to arrange to do it with you over the phone. If you know another boater in this situation, please encourage them to do the same. The number to call is 0303 0404040.

What if my boat is mostly kept off the Trust waterways, but I boat on them frequently, can I complete the census?
Yes, if you’d like to complete the census. Get in touch with us via our customer service number 0303 0404040 and we can send you a link to complete the survey.