Welfare Officer Update

Sean Williams looks back on his first eight months in the job.


It’s mid-June, the sun is almost shining and summer feels like it’s just around the corner. I can’t believe it’s almost eight months since I started working for the Canal & River Trust.

My role as the Trust’s Welfare Officer is to put in place a signposting support system for vulnerable boaters, to ensure that the advice and support they get is consistent. 

I’ve been busy carrying out some research to see what some of the issues and concerns are. I wanted to experience as much as I could and I thought a hands-on approach was the best way.

I’ve spent time with internal teams, external agencies, boating organisations, local authorities, the Department for Work and Pensions, housing benefit teams and enforcement officers. I’ve met a number of vulnerable boaters and walked a fair few miles along the towpath (my muscles have only just stopped complaining). I’ve met with the Waterways Chaplaincy and I’ve even been out on a few narrowboats. On top of that I’ve met with or spoken to national charities like Thames Reach, Citizens Advice and Turn 2 Us, and outreach teams like Julian House in Bath. I’ve also looked at old cases to get a better understanding of the issues and, more importantly, I have met with lots of boaters to discuss their concerns. The research was interesting and informative and I saw that a lot of good work goes unnoticed, both internally and externally, despite some very good, compassionate solutions being found. That said, there are areas we can improve on and that’s part of the reason I’m here.

So what is my role in this? Primarily, I will be working on building support networks and relationships with relevant support agencies and partners, and getting this information to our local teams so that they can correctly signpost people to the places that can help. A key part of my role is to improve partnership working, so that when signposting is offered, the relevant support network knows what its responsibilities are. In between meetings, I’ve reviewed or advised on 70 cases since I started: 35 have been resolved (without the need for legal action) and 35 are still ‘live’. I want to share some of the issues that came up and how they were resolved.

·       We helped a boater who no longer wanted to live on a boat but didn’t know how to get housing on land. The boater was signposted to the Citizens Advice Bureau and I liaised with the local authority, which didn’t have much experience with the boating world. Further support networks were also engaged and the boater was happily re-housed. 

·       We signposted a boater, who wanted help to stop drinking, to a charity called Turning Point (www.turning-point.co.uk) which specialises in helping people to make a change in their life.  The boater is working with them and has seen a big change in (his/her) health, wellbeing and financial situation.

·       Several backdated claims for benefits were paid to boaters. We engaged the Waterways Chaplains to help with applications and they supported the boaters through challenging decisions: this proved effective as the claims were then processed, backdated and paid out. In some situations where benefits were not eligible, we signposted boaters to www.Turn2us.co.uk, which has access to grants and benefit calculators. We then arranged payment plans with the boat licensing team.

·       It’s been fantastic working with the Waterways Chaplaincy team, who have been instrumental in resolving several concerns over unlicensed, uninsured boats. These have been sorted out and no further issues have arisen.


So much of the above has been about great partnership work. We hope we haven’t just resolved a situation; we have supported people and empowered them to be able to understand what they need to do. This should in turn allow them to manage their own situation in the future and build a more sustainable lifestyle. I look forward to meeting with as many NABO News readers as possible but hopefully (and I mean this in the nicest possible way!) in situations that don’t require support. All the best, Sean.

Sean Williams can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The item is here, beware the file is 2mb

Don't forget that CRT have details of the stoppage programme on their web site here.

There is map showing lots of detail. You needed to select 'Notices and Stoppages' in the options box to the right (and unselect anything that you don't want. Then zoom to your area. 

Details of closures are shown in red and further detail in individual links. All good for planing the winter cruise.

NABO meets CRT

Mark Tizard reports on a recent meeting with CRT’s Head of Customer Services.

On Wednesday 29 April, Mike Rodd and I met with Ian Rogers and we had a good, open exchange of views. Slightly tongue-in-cheek, we opened the meeting by thanking CRT for contributing to a surge in new members over the last couple of months! We covered a range of subjects and I've highlighted the key areas below:

Terms and Conditions

We acknowledged the changes that CRT had made to the terms and conditions, largely as a result of NABO’s feedback. We made the point that, as an organisation, we wanted well-written and easily understood terms and conditions, and we were surprised that CRT had not chosen to consult with boating organisations to help it get this right. The fact that the proposed terms and conditions have now been revised as a result of our representations made this clear. We reiterated that, in our view, some of the advice for those with home moorings, for example, was just plain wrong and went beyond CRT’s legal powers.


Ian stated that CRT’s aim was to get boaters to move within a reasonable range to enable the maximum number of boats to enjoy the waterways - and not to remove boats from the canal system. The focus is very much on the boats that have either not moved or hardly moved, and CRT will be robust in its approach. So far, a substantial number of boats that were being offered only a 3-month licence extension from May had not renewed their licences. CRT will be managing the follow-up process externally via their legal advisors for those that do not renew licences.

We queried whether and how winter moorings would affect required movement patterns and we were advised that the availability of winter moorings in the future was currently under review. It was therefore unclear how those boaters who were only granted shorter licences would be affected, but the expectation was that winter moorings would only be available to boaters who were in possession of full 12-month licences.

CRT wants to be seen to be reasonable in dealing with those boaters who have a genuine hardship, breakdown or illness, but evidence may be required if this is only reported towards the end of a licence period after a pattern of non-movement. 


There was agreement that the meetings of boating associations achieved little as they are currently set up, and we discussed using them as briefing sessions, or for CRT to discuss a specific issue. It was agreed that the views of the other associations would be sought. Separately, it was agreed that we would hold regular one-to-one meetings with Ian or other CRT managers when we had issues that we wanted to raise.


We queried whether, to ensure the independence of the Ombudsman, the Ombudsman's Committee would contain some boating members who were not appointed by CRT. Ian undertook to look into this as he was unaware of the details.


We reiterated the wealth of experience that exists within NABO and hoped that CRT would consider engaging with us in advance of major changes in future.

Local mooring plan for the K&A

Mike Roddgives an update from NABO’s perspective

Following further discussions with interested parties, including NABO, CRT has launched its response to the recent consultation on the towpath mooring plan for the K&A Canal west of Devizes1. This plan was produced by a sub-group of the Waterways Partnership, building upon work undertaken by an earlier and, unfortunately, abandoned working party in which most boating organisations were involved.

NABO has always accepted that CRT has a problem that it inherited from BW on this highly congested stretch of the waterway. Having recently rejected Roving Mooring Permits (consistently opposed by NABO) we believe that the proposed interim local mooring guidelines are a reasonable short-term approach. NABO notes that these are only guidelines but given that they are generally locally supported, they will give all interested parties some breathing space to work out nationally agreed solutions.

In essence, the guidelines provide:

  • A fair and consistent approach to handling applications for exceptional overstays.
  • The adoption of a locally-agreed ‘neighbourhoods’ schedule to clarify movement requirements after 14 days.
  • Agreement (as legally required) to move every 14 days.
  • Agreement to moor in different neighbourhoods with no ‘bridge-hopping’.
  • A range of movement exceeding 20km during the period of the licence.
  • Fair consistent enforcement of the 14-day rule.

However NABO is unhappy about the £25 overstay ‘charge’ (which looks to us like a fine) and the proposed no-return rule, both applicable to visitor moorings. Besides the fact that our legal advisors confirm that both are not legally enforceable (assuming the charge is in fact a penalty as there is no mechanism to pre-pay it), we can't see how they can work in practice.

Is it really sensible for CRT to monitor every visitor mooring on a daily basis, presumably to gather evidence?  How do you fine a hire boater? And, presumably, if a private boater is happy to pay £75 for a week in Bath, CRT will be happy to take his or her money; many would see this as good value. Indeed, how will it be collected and how will boaters ask to stay an extra day?

We understand and support the need to share fairly and suggest that simply saying a maximum of 48-hours stay on a visitor mooring is enough. After that boaters have to move on or action will be taken to move them on as they are obstructing others from using the mooring. We also need to point out that from our own member’s experience and NABO surveys, the issue of overstaying on visitor moorings is mostly not caused by continuous cruisers; it is simply a congestion issue.

Beside the above reservations, NABO welcomes the introduction of this plan for an initial 12 months and hopes that it will be supported by the wider boating community. We are also pleased by CRT’s assurance that it will look at our concerns and related issues in full, as part of a national review in which we and other national bodies will be consulted.

1 See: http://canalrivertrust.org.uk/about-us/consultations/completed-consultations