Campaigning for the 'forgotten' pensioners

Published: Wednesday, 28 December 2022

IT WAS in early November that our Keith Gudgin brought in the Express to highlight the problems of rising costs for continuous cruiser pensioners. 

He then told the Express of the rising costs of living on a narrowboat (The Nationals take-up boaters' plea) and the doubts of them obtaining the help with energy bills that was being granted to pensioners living on land.

KeithCampaign successful

With the help of others the campaign was successful, it being announced that the community of pensioners living off-grid on the waterways 'forgotten' by authorities would get the the £400 help with the energy bills support.

Yet the Express spending a further day on the canals with the boating pensioner community who have recently been granted the new help with their energy bills, hear they still feel they have been forgotten by the authorities.

Canal & River Trust maintain there are 5,500 continuous cruisers in addition to other pensioners living on boats either in marinas or bankside.

Keith has been a continuous cruiser for 10 years and was again visited by the Express whilst moored on the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, telling he loves his way of life and although he is relatively comfortable, things are quickly changing.

Rising in cost

The country is in the throes of a recession. Nearly everything, from foodstuffs to fuel, is rising in cost. It has hit boaters particularly hard, for varying reasons. For those like Keith, their future on the canals remains uncertain.

According to the trust, a third of its estimated 35,000 licence holders, some 34% are aged 65 to 74, by far the highest proportion. This is followed closely only by the 55 to 64 age group at 31.6%.

Pensioners like Keith rely on things like coal to heat their homes, as a domestic electricity connection is simply out of the question.  Some use diesel heaters, and of course need to use diesel for moving, that they must do every 14 days.

Keith's comment reflects that of many boaters when he remarks:

“I'm coping for now, but if it carries on the way it is at the moment, without that increase in my pension, give me six months and I would’ve started to struggle—struggle with all of it.

“My fuel costs have gone up 40%. Diesel costs have gone up 35 to 40%. Food’s going up at a phenomenal rate.”

Discount on fuel bills

It was just after the original article that the government announced its plans to introduce an Energy Bills Support Scheme  which will provide those without a 'direct relationship to a domestic energy supplier, with a £400 discount on their fuel bills'.

But the scheme comes much later than those for the millions living on land and later than some of the sub-zero temperatures that hit the country leaving such as Keith for a time trapped on his narrowboat as the waterway where he was moored was completely frozen over. Being stuck means not being able to travel to pick up coal. Not having any coal means going cold.

In addition to all the increases, Canal & River Trust make it worse by announcing its highest-ever boat licence increase, meaning for those like Keith, a rise in pension payments is negated.