Canal & River Trust (CRT) is to publish “illustrative cruising patterns” for Bargee Travellers with school age children, according to a report by the Waterways Ombudsman. This was revealed by the Ombudsman on 14th February 2017 in the final decision on a complaint from a family whose licence had been restricted to 6 months. These “illustrative cruising patterns” for boaters with school-aged children would be based on actual patterns of other boaters in this position, according to the Trust.
CRT has conceded, in its response to a letter from Michelle Donelan MP dated 25th November 2016, that “We … can conceivably see how a family could moor within 3-4 miles of a canal-side school during school terms, progressing steadily every fortnight, and remain compliant, provided their range of movement is then much greater throughout the non-school periods of the year (around 13 weeks altogether). Of course, there are also responsibilities on schools and local authorities to help transport those children with long journeys who they have accepted into their school.”
The problem with this is that the cruising patterns of boaters with children that CRT has been analysing have been forced upon families following one or more restrictions of their boat licence renewals to 6 months or less. This means that CRT’s “illustrative cruising patterns” are likely to stretch families to the limits of their endurance, as many have experienced in the struggle to get their 12 month licences back, and which they fear they cannot sustain in the long term.
CRT also stated that there are “responsibilities on schools and local authorities to help transport those children with long journeys who they have accepted into their school.” This attempt to pass the buck demonstrates CRT’s ignorance of how school transport works. Where children qualify for transport to school, the local authority currently only provides transport from one location, which does not assist Bargee Traveller families who are in a different place every 14 days.
CRT stated in a previous letter to Ms Donelan that it was looking into how families on restricted licences were able to increase the extent of their movement “and now comply with our guidance”, completely failing to recognise that this has stretched families up and beyond to their limits. Some families managed this by staying with friends during the week; buying a second vehicle; spending more than they could afford on travelling to and from school, and most seriously of all, getting up so early with such long journeys to school that the children were exhausted and unable to learn.
However, the NBTA recommends that all families in this position contact CRT to negotiate a reduced cruising range in term time. CRT previously stated in a statement on 14th November 2016 following investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission that “any request to relax our requirements for this group we will balanced against a number of other legitimate aims, including our duties to manage the waterways, the need to mitigate congestion around certain parts of the network and fairness to other boaters”, implying that such requests would be considered.
This is the letter from CRT to Michelle Donelan MP of 25th November 2016
This is the letter from CRT to Michelle Donelan MP of 22nd August 2016
See here for information about the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s investigation into CRT’s compliance with the Equality Act 2010.
See also Case 933 in the Waterways Ombudsman case reports for 2016-17
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