NB Sola Gratia - Cruising and Ministry
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There is a terrific need on the Inland Waterways. To many, it is a hidden world. Often, when we talk to people about what we do, we discover that they do not realise that people even live on boats. We are fortunate, in that we do receive a small income and it was a conscious decision to move aboard.
Sadly, there are many who are forced to live on a boat, thinking it is a cheap way of living. Indeed, in can be. But, all too often, people disappear from the “system”. Although a legal right, it can be easy to slip out of the Benefits system, particularly if you do not have a “proper” address. Certain entitlements are administered by local councils, making it very difficult to claim if you Continuously Cruise and move from one council area to another.
Even accessing such basic rights as health services can be an issue, as we know for ourselves. We are fortunate to be able to use a family member's address as our "home" address. But that is no help if we need, for example, to see a doctor. Some health centres make you register as a temporary resident before they will even consider giving you an appointment. By the time that process has finished, it can be over a month before you can see a doctor!
We have come across many a boater who has had a successful life, then fallen on hard times through redundancy, divorce or an accident. Rather than taking to the streets, they have somehow managed to get themselves a cheap boat to live on. Often, this has taken most of their money and they then find that they are struggling to make ends meet and cannot afford to move the boat to get the diesel and gas they need for power.
Then, of course, there is the downward spiral that is so easy to fall into. Boats must be licensed and insured. In order to achieve this, the boat has to pass the 4-yearly Boat Safety Inspection (the equivalent of an MOT for a car). Also, many boaters who are in financial difficulties don’t have a home mooring (as there is obviously a cost to this). However, this then means they have to move regularly (“Prove they are on a continuous journey”). This can be something of a minefield and, whilst the Canal & River Trust try and work with boaters who they don’t think are compliant with this regulation, it can lead to friction and problems with renewing a licence.
Some boaters who find themselves in difficulties don’t realise what benefits they are entitled to. They also don’t always realise that they could have a home mooring paid for through Housing Benefit. But, by the time that they have reached the point of desperation, they need that helping hand, including financial, to get themselves sorted out and back on the straight and narrow. Quite often, just getting the Boat Safety Certificate sorted out can be the catalyst to get things started. Having someone to simply go with them to the local council and/or the DWP can make all the difference.
Spreading the Word whilst cruising.
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Sharing God's Love on the Waterways.