Houseboat residents on the Kennet and Avon Canal have spoken of their struggle after being excluded from government support for energy.

A group of six boaters met with Danny Kruger on July 19 at Caen Hill Marina where the MP for Devizes said would campaign for support on their behalf.

Boaters with no permanent mooring say they have been excluded from the £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme, which was for all households, and the £200 Alternative Fuels Payment, which was for those not connected to mains gas.

Pamela Smith who lives on a houseboat currently on the Kennet and Avon and works part-time as a postie in Devizes.  

She said after the meeting: “Some people have been reduced to burning old clothes to keep themselves warm or stealing fence posts from rich landowners.

“Bottled gas has almost doubled in price and it’s already very expensive. Diesel has almost doubled and we use that to generate electricity. Many have had to go to foodbanks.

“Like so many others the boating community has had to choose between heating and eating in a lot of cases.”

Nick Brown - a boat builder and legal consultant - is another Kennet and Avon resident.

He said: “Next winter is going to be particularly cold and hard. If we’re denied this grant next winter people will die.

“I’ve been led to believe there’s already been one death stemming from hypothermia, stemming from the fact this grant wasn’t paid.”

And added: “We don’t exist. We’re under the radar. So, when it comes to this grant for example we were just excluded out of hand but they didn’t bargain on so many educated people being on boats.”

Mr Kruger said: “We’ve got a group of people here who’ve been promised support from the government because the government promised to give support to all households but because they live on boats that are not permanently moored they are not eligible and that seems wrong and I have agreed to get an adequate explanation from the government about why boats without permanent moorings are being excluded.

“The next step is to enquire about the review that’s going on into the scheme and to make representations that in any future scheme itinerant boat dwellers are eligible.

“I’m also going to work with other MPs who represent areas with boat dwellers living there to campaign together to make the changes needed.”