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Towpath Talk article 1
15/02/2015
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The National Community Boats Association


National Community Boats Association (NCBA) is an umbrella organisation supporting & representing inland waterway community boating organisations.

The NCBA’s vision is a network of well resourced, well managed community boating organisations that promote access to UK waterways as well as promoting the safe use of community boats as a resource available for the benefit of disadvantaged and excluded groups in ways that promote social cohesion, protect the environment and support economic regeneration.

Community boating organisations provide access to and services on the UK’s waterways for the benefit of their local community. They often work with youth and other community based groups in addition to individuals and may provide specific services for disabled, disadvantaged or otherwise excluded people in our society such as those on low incomes or from minority groups.

The NCBA started out as The Community Boats Association and was formed in 1985 by 5 small community boating organisations working in the Coventry area. This expanded over time to become a national waterways charity comprising a network of member organisations and individuals. They provide access to the UK and European inland waterways for a wide range of community groups. These include schools, hospitals, community care centres and homes, youth clubs, hostels and dependency units. It became the NCBA during the period it was seeking National Lottery Funding in the late 1990s early 2000s.

At the time the aim was promoting social inclusion and the use of the inland waterways for those currently excluded. These aims were to be achieved by:

• Bringing disadvantaged people onto the waterways who would not otherwise have access to them.
• Train staff and volunteers to have a better understanding of user needs and expectations.
• Increase the range of educational, cultural and recreational activities both afloat and ashore.
• Improve standards of community boat handling, safety and customer care.
• Bring organisations old and new into contact and partnership with one another for mutual benefit.

These aims have gradually evolved into the current 'Four Pillars' of the NCBA these being:

• National Voice
• Training
• Quality Provision and Sustainability
• Networking
Standard membership of the NCBA is open to any Project or organisation who provide boating experiences for any groups or individuals from the community. This descriptive criteria is deliberately all encompassing so as not to omit any organisation. Members are expected to operate to the MCA Small Passenger Boat Code (SPBC). In addition Projects can become an Accredited Training Centre (ATC), which allows them to deliver any of the suite of qualifications and awards of the NCBA. The flagship award being the Certificate of Community Boat Management (CCBM), which is recognised by the MCA as an appropriate qualification to skipper a community boat of up to 12 passengers.
The NCBA is run by a Board of Trustees who are elected at the Annual General Meeting and who become a lead Director for a specific area of the NCBA operation. The Board set up sub-committees when and where required, an example being the National Training Committee.
Representatives of the NCBA have been in discussions with the Canal and River Trust (CRT) as well as its predecessor British Waterways on a variety of issues including the hot potato of boat licences, especially for community boats, and continues to debate these issues in a constructive manner as part of the National Voice pillar.
Networking is seen as an important element within the NCBA. Annual conferences are held such as the most recent one at The Forrest Arts Centre in Walsall. More recently the NCBA has embraced the social media network and has Facebook, Twitter and a Blog account.
A recent survey of members indicated that the main advantages of membership of the NCBA was:
• access to a progressive quality training and qualifications structure
• the opportunity to meet other organisations involved with the waterways
• access to advice and support on many aspects of community boating
• a coherent and consistent National Voice on behalf of members

New members are always welcomed and further information can be obtained from the Administrator, NCBA, Town Hall, Victoria Road,, Darlaston, Walsall, WS10 8AA. Tel:08450510649 Mobile: 07789902956 or email staff@national-cba.co.uk

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