Recovering Doncaster drug and alcohol users’ rehab is to steer 60ft canal barge

A barge at Swinton Lock.
A barge at Swinton Lock.

People overcoming drug and alcohol problems are finding an unusual way to make progress – by getting to grips with a 60ft narrowboat.

Around 40 clients involved in the “Moving On” project run by Doncaster West Development Trust (DWDT) have made the most of opportunities at Swinton Lock Activity Centre which runs accredited boat handling courses.

The outdoor training initiative has already led to one former addict securing a job, some taking on volunteering roles and many others rediscovering education.

Moving On supports people to find work or training and addresses issues such as low self-esteem and a lack of skills, motivation and confidence. DWDT support worker Rob Keane said the narrowboat course was brilliant for anyone in the early stages of recovery who wasn’t yet ready for formal training.

“There are no tests or any pressure for people to deal with, they just have to attend each session and reach the required standard to achieve a certificate,” he explained.

“Many of our clients have had no experience of education for years and sometimes no positive feedback about anything. This course gives them the chance to learn as part of a team and to make friends while doing something different. Everyone who’s tried it has gone on to other things so it seems to inspire people and act as a stepping stone towards work and training,” added Rob.

Funded by Public Health Doncaster, the Moving On project meets or surpasses its targets each year and works closely with local providers to offer diverse and effective training opportunities when people are ready to take them.

As well as the narrowboat sessions, clients have learned valuable skills on Doncaster Rovers’ Foundation courses and attended college to study subjects ranging from maths and English to counselling and photography. Those who are

ready for employment have been trained in the workplace for careers including railway maintenance and construction.

“It’s those initial small steps that really improve people’s wellbeing and outlook,” commented Rob. “If you can handle a 60ft barge, you’re more likely to have the confidence to give something else a go and that’s what makes the difference.”

To contact the Moving On team for free and confidential support, telephone 01709 866466 or email