Today, there have been two really important announcements for the Changing Places toilet campaign. Firstly, the Government will be consulting on ways to require Changing Places toilets to be provided in new large publicly accessible buildings. Secondly, that £2 million of funding has been made available to install Changing Places toilets in NHS hospitals.
This is a really exciting moment for the campaign and a huge credit to the dedicated work of Changing Places toilet campaigners who have been tirelessly pushing for legislation change and for strategic venues, including hospitals, to install more Changing Places toilets for years.
Today’s announcement follows a recent £2 million investment by the Department for Transport to increase Changing Places facilities in motorway service stations. The Government, with contributions from the devolved administrations, has also provided £70,000 for an online map of the UK that helps carers and disabled people easily find Changing Places toilets.
What does this mean for the campaign?
In the absence of Changing Places facilities, disabled people and/or carers face:
- Limiting what they drink to avoid needing the toilet when they are out – risking dehydration and urinary tract infections;
- Sitting in soiled clothing or dirty nappies until a suitable toilet is found or they return home;
- Having to change a loved one on a dirty toilet floor;
- Manually lifting someone out of their wheelchair – risking safety; and
- Reducing their time out of the house – restricting their social lives.
New shopping centres, stadiums and theme parks are among buildings that could be required to provide Changing Places toilets under the proposals to be put forward by the Government. The consultation on these proposals is expected to be launched next year.
In announcing the consultation Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak MP said:
“As I learnt from my own constituents, Changing Places toilets make a huge difference to the lives of severely disabled people. I want to see these facilities included as standard in new large buildings like shopping centres and cinemas, so more disabled people can be assured of dignity and also enjoy greater opportunities when they are away from home.
“The Government will consult in the New Year on how best to do this, including changing building regulations if required, if it means more disabled people can enjoy the opportunities they deserve.”
Changing Places toilets in hospitals
Alongside this, the Department of Health and Social Care has announced £2 million to install over 100 Changing Places toilets in NHS hospitals throughout England. There are currently less than 60 Changing Places on the NHS England estate, and this investment will enable Trusts to increase accessibility. This is hugely important given that many people who need Changing Places toilets will also have additional health needs and regularly need to visit hospitals.
Commenting on the news, Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage said:
“It is utterly shocking how few Changing Places toilets there are currently in NHS hospitals and other public spaces. People with disabilities and their carers rightly expect to find suitable facilities in a hospital of all places.
“A quarter of a million disabled people need Changing Places and this investment will mean many more of them can access a toilet safely and comfortably. Whilst this is something most of us take for granted, access to spaces like these makes a big difference to the lives of disabled people and their carers.”
This is a huge moment for the Changing Places toilet campaign and all the tireless campaigners who fight so hard for grearter inclusion. The number of Changing Places toilets has increased from 140 in 2007 to more than 1,200 today, but more are desperately needed. We welcome the fact that the Government is recognising this as a priority and are taking steps to improve disabled people’s quality of life.
Catherine Woodhead, Chief Executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, which co-chairs the Changing Places Consortium, said:
“We are delighted that the Department of Health and Social Care and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government are committed to making Changing Places toilets more widely available.
“We, along with our wonderful campaigners, have long pushed for changes to legislation to make Changing Places toilets mandatory in new large public buildings and it’s fantastic that we are now one step closer to that reality.
“We are also greatly encouraged by the investment being made in hospitals and motorway services. It is essential that fully accessible toilets are available here; without them, disabled people may struggle to attend important appointments or visit family and friends.
“We look forward to working with the Government and our campaigners to ensure that Changing Places toilets are available to everyone who needs them.”
Based on this news 2019 looks like it will be one to remember for the Changing Places toilet campaign. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the campaigners who have worked so hard to make these announcements possible and look forward to working with you to make the much needed changes to legislation a reality.
If you have questions about the Changing Places toilet campaign please email firstname.lastname@example.org