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New Public Buildings To Have Changing Places Toilets For Severely Disabled People

The Government has announced proposals for Changing Places toilets to be made mandatory in all new (or majorly refurbished) large public buildings in England. The proposals are now undergoing consultation.

Buildings covered in the proposed changes include shopping centres, supermarkets, and sports and arts venues. If the proposal is agreed it is expected that these facilities will be added to more than 150 new buildings a year.

Changing Places toilets are larger accessible toilets for severely disabled people, with equipment such as hoists, curtains, adult-sized changing benches, and enough space for carers. Currently, there are 1,300 Changing Places toilets in public buildings in the UK. This is up from just 140 in 2007 but more are needed to support the more than a quarter of a million people in the UK who need these toilets. Without access to these toilets, it can be challenging and restricting for disabled people to enjoy daily activities.

Local Government Minister, Rishi Sunak MP, said: “Everyone should have the freedom to enjoy days out in dignity and comfort. For severely disabled people, this is made very difficult because there are not enough Changing Places toilets. We’ve made some progress, but I’m determined to increase the number of these life-enhancing facilities, so people are given the dignity they deserve.”

Catherine Woodhead, Chief Executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, which co-chairs the Changing Places Consortium, said: “People living with disabilities go to work, visit shops and enjoy days out with friends just like everyone else. But a lack of Changing Places toilets make these seemingly simple tasks a challenge. Too often, we hear stories of people not leaving their homes, having to be changed on dirty toilet floors or even having surgery because there are not enough facilities.

“The Government’s consultation on making Changing Places toilets mandatory in new, large public buildings is hugely encouraging. Along with our fantastic campaigners, we have long pushed for changes to legislation, and now we are one step closer to that being reality. This is wonderful news for everyone who needs Changing Places toilets. We look forward to working with the Government and campaigners in making society more inclusive.”

Without Changing Places facilities, disabled people face:

  • Limiting what they drink to avoid needing the toilet
  • Sitting in soiled clothing or dirty nappies until a suitable toilet is found (or they return home)
  • Having to be changed on a dirty toilet floor
  • Being manually lifted out of their wheelchair by carers
  • Reducing their time out of their house and restricting their social lives

The Government has launched a 10-week consultation, which asks the required size and shape of Changing Places toilets and the range of equipment that must be included for disabled people and their carers.

In April, the Department for Transport (in partnership with Muscular Dystrophy UK – MDUK) launched a £2 million fund for Changing Places to be installed in existing motorway service stations. This is now open for applications.

The Department of Health and Social Care is also due to launch a £2 million fund for NHS Trusts to install new Changing Places in more than 100 hospitals in England.

Lauren West, MDUK’s Trailblazers Manager, said: “As a Changing Places user, I’m delighted to see the potential change to building regulations to include these life-changing facilities. Currently provision is very hit and miss with some areas having none at all. This means people like myself can’t visit these places or can’t stay as long as they’d like. This consultation is an encouraging step towards making the right facilities accessible to those that need them.

Fiona Anderson is also part of MDUK’s Trailblazers network. She said: “A lack of Changing Places toilets has led to me deciding to have surgery, which will give me more freedom to go to the toilet. If these facilities were in every large public building, I would no longer have to endure the pain of postponing going to the toilet all day and the ever-present dark cloud of sepsis occurring would be lifted. Ultimately, I also wouldn’t need to have a catheter fitted, which would mean the world to me. I’m not incontinent – I simply can’t transfer to a toilet without a hoist.

“Changing Places toilets are a much-needed lifeline. But with so few of them available, people like me are forced to sacrifice our dignity and independence.”

We look forward to hearing the outcome of these consultations and hope to see more Changing Places facilities added to public buildings in the future.