More Funding For Changing Places Toilets Will Make A Huge Difference To Disabled People And Those Who Care For Them

Around 250,000 people in the UK need Changing Places toilets – so we will be investing in over 100 new facilities
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Accessing a toilet safely and comfortably is something most people take for granted. But I was shocked to learn how few Changing Places toilets there are currently in NHS hospitals and public buildings.

Across England there are only around 30 to 40 Changing Places in NHS Hospitals – this is staggering when you think how many people this affects. Lack of a suitable toilet can deter disabled people from attending hospital appointments or even leaving the house at all – an unacceptable outcome.

Without them, disabled people risk their health by limiting what they drink to avoid needing the toilet while out. Carers end up having to change their loved one on a dirty public toilet floor, or hurting themselves trying to lift someone without a hoist. In a worst-case scenario, people have to sit in wet or soiled clothing until they find a suitable toilet or return home.

Despite what the name suggests, typical disabled toilets aren’t suitable for many people with profound learning disabilities or physical disabilities such as spinal injuries and muscular dystrophy. They don’t come with adult sized changing benches or hoists and most are too small to accommodate more than one person, when someone might need two carers to assist them.

Changing Places toilets are larger than standard accessible toilets and have the necessary extra equipment that allow people to use them safely and comfortably.

It’s time our hospitals and other public spaces have more of these facilities and so we will be investing £2million to help Trusts build over 100 new Changing Places in hospitals throughout England, and we will be inviting Trusts to apply for the investment on a matched funding basis in the new year. Alongside this we will consult on changing the law to require large new public buildings such as shopping centres to build Changing Places facilities.

From speaking to campaigners such as Lorna Fillingham, mother of an eight-year-old girl with physical and learning disabilities, and Anne Wafula Strike, a Paralympic wheelchair racer and campaigner for accessible travel for people with disabilities, I’ve come to appreciate just how important these facilities are. Lorna’s eight-year-old daughter Emily-May has physical and learning disabilities and when they are out and about Lorna often has to physically lift her out of her wheelchair and change her on a baby change facility, something which she won’t be able to do as Emily-May gets older.

Anne has also drawn attention to the difficulties that disabled people face accessing even standard disabled toilets, something she experienced whilst on a three-hour train from Nuneaton to Stansted with an out-of-order accessible loo.

For disabled people to be able to participate fully in society we need to ensure we cater to their needs - particularly the ones we may take for granted.

There are around 250,000 people in the UK who need Changing Places toilets. Our planned changes to building regulations to ensure the buildings of the future cater to disabled people’s needs, combined with investment in new facilities in NHS hospitals, will make a big difference to the lives of disabled people and those who care for them.

Caroline Dinenage is a social care minister and Conservative MP for Gosport


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