More than 250,000 disabled people stand to benefit from greater access to life-enhancing Changing Places toilets, as the government announces a new £30m fund to increase the number of facilities across England.
Announced earlier today by Regional Growth minister Luke Hall, the move follows laws that came into effect from January 2021 that made the provision of Changing Places toilets compulsory in certain new buildings.
Changing Places toilets are larger accessible toilets for people who cannot use standard disabled toilets, with equipment such as hoists, curtains, adult-sized changing benches and space for carers.
Over 250,000 people in the country need these facilities to enable them to get out and about and enjoy the day-to-day activities many of us take for granted.
The combination of the change in the law and today’s investment for existing buildings means thousands of people with complex needs will have greater access to public places.
Luke Hall said: “For too long, the lack of suitable toilet facilities has meant disabled people have faced major difficulties when they shop, go out, or travel and this should not be the case.
“That’s why the provision of Changing Places toilets is so important for people who cannot use standard accessible toilets.
“This programme is a significant investment from government that will help bring major, life enhancing freedoms to those people who have specific needs.”
Changing Places campaigner Kerry Thompson said: “The biggest challenge I face when going anywhere outside my home is locating a Changing Places facility.
“They really do make a world of difference when planning days out, so today’s announcement will open up a whole new world for the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on them.
“This wouldn’t have been possible without support from Muscular Dystrophy UK, co-chairs of the Changing Places Consortium.
“Knowing I have access to a Changing Places toilet lets me enjoy myself without having to worry about finding an accessible facility that can accommodate my needs.
“The additional funding from the government to improve facilities in existing buildings across England will give me and my husband the freedom that so many disabled people are desperate for.”
Muscular Dystrophy UK, in partnership with the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government (MHCLG) and the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers, will also be undertaking a call for evidence with users in England to help develop an understanding of user needs and priorities.
Robert Burley, director of Campaigns, Care, and Support at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “Today’s announcement of £30m worth of funding to improve facilities in existing buildings is fantastic news for disabled people across England who need Changing Places toilets.
“Everyone has the right to use a public toilet when they need to, and these accessible toilets vastly improve a person’s independence and make planning days out much easier.
“This is a big step towards tackling the exclusion that many disabled people, including those with muscle-wasting conditions, experience when they are out and about.
“Today’s announcement would not have been achieved without everyone working together, and Muscular Dystrophy UK is particularly grateful to the hard work of our extraordinary campaigners and the members of the Changing Places Consortium.”
Councils will be invited to ‘opt in’ to bid for a proportion of the £30m funding so they can install facilities in their communities and boost the number of Changing Place toilets in existing buildings – for example, leisure and sports, cinemas, and arts and tourism venues.
This will improve the geographical spread across England and ensure more disabled people can take part in everyday activities that have the greatest impact on their quality of life.
The government has recently closed a consultation of a review of provision of toilets for men and women in municipal and private sector locations in England.
- You can find your nearest registered Changing Places toilet in the UK by going to the Changing Places website and using the location map
Image: RUBEN M RAMOS/Shutterstock
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