Councils are being urged to apply for a share of a £30m fund to install Changing Places Toilets (CPTs) in public places and tourist attractions, providing a significant increase in areas where users want them most.
There are currently around 1,200 registered Changing Places Toilets in England – these are larger accessible toilets for people who cannot use standard accessible 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 day-to-day activities.
Research conducted by charity Research Institute for Disabled Consumers, published this week, demonstrates that the top three places where people currently use and value CPTs are shops, hospitals, and tourist attractions.
Users, their families, and carers would like to see future provision in areas enabling them to ‘have a day out’ and undertake more recreational activities with dignity, confidence, and freedom.
The top three locations where these facilities should be made available were country parks, open spaces, tourist attractions, transport networks - the journey to the destination being a key factor in planning a day out. The top three venues were: beaches and the seaside, motorway services, and parks or gardens.
The regional growth minister, Luke Hall MP, said: “In our national effort to build back better from COVID-19, the Government wants to create a stronger, safer and fairer society in which everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
“With central government, local government and the third sector working more closely together than ever before, we will put the right facilities in the right places for those who need them the most – extending freedom, accessibility and dignity to all.”
Ministerial disability champion, Eddie Hughes MP, said: “Where people shop, go out, or travel should not be determined by their disability. That’s why the provision of Changing Places Toilets is so important for people who cannot use standard accessible toilets."
Muscular Dystrophy UK, co-chairs of the Changing Places Consortium, will be providing specialist expertise to support local councils if they are awarded funding which will include dedicated advice and information and Changing Places officers to support councils; Changing Places manual and training; connecting authorities and collaborative network support; and signposting to suppliers and installation companies.
Robert Burley, muscular dystrophy UK director of campaigns, care and support, said the initiative "will make a huge difference to the lives of people who rely on Changing Places toilets, many of whom live with muscle-wasting conditions. We urge local councils to apply for this funding, which will be available in October".
Bairbre McKendrick, Access Officer at Leeds City Council said: “In Leeds we have been working at providing Changing Places toilets throughout the city since 2011. We currently have 42 CPTs half of which are in Leeds City Council buildings or Parks and which we maintain.
“After 10 years we still have more sites where a CPT would really be beneficial to families and individuals who use them. We are keen to install a CPT at Kirkstall Abbey – our 800-year-old Cistercian Abbey which is a big tourist attraction and hosts music events in the Summer."
Councils will be invited to complete a short expression of interest to receive a proportion of this funding. They are encouraged to consider where Changing Places Toilets are most needed in their communities and are encouraged to work in partnership with other organisations to deliver these facilities, including securing match funding wherever possible.
Expressions of interest must be submitted by 26 September 2021 - to apply for funding please click here.
The strategy contains "dozens of policy commitments across government departments and sets out immediate practical steps - from making playgrounds more inclusive to building more accessible homes - to improve disabled people’s everyday lives, as well as signalling more work to be done with a launch of a new data project by the Disability Unit".
The news comes as earlier this week the British Toilet Association (BTA) called for improved legislation and more government funding to address the current ‘appalling’ lack of public toilet provision. The body says that public toilets are "in crisis and rapidly vanishing, with many of those that remain displaying totally unacceptable levels of cleanliness and hygiene and the Covid-19 pandemic has only made the situation worse".